The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Terry Gilliam) 1988
Production Costs: $47 million
Worldwide Gross: $10 million
Subsequent Earnings: ???
With the exception of Orson Welles, I don’t think I have heard of any other director having so much trouble making his films. Of course, Welles has the excuse of being blacklisted by William Randolph Hearst. What’s Gilliam’s excuse? Fear and Loathing, Brazil, The Brothers Grimm, and his unfinished project “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” were all films racked with problems. Despite all his troubles, his films receive a loyal cult following and some are called modern masterpieces. Gilliam was making his Dreamers trilogy which began with Time Bandits and Brazil. So who better to make a film about a person who is known for telling tall tales?
“Attributed to Baron Munchausen There really was a Baron Munchausen. His full name was Karl Friedrich Hieronymous von Munchausen, and he lived from 1720 to 1797 and fought for the Russians against the Turks. He was, it is said, in the habit of embellishing his war stories, and in 1785 a jewel thief from Hanover named Rudolf Erich Raspe published a book in England which claimed to be based on the baron’s life and times.” (rogerebert.com)
Gilliam set to work in Europe to free up money for his special effects. Sure enough, problems started to develop on set. The crew had trouble communicating since they all didn’t know the same language, sets cost much more than they should, and just like with Don Quixote, nature was proving a problem for shooting. Financiers gave Gilliam an ultimatum to finish it quickly or they would get someone else. Gilliam wanted to leave and there was endless fighting between Gilliam, Film Finances and Columbia. Gilliam was even sued by someone claiming to own rights to Munchausen (GreatBadir). Columbia thought the movie was hopeless and only showed the film in 200 theaters in the US. The movie got mixed reviews but the remarks from people who saw the movie were very promising. The movie has a cult following and there has been a new DVD release recently.
Is it any good? Yeah, I like it. If you are a fan of Gilliam, then I think you will definitely like it too. The movie has the trademark Gilliam look and feel. You know, I really don’t understand why Gilliam has so much trouble with his movies. I have seen Lost in La Mancha and Gilliam looks so unprepared on set. He doesn’t seem to deal with trouble well, he doesn’t seem to be able to compromise his vision, and he looks completely inexperienced. You would think with all of his experience on Monty Python and his earlier films he would be more prepared for the problems that come up during shooting, but he doesn’t. I also think he has a real knack for pissing people off in the industry. He wouldn’t have nearly so much trouble if he would keep his mouth shut. Munchausen might have been more successful if Gilliam did not give them so much reason to panic.