The fabulous exploits of Baron MÜNCHHAUSEN include several wars, numerous plots and beautiful women without number.
At the height of World War Two, as the tide was beginning to turn against the Third Reich, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels commissioned this lavish motion picture as a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Ufa, the government-run German film association. More importantly, it was also to be a rival of the great fantasy films which had come from the Allied nations, such as THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) and THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940). In that it succeeds brilliantly and needs no comparison to any other film.
The film is a great, lighthearted romp as it follows the adventures of the Baron from Prussia to St. Petersburg, Constantinople, Venice and even the Moon. It is fascinating to see the high quality which the Germans were still able to lavish on the picture, even as their Empire was beginning to crumble around them. The production values are of a very high order and the Technicolor photography is sumptuous to the eye. Remarkably, there is no National Socialist propaganda in the film and the War is never mentioned.
In the title role, Hans Albers gives a surprisingly sensitive performance for such a robust production. He takes the legendary character and gives the viewer a portrait of a dashing, reflective, amorous, compassionate, resourceful man. Whether riding on a cannonball, ingratiating himself with the Ottoman Sultan, or examining the fantastic flora of the lunar planet, Albers always makes Münchhausen totally believable.
All the acting is of a high order, but especially worthy of mention are Ferdinand Marian as the mysterious Count Cagliostro, Brigitte Horney as a flirtatious Catherine the Great, and Gustav Waldau as an aging Casanova.
It should be mentioned that this is not a movie for children. Given its European origins it should come as no surprise that MÜNCHHAUSEN is a good deal more libidinous than the standard Hollywood fare of the time.
There was a real Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von Münchhausen (1720-1797), a German adventurer and teller of tall tales, but he had nothing to do with the book of fictional exploits which borrowed his name, written by Rudolf Erich Raspe (1737-1794), upon which this film was based.
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