The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a 20 year old film that did not set the box office alight, and has also not achieved a cult status. Therefore I did not have high hopes for the quality of the transfer on this disc.
As is the norm these days, the film is presented in 1080P and also in the OAR which is 1.85:1 in this case. I have never seen the film in the cinema, VHS, or DVD - but to my eyes this transfer was certainly very impressive.
As one might expect, the source is not immaculate and does display some obvious blemishes throughout the film. There are some obvious marks on the print in places, and also some rather disturbing contrast inconsistencies which can be quite distracting.
However, despite these inconsistencies - the transfer is still a revelation considering the age of the film. The beginning takes place in a dark dank theatre - but once the action opens up into the Baron's stories then the palette becomes much brighter and this is really brought to life in the transfer. Those who dislike DNR will be pleased to know that the technique hasn't been used here - meaning some scenes do show a lot of natural grain. However, to myself this is a pleasing natural look that represents exactly what the film would have looked like back in the day.
The level of detail which is present in the transfer is also a revelation considering the age of the film. The stitching on the uniform, the detail on the sets, the wonderful special effects all show up beautifully in this transfer. This also does reveal some of the flaws in the effects but again I would rather have this than fake CGI work any day.
To sum up then, there are absolutely no problems with this transfer - in fact a very good job has been done indeed. Any deficiencies here are with the source and in many ways these actually enhance the experience. You are not receiving a state of the art, digitally processed, CGI-fest. Instead you are receiving the best possible transfer of a natural looking film, and this is not a bad thing.
The sound on The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is not as impressive as the picture, even if it is presented in a lossless 5.1 TrueHD mix. The trouble here is one of definition, which I shall explain later.
Firstly, though, the good points. The dialogue is clearly anchored to the front and is always clear whatever is going on elsewhere within the mix. The front seperation is good, and the music is beautifully realised - clear and beautifully realised.
The surrounds are also used extensively all the way through the film, but this is where my slight criticism would come in. There is no clear directionality within the mix. It may fill the soundstage, and all the speakers may get a workout throughout the whole film, but it does lack a little bit of subtlety. There is very little separation in the rears at all. The listener may feel enveloped in the sound, but focus your ears a little more and you notice the lack of subtlety in the rears. It has to be said, again like the picture, that this is likely a fault with the original mix, but it has to be mentioned.
The Adventurers of Baron Munchausen has a very generous selection of extras. We start with a rather excellent Commentary by Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown - the latter allowing the former to dominate the track, which is wise choice. Gilliam is an excellent guide into the realm of Munchausen, explaining his choices and illuminating the film in a revealing but never dry way. This is well worth a listen.
Even better is an absolutely riveting and candid documentary The madness and Misadventures of Munchausen. This is far from your typical puff piece, revealing behind the scenes shots that really illuminate the making of the film. Considering its subject's rather unfortunate place in the history of filmmaking this is fantastic stuff.
Exclusive to Blu-ray is the PIP track. This does repeat a lot of the information from the documentary, so can be a little stale to those who have watched it - but if you prefer to access the information in a different way, then this is a good alternative. The extras package is rounded off with deleted scenes and storyboards.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a far better film than you imagine given its reputation. It may have it's flaws, but it is certainly a baruva piece of filmmaking - and there is plenty of Gilliam's trademark genius on display.
The picture and sound are both patchy - being excellent in places and poor in others. Having said this, though - both probably suffer from the limitations of the source and are unlikely to be bettered. Add to the whole package some truly excellent extras, and you have a package that fans should have no hesitation in picking up. Those who have not experienced it yet, should certainly not be put off with the film's reputation and perhaps give it a rental. You may well be glad you did.
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