The Fabulous Baron Munchausen
|The Fabulous Baron Munchausen|
Japanese DVD cover
|Directed by||Karel Zeman|
|Music by||Zdeněk Liška|
|Edited by||Věra Kutilová|
The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Czech: Baron Prášil) is a 1961 Czechoslovak romantic adventure film directed by Karel Zeman, based on the tales about Baron Munchausen. The film combines live-action with various forms of animation and is highly stylized, often evoking the engravings of Gustave Doré.
The film begins with footsteps leading to a pond. The camera continually moves upwards to show the flight of butterflies, birds, and a progression of historical aircraft ending with a rocket ship travelling through space and landing on the moon.
The astronaut/cosmonaut leaves his spacecraft and sights other footsteps on the moon leading him to an old phonograph, then a crashed rocket with a plaque reading Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon. Taken to a dinner table, the surprised space traveller meets the characters from Verne's book and Baron Munchausen. Inviting him to their table, the characters believe that the cosmonaut is a man actually from the moon, and kindly treat him as a small child.
The Baron decides to take him to Earth in a fanciful airship held up by a herd of winged horses. The Baron dresses the spaceman, called "Tony" in the English dubbed version and "Tonik" in the original Czech, in 18th-century costume where they land in 18th-century Turkey, in Constantinople. Speaking in an unintelligible voice that he calls the "language of diplomacy", the Baron presents Tonik to the Sultan. However, Tonik's lack of knowledge of diplomatic protocol and his falling in love with Princess Bianca, a damsel in distress held prisoner by the Sultan, leads to a series of romantic and fanciful adventures that transform the modern scientific space traveller into a hero rivalling the Baron.
Among the exciting and satiric adventures are sword and sea battles with the Turks, being swallowed by a giant fish, and ending the conflict between two warring kingdoms.
- Miloš Kopecký as Baron Munchausen
- Jana Brejchová as Princess Bianca
- Rudolf Jelínek as Tony
- Rudolf Hrušínský as The Sultan
- Karel Höger as Cyrano de Bergerac
- Eduard Kohout as General Ellemerle
- Jan Werich as Ship's Captain
- František Šlégr as Pirate Captain
- Otto Šimánek as Michel Ardan
- Naděžda Blažíčková as Court Dancer
- Karel Effa as Adjutant
- Josef Hlinomaz as Spanish General
- Zdeněk Hodr as Nicole
- Miloslav Holub as Enemy General
- Miroslav Homola as Chess Player
- Václav Trégl as Sailor
- Bohuš Záhorský as Admiral
- Richard Záhorský as Barbicain
The film was released internationally throughout the 1960s, including a 1964 American dub under The Fabulous Baron Munchausen.
Howard Thompson of The New York Times described it as "a delectable oddity with a perky, intriguing music track," and writer Harlan Ellison termed it a "charming and sweethearted 1961 Czech fantasy filled with loopy special effects."
César Santos Fontenla of Triunfo called the film "a masterpiece" and added: "the film is undoubtedly the most exciting experiment so far in animation and in combining different techniques ... The Méliès influence is present throughout the film, which reaches the same level of poetry as the works of that old master." Le Monde's film blog called Zeman's technique "perfectly fitted" (parfaitement adaptée) to the Baron Munchausen stories, and described the result as "endowed with a splendid sense of humor and very inventive" (doté d’un bel humour et très inventif). The film historian Peter Hames described Baron Prášil as "perhaps [Zeman's] finest film."
When the film was screened at the British Film Institute in the 1980s, it served as an influence for Terry Gilliam, who was then making his own version of the Munchausen stories, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. According to Gilliam:
I remember when I was doing Baron Munchausen seeing a picture in a [British Film Institute] catalogue from Karel Zeman's Baron Munchausen and saying, "Wow, what is this?" and eventually seeing the film, and saying, "Wow, that's great," because he did what I'm still trying to do, which is to try and combine live action with animation. His Doré-esque backgrounds were wonderful. The film captured the real spirit of the character.
- "Nejnavštěvovanější české filmy historie". KINOMANIAK (in Czech). Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- Santos Fontenla, César. "De Cyrano a Gagarin". Triunfo. Europeana. Archived from the original on 13 February 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "The Fabulous Baron Munchausen at Telluride", filmcenter.cz, Czech Film Center, 6 September 2016, retrieved 21 September 2016
- Thompson, Howard (23 December 1984). "Critics' Choice: Cable TV". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- Ellison, Harlan (2014). Harlan Ellison's Watching (e-book). Open Road Integrated Media. p. 394.
- "Le Baron de Crac (1962) de Karel Zeman", L'Oeil sur l'Ecran, LeMonde.fr, 20 April 2015, retrieved 31 May 2017
- Hames, Peter (2009), Czech and Slovak Cinema: Theme and Tradition, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, p. 197
- Zipes, Jack (2011). The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films. New York: Routledge. p. 43.
- Gilliam, Terry (2004). Terry Gilliam: Interviews. Mississippi: Jackson University Press. pp. 132–133.
- "Blu-ray : Blu-ray The Fabulous Baron Munchausen - Muzeum Karla Zemana". www.muzeumkarlazemana.cz. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
- "Baron Prášil – nejlepší restaurovaný film roku ve Velké Británii! - Muzeum Karla Zemana". www.muzeumkarlazemana.cz (in Czech). Retrieved 29 March 2018.