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The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988, UK)

In co-writer/director Terry Gilliam's absurdist, inventive and imaginative adventure "fantasy to end all fantasies" - a story-within-a-story about the Baron's fabulous "lies' theatrically viewed as truth; the film was Gilliam's third film in his so-called Trilogy of Imagination, following after Time Bandits (1981) and Brazil (1985):

  • the film opened in an unnamed European (German) city during "The Age of Reason" while it was being assaulted and under siege by an army of Turkish Ottomans outside the city's gates; during the war, a touring stage show was being produced and presented to an audience - highlighting the fabulous life and fanciful misadventures (illustrated with expensive special effects) of a legendary late-17th century European nobleman-aristocrat Baron Munchausen (John Neville)
  • during the show, an elderly man (also Neville) (who claimed to be the 'real' Baron - a reputed chronic liar) loudly interrupted the show to correct what he considered to be inaccuracies, and to present his own version; he also claimed that he should be blamed for the Turkish attack (due to a bet he won against the Turkish Sultan (Peter Jeffrey) his harem) and began to narrate a flashback of his fantastic adventures
  • the tale included characterizations of the Baron's superhero friends and servants, including fast-running Berthold (Eric Idle), Adolphus (Charles McKeown) with miraculous sight for sharp-shooting, wind-blowing Gustavus (Jack Purvis) and super-strongman Albrecht (Winston Dennis)
  • gunfire during the warfare interrupted the Baron's tale; backstage, the Baron met Sally Salt (Sarah Polley), the daughter of the theater company's leader, who encouraged the Baron to value his life
  • the film's most memorable image during the siege was of the Baron accidentally firing himself through the sky using a mortar (as he hung on for dear life) and his return riding atop a cannonball
  • the Baron vowed that he could save the war-ravaged city from the Turks - and escaped over the city's walls in a hot-air balloon (composed of stitched together and inflated ladies' underwear), accompanied by Sally as a stowaway
  • they flew away to the moon to search for his cohorts, and to meet the resentful, jealous King of the Moon (uncredited Robin Williams) who could detach his head from his sex-crazed body while making love to the Queen of the Moon (Valentina Cortese); when the King's body died and his giant head went spinning off through space, the Baron and Sally escaped and returned to Earth, where they entered into the interior of a fiery volcano and into the presence of the Roman god Vulcan (Oliver Reed)
  • the goddess Venus (Uma Thurman), Vulcan's wife, made a spectacular birth entrance from a giant clamshell - and then the Baron experienced a lyrical spinning airborne waltz-dance with her
Birth of Goddess Venus (Uma Thurman) - With Her Husband Vulcan
  • after being angrily expelled by Vulcan, the group was cast into the South Seas, where they entered into the belly of a whale-sized sea creature-monster; the Baron was reunited with his trusty white horse Bucephalus and used his snuff to 'sneeze' their way out through the whale's blowhole
  • in the film's finale, the Baron returned to rout the Turkish army and liberate the city; as the city celebrated with a victory parade, the Baron was shot to "death" (assassinated) by the fascist, mayoral city official "The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson" (Jonathan Pryce); his life's soul was about to be taken by the Grim Reaper 'doctor' (and Angel of Death) when the Baron's body was lowered into a grave

Grim Reaper Taking the Baron

Death of Baron

The Baron Riding Off

Sally Salt: "It wasn't just a story, was it?"
  • in the film's ending twist during the Baron's funeral - it was revealed that the Baron's tale was also a fabricated, made-up "story within a story" - it was another tall-tale staged story the fabulist was telling the audience as he appeared back on stage and told the audience: "And that was only one of the many occasions on which I met my death, an experience which I don't hesitate strongly to recommend!"
  • Sally Salt remarked incredulously: "It wasn't just a story, was it?"
  • in the finale, the Baron strode through the city's opened gates (after the city had been saved and the Turks were defeated, although it was unclear whether a battle had actually occurred or not), rode off onto a faraway hillside onto a faraway hillside on his horse Bucephalus, saluted the town, and then cryptically disappeared

Baron Munchausen (John Neville)

Shot Through the Sky and Returning Atop a Cannonball

The Baron in a Hot-Air Balloon with Stowaway Sally Salt (Sarah Polley)

King of the Moon

The Baron's Waltz-Dance with Venus

The Attack of the Sea-Monster


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