Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #141, April 1989: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

It's a relatively quiet month at Starlog. No major revelations of staffers. No executive exits. No changes in the magazine's format. Just a typical month in the life of a science-fiction movie/TV/books magazine.

Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is featured this month, and it's a reminder of how language can equal success. What I mean is that Munchausen was not a success, even though it's a wonderful film. Munchausen, as you might guess from the name, is based on a set of German tall tales, wild exaggerations of the baron's escapades. Though these are very well known in central Europe, they aren't as well known in the English-speaking world. Had this been The Adventures of Baron Nigel Thickelswaite of Upper Kensington Gardens, we probably would have been bombarded with the tales as kids, even though they'd have been half as interesting as Munchausen's tales. 

As it is, Munchausen became another of Gilliam's well-done films that didn't find the audience it deserved. I'm at least glad Starlog thought well enough of it to put it on the cover. In this issue, editor David McDonnell says the staff actually got to see the film before its premiere, and "Munchausen has more imagination than almost any dozen fantasy films you can name combined. It's a brilliant tall tale well-told. ... Coupled with the engaging adventure of Time Bandits and the downbeat masterwork Brazil, Baron Munchausen confirms Terry Gilliam's place as one of our premier fantasy filmmakers."

Starlog #141
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.50

In staffing news, Calvin Lee is the magazine's new senior designer. He will be at the company for many years, and will do some of my favorite article designs during that time.

The rundown: That's Baron Munchausen himself (or at least actor John Neville portraying him) on the cover, riding a cannonball. Kerry O'Quinn's From the Bridge column chronicles his experience acting in a Star Trek stage play, at Gene Roddenberry's suggestion; Communications letters include an editorial note explaining O'Quinn's departure from the company the previous month (though he remains as an editorial advisor and will continue to pen his column), plus readers on various films and articles, including one who writes: "I have a challenge for Starlog Magazine. How about an issue with no articles on Star Trek?" Challenge rejected, sir! Medialog includes David McDonnell's news roundup (including the announcement that there will be a Beetlejuice cartoon series), and Ian Spelling on early word about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Marc Shapiro interviews Trek producer Harve Bennett about the upcoming Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (and Bennet says he's never watched an episode of The Next Generation, because "The Next Generation is the future and I did not want to be influenced by the future. My place is to stay home and guard what passes for the present in the Star Trek universe"); Ian Spelling profiles actor Wilford Brimley, who talks about Cocoon and its sequel; Peter Bloch-Hansen talks with War of the Worlds star Jared Martin; in Videolog, David Hutchison notes new video releases such as Predator and Big Trouble in Little China; Eric Niderost interviews actress Daphne Zuniga, who discusses her starring role in The Fly II and Spaceballs; Mark A. Altman, who would one day move into film production himself and also edit competing SF media magazine Sci-Fi Universe and briefly publishe CFQ, writes his first article for Starlog with a chat with Cocoon novelist David Saperstein; the Fan Network pages include Larry Marcheshi Jr. on the the Star Trek stage play at the Universal Pictures Tour.

Bill Warren interviews actress Diana Muldaur, the second-season (and waaay underappreciated) doctor on Star Trek: The Next Generation; in a two-page "The Guests of Trek" section, Mark Phillips profiles Celeste Yarnall ("The Apple") and Barbara Bouchet ("By Any Other Name"); Kim Howard Johnson gets Terry Gilliam's take on his new film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen; Bill Warren's three-part interview with Quatermass writer Nigel Kneale concludes; Michael McAvennie, a future Starlog staffer, interviews writer (and Starlog favorite) Peter David; in the first of a multi-part interview, Steve Swires talks with director Nathan Juran about his career, including working with Boris Karloff, the films Hellcats of the Navy, The Deadly Mantis, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and more; Marc Shapiro chats with actress Amanda Pays about Leviathon and Max Headroom; and David McDonnell uses his Liner Notes column to explain whether or not a cover feature gives a film an implied endorsement of the magazine (in the case of Munchausen, he says, yes).
"This is really the same old rubbish I'm always doing, fantasy and reality, or truth and reality – whatever form it takes – that which the world perceives as truth, and that which really is truth. I like the idea that a good lie is probably better than what appears to be the truth – and maybe even more truthful!"
–Terry Gilliam, director, interviewed by Kim Howard Johnson: "Terry Gilliam's Marvelous Travels & Campaigns"
To read previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.


The Film Connoisseur said...

Baron Munchause is a film that deserved to make more money at the box office, unfortunately, the studio didn't give it the marketing push it needed because studio heads were changing, and this movie was considered the last film made by "the old regime" of studio heads.

But hey, the movie has lived on! Many have discovered it and loved it. I have a feeling it will live on as one of Gilliam's best films. I think this film was the apex of his career. It was when studios still trusted him with huge budgets.

Well, he being the true artist that he is has to this day proven himself to be a great filmmaker, he is currently getting his Quixote project of the ground, starring Johnny Depp himself, I mean, I cant wait to see what this film will be like...its been Gilliams dream project for years now.

Thanks for the memories, I used to have that issue as well, I was a Starlog fan!

John Z. said...

Here's to hoping Quixote makes it to the screen. It's been a long slog getting there with this one.