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If you are familiar with balderdash, then you may also be familiar with a certain European figure named Baron Munchausen, whose name is synonymous with that particular term. Director Terry Gilliam's THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN ($30) is a delightful and sumptuous film that brings to life that legendary purveyor of tall tales.

The film opens with in a theatrical troupe performing a comedy based upon the adventures of Baron Munchausen, while outside the theater the town is under siege by the Turks. In the midst of the performance, an elderly Baron Munchausen (John Neville) bursts into the theater and stops the show, hoping to set the record straight about his adventures. Since the people have come to think that the good Baron is nothing more a fictional character, the old man standing before them must be crazy. There is, however, one little girl named Sally (Sarah Polley) who believes that the old man is the real Baron Munchausen. Circumstances thrust the old man and the little girl together as they set off on a quest to save the town from the Turks.

Of course, the Baron will need a little help to defeat an entire army, so he and Sally must first locate the Baron's old cohorts. The first stop on their journey takes the duo to the moon, where they encounter the King of the Moon, played maniacal charm by Robin Williams (billed as Ray DiTutto). Their descent from the moon drops the travelers into a volcano where the god Vulcan (Oliver Reed) has setup his workshop. The Baron, uninterested in Vulcan’s the tools of war, instead has a dalliance with the beautiful goddess Venus (Uma Thurman). Of course, the jealous Vulcan casts the Baron and Company into the sea where they are swallowed by a giant sea monster. Does the Baron escape the monster? Does he locate all of his missing cohorts? Is he able to save the town from the Turks? I guess you will have to check out the DVD to find out. The cast of THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN also includes Eric Idle, Charles McKeown, Winston Dennis, Jack Purvis, Valentina Cortese, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Paterson, Peter Jeffrey and Sting.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done an exquisite job of transcribing THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN to DVD. The film is offered wide screen only on a dual layered disc, which minimizes compression and maximizes image quality. The transfer faithfully recreates the film's 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, plus the disc contains the 16:9 anamorphic component for wide screen televisions. Colors are rich and smoothly rendered, which complements the sharp, highly detailed image. Additionally, the film's warm, highly saturated hues reproduce without any evidence of chroma noise or distortion. Blacks are a deep true black, plus the DVD offers superb contrast. As I stated above, compression artifacts are tamed by the use of dual layer technology and first rate DVD authoring.

The Dolby Digital soundtrack is of the two-channel variety, which decodes to standard surround. While matrixed Dolby Surround is no substitute for real 5.1 channel soundtrack, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN proved an enjoyable listening experience. The forward soundstage has some nice channel separations, plus dialogue reproduces quite well. Of course, the surrounds have the technological limitations of Dolby Surround, but they provide a good deal of ambience, as well as some directional effects. Solid bass reproduction easily handles the soundtrack’s the explosions present in the battle sequences. Spanish and Portuguese language soundtrack are also encoded into the DVD, as well as English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese and Thai subtitles. The attractive, but simplistic, interactive menus provide access to the standard scene and language selection features, as well as a theatrical trailer.


The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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