on 26 August 2003
Ask me my favourite film and without hestitation I would respond "Munchhausen" which is supprising given my little command of the German language. But I have always believed that the visual should always out-weigh the language.
To now see this on DVD is akin to the discovery of the Holy Grail and from an unexpected source. But when one considers the rest of Eureka's catalogue one should not be too supprised.
Having seen the previous restoration (from which I believe this print is taken) on German Tv several years ago it has taken the digital age to improve on that and by some. I can also remember a much earler screening on BBC2 - a very grainy print indeed. Now we can experience what the film would have looked like in 1943 when colour film, in Germany atleast, was in it's infancy.
I cannot fault the main feature in any way. The running length at 110 mins is identical to the previously mentioned tv version and a great improvement on the German VHS release which only run for 101 mins - I can not compare the two as I binned this many years ago in disgust and this release bore the name Ufa which had little connection to the original production company.
The extras unfortunatley for me do not add much and I would believe that most people who would buy this already know the background to the film. The main extra is a spoken essay which leaves more questions than it answers. It quotes the various running lengths of the film ranging from 2hrs 30 down to 90 mins
but makes no effort to explain what is missing. For me this essay could, and should, have been in printed form as a booklet.
Too much time is wasted on the various book versions of the
But I did not buy this for the extras . The film itself and the excellent digital restoration deserve a full 5 from me.
This is one DVD which will not suffer the 'view once' fate
on 21 December 2011
I have had the DVD of Munchhausen since 2003 and must have watched it 50 times.
The film was released in 1943, and was financed by Goebbels no less. The connection with the Nazis ends there - this is an accomplished re-telling of the Munchhhausen tale, even now.
This particular version was digitally remastered in Australia. The original Agfa colour process, if you don't know about these things, gave pastel colours, so the colouring is not quite what you might expect from a colour film, things look more like a childrens fairy tale book at times. The sound is excellent.
I won't bore you with the plot. Suffice to say it's a re-working of the well known liar Barons outrageous exaggerations using 1942/3 special effects which it has to be said, are very clever, and done with great intelligence.
The music score throughout is similarly truly excellent, and a real asset to the film without doubt.
There is a curious air of melancholy present throughout the film as others have mentioned. Although the Baron himself reaches this condition late in the film as he realises he wishes to renounce the gift of eternal life bestowed on him by the sinister Cagliostro, the feeling is present almost throughout. I'll leave you to your own conclusions. No doubt Nazi Germany figures pretty highly in the analysis...
Munchhausen is a film that stands apart. Witty, technically very clever, musically superb, wordly, imaginative, excellent acting and characterisation, but ultimately rather sad. But always entertaining and highly memorable.
Footnote: Cagliostro, the aforementioned magician in Munchhuasen is played by Ferdinand Marian who was the central character in another film made at the behest of Goebbels, the infamous antisemitic 'Jew Suss'(1940).
Munchhausen is well worth the 4 quid.
Is it possible to love a gorgeous painting if you know the painter is a drunk, a thief, a scoundrel and a hypocrite? I'd say yes. We all have many faults we can learn to live with. But what if you know the painter sexually abuses children, tortures small animals or is addicted to publicly humiliating the old and the disabled. I could still appreciate the power and the skill behind the painting, but I wouldn't want it hanging in my home. I couldn't look at it without being reminded of the kind of person who produced it.
I feel that way toward Munchhausen, a gorgeous, witty and, at times, ironic fantasy...which was commissioned by Josef Goebbels in late 1941, filmed in 1942 and released in early 1943. No matter how excellent the film is -- and it is in many ways an excellent film -- for me it has the smell of the death camps about it. Goebbels wanted a huge extravaganza of a film for two reasons. Ostensibly, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of UFI, the famous German film company which by then was under the control of Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda. Goebbels really wanted a major full-color film which would demonstrate the glories of German -- read Nazi -- culture and technical artistry, one which would surpass films like The Thief of Bagdad and The Wizard of Oz. He settled on the story of Baron Munchhausen, gave the producers an unlimited budget, approved the hiring of a gifted screenwriter whose works he had banned and whose books he had burned, and saw to it that leading actors and actresses took part. Goebbels was given a hit by the moviemakers. When it was released he had already made his famous speech about all-out war now being essential. Bombing attacks on Germany were happening with regularity. The Wehrmacht was being ground into hamburger at the outskirts of Stalingrad. Germans flocked to this make-believe world of Munchhausen where they could forget what was beginning to dawn on them, that terrible times could be right ahead.
Baron Hieronymous Munchhausen might have been a great adventurer, might have been an avid and gracious womanizer, but was certainly a master teller of tales. At a sumptuous party given at his estate, the current Baron Munchhausen encounters a bickering young couple and agrees to tell them the story of his famous ancestor. And what a tale it is, told with wit and philosophical irony, with luscious princesses and topless harem girls, of exotic costumes and magical encounters...and all in Agfacolor, as vibrant as Technicolor. Munchhausen beds Catherine the Great (he calls her Cathy), befriends the sinister magician Cagliostro, flies on a cannonball into the palace of the great Caliph and meets Casanova in Venice, where he fights a flashing duel, reducing his opponent to standing in his underwear amidst the tatters of his clothes, and all without inflicting a scratch. He takes a balloon to the moon, where time is broken, where humans will age a year for every moon day, where the moon people can take off their heads and leave them to entertain guests. He finds horns whose notes freeze in the Russian cold and blare out when they melt, a piano that sounds like a violin, a rifle that can shoot a bullet a hundred miles, a runner who can run from Constantinople to Vienna and back in 60 minutes, a ring that gives invisibility for an hour and a wish fulfilled "to stay as young as I am now, until I myself decide to grow old."
The movie features a wonderful performance by Hans Albers as Munchhausen. Albers somewhat resembles George C. Scott, but with blond hair and green eyes. He can command a scene the same way Scott could. The dialogue is witty and thoughtful, and well translated for the subtitles. "Where other women have a heart," Munchhausen says of an actress, "she has only cleavage." "I no longer enjoy charging through the world," an aging Casanova tells Munchhausen. "The eyes grow sated, but the heart remains empty. Life is short and death chases us off before the game is over."
We started Munchhausen's story by having him tell the tale of his ancestor to a young couple, while his wife sits with him. According to his story, his ancestor was given immortality as long as he wanted it. But is the Munchhausen who is telling the story really the Munchhausen of the adventures? Does our story-teller finally realize the truth of Casanova's words? I wouldn't put it past him to renounce immortality so that he does not stay young while the woman he has come to love grows old, and after he and his wife see the young couple off, to walk hand and hand with her back to their mansion, to grow old happily together. Is this just a story, too?
This is a movie I enjoyed watching, and will enjoy watching again. It is extraordinarily sumptuous. The scenes in Venice were shot there, with beautiful views of the Grand Canal. The music score is, there is no better word, lovely. The movie is one great big adventure after another. There is no obvious Nazi propaganda that I could detect. Unfortunately, I still can't forget the man who wanted the movie made or the wretched lives he and his fellow thugs ensured for millions of people.
The DVD transfer looks very good. The movie has been painstakingly restored.
on 14 April 2016
When Channel 4 started in the 1960's or '70's they showed a series called "Milestones of the Film" of European films made between 1933 and 1942: Peter Lore in "M"; "Fan Fan La Tulipe"; "La Kermesse Heroique"; another French film and this German film. They knock spots off the frothy, loud and garrulous US films of that period.
This one is particularly interesting because the script was written by banned writer Erich Kastner, it is one of the first films made in Agfa colour and, I think it was Himmler, had the stately homes of Europe scoured for furnishing for the sets.
It is 18th century Germany. Munchhausen pays a fleeting visit to from soldiering to see his father then meets Count Cagliostro who rewards him with eternal life for saving his life. Munchhausen goes to Moscow and woos Catherine the Great and fights a "kuk-kuk" duel with another of her lovers. In her wars with the Turks he gets fired on a cannon ball into the Turkish lines and taken prisoner. There he regales and Sultan with tales and rescues a Venetian beauty from the harem and sails for Venice...and so on ...
on 16 August 2016
However was this film made in Berlin, during 1942/43. The place was bombed night and day, every day!
The production was faultless, the special effects superb, and the Agfa colour film looks as if it were filmed today.
This is probably Josephf Goebbels finest work, and not a hint anywhere of German National Socialism. Pure family entertainment.
A pity about the subtitles, but then you cannot have everything.
on 8 December 2014
Best version of this story - Gilliam's, although good, is not as entertaining. Easy to ignore the reasons, and the time at which the film was made - does not detract from the enjoyment of this marvellous film.
on 14 November 2011
Munchhausen is, although produced during Nazi-Times is timeless masterpiece that lives mostley on the witty script by Erich Kaestner, who added warmth and depth to the elsewise a bit blunt title character who - according to the book by Buerger charmes his audiences with audacious tales that are in fact lies. The performances of the all-star cast are excellent; the tricks measured by 1940's standards perfect and the pace of the various episodes leaves nothing to be desired.....
on 29 May 2010
With Baron Münchhausen a teller of tall tales with the ability to deceive his listeners, it's only right and proper that Josef von Baky & Berthold Bürger's visually perfect 1943 film should try to do the same with the audience; and they succeed. The film commences with an ornate 18th Century birthday party in an elaborate German castle. The orchestra plays a minuet - or perhaps a gavotte - and the guests, in their powdered wigs and period costumes dance to it. One of the guests, Sophia von Riedesel (Marina von Ditmar) rather contemptuously ignores her fiancé, Freiherr von Hartenfeld (a suitably dopy Hans Brausewetter) and flirts with the host, Baron von Münchhausen (a super-smooth Hans Albers). But then she suddenly takes fright and asks the Baron to turn on the light; an electric light switch is pressed, the girl drives off at speed in a sports coupé and the orchestra crashes into a tango. The audience has been fooled; it is, of course, the present day and the Baron's story is later told to the engaged couple in flashback.
Back we go, to discover how, together with his faithful servant, Kuchenreutter, the Baron travels to Russia to be conscripted in to service of Katherine the Great (Brigette Horney), whilst en route meeting Count Cagliostro (a very sinister Ferdinand Marion) who provides him with the ability to attain both immortality and invisibility.
Being shot from a cannon, captured by a duplicitous Sultan, escaping with Princess Isabella D'Este (a beautiful Ilse Werner) only to lose her and then a journey to the moon before returning to Earth and meeting his future wife, very nicely underplayed by Käthe Haack, are a sample of the adventures enjoyed by the hopelessly untruthful Baron.
I first saw this film on BBC2, probably 25 years ago; it has remained one of my favourite films. I enjoyed my old video tape of it; but there is no comparison to that and this splendid restored and digitally remastered DVD.
An excellent film.
on 30 August 2003
This German fantasy epic was commissioned by propaganda minister Josef Goebbels to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of UFA, the German film studio. UFA, like ALL German media at the time, was under State control. The result has nothing whatever to do with Nazi propaganda - Goebells merely signed the cheques. It is a most lavish rendering of the exploits of Baron Munchhausen with superb art direction by Emil Hasler and Otto Guelstorff; and filmed by Werner Krien. The sets and costumes are gorgeous and the action is well-paced with no unnecessary dross between episodes. It is laden with moments that vary from amusing to outright hilarious, even if a little Germanic at times.
Goebbels clearly knew what face to put on for export material. He wanted something spectacular, not just for the commemoration but to throw at Hollywood (who by now were overtaking Germany as the dominant force in the film world), and he got it. I doubt it actually reached American shores because of some (entirely tasteful) nudity in a harem scene that would have been frowned upon at the time.
The transfer is excellent considering the film's age, given the vulnerability of colour film materials. In fact, the colour is beautifully preserved with those rich but never blaring tones so characteristic of Agfa film. The audio is as good as can be expected and the sub-titling is slightly truncated so that the viewer can keep pace without missing too much of the film.
Potential buyers should be aware of a moment in the opening episode - a visual joke that might be construed as having racial overtones but in my view was not meant offensively and could actually be seen as a theatrical pun.
The DVD has a few extras - the trailer, picture gallery and an audio essay. What's missing is some small booklet or folio covering the chequered history of UFA, founded under State sponsorship in 1917 as part of the military effort; privatised around 1920 whereupon it gradually soaked up competing studios until it stood almost alone. The Nazis seized it back during their pogrom in independent media. A mention of Hans Albers and his other film triumphs would not be out of place (he was one of the most popular actors of his time). These omissions are why I rated the DVD 4 stars, not 5.
All in all, in spite of its origins this is a film not to be missed by any afficionado of classic cinema. It is a beautiful transfer of a lavish film and as far as I am concerned, knocks spots off the more recent adaptation (allegedly directed by Terry Gilliam who I understand finally disowned the distributed version anyway).
on 25 May 2016
I find it hard to believe that this film has been digitally restored. It's often faded, skin tones are bad and there are sections which are scratched. The sound is all right. If it really has been restored, then I can only imagine that the original material, presumably some copy, was very poor. It's very disappointing.