BluRay/DVD Reviews

MUNCHHAUSEN

By • Jul 20th, 2004 •

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Kino

If this clever, intelligent and visually stunning 1943 German version of the Baron Munchausen story was made elsewhere, and not under Nazi rule, it would surely rank as one of the great classic fantasy films. Films made in Germany during World War II received almost no worldwide distribution. Up until now, the only way to view MUNCHAUSEN was through faded video bootlegs. Kino Video, with the assistance of the F.W Murnau Foundation (who helped preserve Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS) has released a handsomely restored version of this colorful, dreamlike fantasy treat.

MUNCHAUSEN begins with a great visual gag regarding an elaborate 18th century costume ball attended by the charming but constantly fibbing Baron Munchausen (Hans Albers, whom film fans will recognize as the strong-man who steals Marlene Dietrich away in THE BLUE ANGEL) Munchausen tells of his wild adventures. One moment he rides a cannonball to a sultan’s grand palace, at others he takes a trip to the moon, does battle with flying barking clothing, and encounters a man-hungry Catherine The Great.

MUNCHAUSEN was filmed in Agfacolor, a bright and stunning color process developed in Germany. It was first used in Germany’s first color film, WOMEN ARE BETTER DIPLOMATS (1941) (One of the Special Features on Kino’s MUNCHAUSEN DVD is a segment from WOMEN…) You will see the storybook-like colors that make this film so enjoyable. MUNCHAUSEN also has some really wild moments for a film made in 1943. In one scene, topless slave girls are auctioned off. In other scenes, Russians are depicted as weasely gluttons slobbering over vats of caviar. As MUNCHAUSEN neared completion, the Germans suffered a crippling blow at Stalingrad. Any jab at the victorious Russians would have been welcomed by German audiences.

MUNCHAUSEN was the film that heralded the 25th anniversary of UFA, Germany’s grandest film studio. During the bombing raids on Berlin, UFA studios and its vast achieve were severely damaged. It is true miracle that MUNCHAUSEN survived as well as it did.

Other Special Features on the MUNCHAUSEN DVD include a making of documentary and samples of Agfacolor restoration. (It really is a more rich version of Technicolor) My favorite Special Feature here is DIE ABENTEUR DES BARON MUNCHAUSEN, an animated short with an overly macho Munchausen. He has one hell of a creepy smile.)

While watching MUNCHAUSEN, you will see where Terry Gilliam got a lot of material for his big budgeted 1989 film THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN. His film at times is almost an exact remake.


Special features: ‘Making of’ documentary with comments by the director of the F.W. Murnau Foundation.
Animated short film: DIE ABENTEUER DES BARON MUNCHHAUSEN – EINE WINTERREISE (’44). Examples of Agfacolor restoration: FRAUEN SIND DOCH BESSERE DIPLOMATEN (’41)

Produced by Eberhard Schmidt.
Directed by Josef von Baky.
Screenplay by Erich Kastner From the novel by Rudolph Erich Raspe (1785) and Gottfreid August Berger (1786).

Cast:
Hans Albers
Brigette Horney

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One Response »

  1. I wonder if the racier scenes from this movie still exist? I actually saw this movie in Montreal, Canada in early 1974, and the print which was shown included additional scenes that took place in the harem–nude scenes that is! One scene involved one of the female captives who adamantly refused to strip naked while standing in front two nude female extras. Another scene displayed a close-up shot of a harem girl who was wearing nothing but a few pieces of jewelry, and her “black forest” was fully exposed.

    Also, Agfacolor could be described as having some of the best qualities of both Technicolor and Eastmancolor but it didn’t quite capture flesh tones as faithfully as those other processes. Nonetheless, Agfacolor’s pastel-like colors were ideally suited for a period piece fantasy like MUNCHHAUSEN.

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