on May 24, 2004
First of all, "Around the World in 80 Days" is one of the best of the 1950-1960's grand epics. It may not have the character depth of Giant or the scale of The Ten Commandments, but it's still one heck of a fun movie.
Mike Todd set out to make 3 hours of crowd-pleasing entertainment and he reached his goal, ten-fold (literally... the $6,000,000 film earned over 4 times its cost at the box office). The cast is wonderful (it's definately Cantinflas' show, though) and the Oscar winning cinematography is breathtaking. Also, one of the best musical scores (also an Oscar winner) and a witty screenplay (Oscar winner) make it a real joy to see.
Sadly, for the last 18 years, the only version on home video has been a pan & scan one. "80 Days" was shot in the Todd-AO 70mm format, so the crisp, ultra-detailed, and wide image is totally mangled in that format. It doesn't help that the P&S tape also used a mono track rather than the full stereophonic surround sound that Todd-AO (and even many general release 35mm prints) offered.
Warner Home Video's DVD of the film is nothing short of a triumph. The film's original negative has been in awful condition since the 1950's (not Warner's fault, mind you), thus making a watchable print is more or less impossible. Thankfully, Warner has remastered "80 Days" from scratch. The result is a stunning 2.20:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with the Todd-AO mix adapted to Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbs, too!) While the image occasionally has gooey splices and some specks on the image, the film has a level of crispness and color vibrancy that rivals 1940's Technicolor films. The 5.1 track is wonderful and keeps a lot of the directional sound of 6-track magnetic sound from 70mm presentation.
What is really amazing is that Warner managed to make one of the most perfect digital transfers of a film, ever. Not one hint of edge enhancement pops up, no pixelation, no macroblocking. While the film source isn't perfect, Warner didn't add any sort of imperfections when adapting the 65mm film to NTSC video. The switch to 448 kbs (Warner usually uses a lower bitrate for 5.1 audio) gives the audio a certain warmth that is in line with the ultra-high fidelity of 6-track mag sound.
The extras are great, too. The Robert Osborne intros, outtakes, Brian Sibley commentary, original "Trip to the Moon" short, and roadshow program book (on DVD-ROM) makes this an excellent presentation of a Best Picture Oscar winner.
Whether you're collecting the Best Picture winners, a fan of the classic 1950's epics, or just looking for a fun movie to watch, Around the World in 80 Days is worth a purchase. "80 Days" hasn't lost its luster due to age, it's because of poor presentation. Now that Warner Bros. has released the film in widescreen, people can now discover what is one of the most underrated and neglected films.
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS is more a triumph of spectacle than of storytelling, with an extraordinary backstory of a master entrepreneur's decade-long dream to create the biggest, most extravagant entertainment ever made. That the film was ever produced at all was miraculous; that it succeeded so well (earning the "Best Picture" Academy Award, along with a raftload of other prizes), and remains the most enjoyable version of Verne's novel (far superior to the Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan remakes) is a living testament to it's nearly forgotten guiding spirit, Michael Todd.
The film itself is basically a series of 'set pieces' (most involving the brilliant Mexican comedian, Cantinflas, and a wide variety of guest stars, appearing in 'cameos', to use the term coined by Todd), built around the framework of an aristocrat's wager that, using available transportation, he could circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. While David Niven is perfect as the supercilious Phileas Fogg, and Robert Newton is at his hammy best as detective Mr. Fix, it is Cantinflas, as Passepartout, manservant and sweet Everyman, who steals the movie.
While the years has lessened the novelty of many of the cameos, as performers have faded from memory, a few legendary actors still bring a smile, in their brief appearances (particularly an over-long but still amusing barroom sequence with Marlene Dietrich, George Raft, Red Skelton, and, as a 'capper', Frank Sinatra).
Included as 'extras' offered in the two-disc set are a revealing, occasionally tongue-in-cheek 1968 biography, "Around the World of Mike Todd", featuring fascinating and funny insights by his widow, Elizabeth Taylor, a clean-shaven, cape-draped Orson Welles, and many others; "Playhouse 90: Around the World in 90 Minutes", a 'live' look at the ultimately disastrous first anniversary 80 DAYS party at Madison Square Garden, with Garry Moore offering funny vignettes featuring Todd, himself (quite gifted at comedy!), and 'on scene' legendary commentators Walter Cronkite and Jim McKay (long before "Wide World of Sports"); Todd and Taylor, backstage after winning the "Best Picture" Oscar; and MUCH more.
Bravo to Warner Home Video for releasing a new, remastered DVD edition of the film, and including a treasure trove of special features about the film, and the irrepressible Michael Todd!
on November 7, 2000
This Todd-AO wide-wide-wide screen production earned many accolades when it was released and, although it may be a bit tame by today's standards, it should be placed on a DVD in its original WIDESCREEN Todd-AO format to get the full effect of its scenic and comic wonders. David Niven, a very young and beautiful Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton and Cantinflas head a HUGE cast of movie stars playing all sorts of cameo surprise roles throughout, many of whom will probably not be recognized by today's generation but who should be remembered nevertheless. The great Victor Young score is magnificent and GREAT names show up all through this movie: Buster Keaton, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, Cesar Romero, and over 40 other stars light up this adventure, which really works best in its widescreen presentation. Why this great family film has not been given the DVD treatment is a mystery to me. Let's hope this error in judgment will be corrected soon and a pristine widescreen DVD will be forthcoming of this truly delightful movie.
on May 7, 2004
I have been fortunate enough to get an early look at AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS via a friend who is a local DVD critic.
Fans of this film who have eagerly awaited its DVD release will be truly thrilled. It's finally been restored to its original full-length roadshow version, and it looks and sounds marvelous.
For a film that is nearly 50 years old, I think the folks at Warner have done a terrific job with the mastering. The images are clear and sharp, and the colors are about as good as you can expect from anything photographed in the Eastmancolor process during the mid-1950s. The colors are as satisfying as those found on other landmark films of the era, such as REAR WINDOW or THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
Happily, Warner has spread the film over two discs, and each disc is stuffed with extras. Of particular note to fans is a terrific documentary by Sol Zimmer (sp?) all about the film's producer, the inimitable Mike Todd. It's as fascinating as the film itself.
Best of all is the lush Victor Young score, which is done great justice by the lovely 5.1 surround mix.
I'm sure this Oscar-winning Best Picture will find a happy place in every collection of essential DVDs.
on May 20, 2004
I have been waiting for years for Warner Brothers to release "Around the World in 80 Days" in its original widescreen splendor. For the DVD edition, the powers-that-be wisely decided to remaster and enhance the roadshow version, which restores one scene showing Cantinflas's attempts to escape the "redskins" chasing him. The picture and sound is quite good, certainly better than any print I have seen on TV in recent memory. Although a few minor scratches and pit marks remain on this restored print, the overall look, especially on a widescreen television, is awesome.
I have read that this film is not as good as its reputation. One must remember the social atmosphere of the world this movie was released into. Nowadays, with large TV's and the internet, along with the ability to jet to anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye, a film like this may appear quaint and antique. But in 1956, when "Around the World" was first released, television wasn't even in color, much less HDTV widescreen. The only way to see color images of, say India, was to read National Geographic. Before 1956, movie studios "made magic" on the backlot, with sets constructed to look like "Casablanca". The film's producer, Mike Todd, took his cameras to the actual locations, and for the first time in film history. It's little wonder "Around the World in 80 Days" was such a blockbuster hit.
It will be interesting to see if the new Jackie Chan "Around the World in 80 Days" can even come close to matching Mike Todd's achievement.
on May 18, 2004
"Around The World in 80 Days" is producer, Mike Todd's lasting tribute to divine decadence circa 1950's film making. Keeping in mind that the decade produced one lavish, eye popping spectacle after the next in an attempt to win audience away from television, "Around the World in 80 Days" is a star-studded, over produced and overblown retelling of the classic story by visionary author, Jules Verne. Having stated the obvious, this film is also a lot of fun to watch. The story - in brief - concerns a bet made by Phileus Fogg (David Niven)to members of his men's club, that he can circle the world in 80 days and be back in England in time to collect his handsome wager. On this occasion, Fogg is ably aided by his man servant, Passepartout (Cantinflas)to whom Fogg entrusts most of the seemingly benign duties on their journey. Every one from famed Flamango dancer, Jose Greco, to sultry Marlene Dietrich make cameo appearances, which is part of the fun of this gigantic travel log with an attitude. Shirley McClaine plays a key role as an Arabian princess, whom Fogg befriends and brings back with him to England. Over all, good humor, great fun - if a bit stuffy at times - and carried off with overwhelmingly "splendiferous" showmanship.
THE TRANSFER: In a word - marvelous. "Around the World In 80 Days" was filmed in Mike Todd's patented Todd-AO widescreen format. Superior to Cinemascope in just about every way, novices to the process may find the fish eye warping of vertical and horizontal lines a bit problematic to watch but this is as Todd envisioned the film to be seen. Warner Brothers gives us a near pristine print. After some unstable color during the film's overly lengthy introduction (delivered by no less of an M.C. narrator than Edward R. Murrow), and a rather faded montage of a rocket ship blasting into space, the rest of the film exhibits a stunningly pristine, vibrant and solid color scheme that is in keeping with the high resolution of the Todd-AO film process. Colors are rich, well defined and nicely balanced. Shadow, black and contrast levels are magnificently rendered. Several outdoor scenes exhibit a slightly soft characteristic, but this too is in keeping with the original photography. Edge enhancement is rarely present. Pixelization and shimmering of fine details is never an issue. The audio is remixed to 5.1 and offers a marvelous spread - particularly in the music. Dialogue is directionalized in several scenes to good advantage. Truly, this is one heck of a good visual presentation from Warner and it is to be commended on every level.
EXTRAS: The film is divided into two parts across two discs, but, as the original roadshow engagement had an intermission, this break is forgiveable. Both discs contain a very thorough and engaging audio commentary. As well, on disc one we get to see George Melies' A Trip To the Moon (also based on a Jules Verne novel) in its full and uncropped version. The film elements have dated badly but over all, the image quality on this short film is to be expected. On disc two we get several extra features including an hour long documentary on Mike Todd that was produced in 1968 and narrated by Orson Welles. The color balancing on this documentary is POOR, with orange flesh tones and a considerable amount of grain, dirt and scratches throughout. We also get some edited clips from Playhouse 90 and the Academy Award ceremonies that are in poor condition but interesting to view from a historical perspective nevertheless.
BOTTOM LINE: "Around The World in 80 Days" is the sort of grandiose production that became a main staple of the 1950s. It's loaded with kitsch, glamor, exotic locations and appearances by nearly every major star of the day. Although one could argue there were far more deserving candidates for the BEST PICTURE OSCAR, this film continues to live up to all the hype one has come to hear over the years, regarding its lengthy and lavish production. Warner's 2 disc special edition should be on everybody's wish list!
on September 16, 2003
If you're looking for a steely-eyed, completely objective review of Mike Todd's 1956 blockbuster "Around the World in 80 Days," don't look here! As a very unsophisticated boy of 12 I saw this film in its first release, and though I'm long past being an innocent 12-year-old, its spell over me has never faded. I loved the story, and I thought the "twist" at the ending was wonderfully clever (it still is!), but in 1957 it was the technical aspects of this movie that really blew me away--it was the first movie I ever saw in a super-wide-screen format, and the first I ever heard that was in stereophonic sound. Today, however, as I see ATWIED through adult eyes, the acting and the production values are what make it a great film for me.
The story is about Phileas Fogg (David Niven), a wealthy Englishman of compulsively punctual habits who wagers a staggering sum that he can complete a journey around the world in 80 days--quite a feat for 1872. Accompanied by his somewhat seedy gentleman's gentleman Passepartout (Cantinflas), Fogg sets off on his journey, unaware that Scotland Yard suspects him of masterminding a recent robbery of the Bank of England. Fueled by the bumbling and thick-headed Inspector Fixx (portrayed by Robert Newton, who died shortly after this film was completed), this subplot helps move the action along very smartly.
For movie buffs, the best feature of this film is the profusion of cameo roles, often delightfully tongue-in-cheek, that punctuates the action. (In fact, the term "cameo role" originated with this movie!) In some films--"The Longest Day" comes immediately to mind--cameo roles are often hokey, and an annoying distraction. In this one, they work beautifully because the casting is so good: Evelyn Keyes as a snooty Parisian girl, John Carradine as a blustering denizen of the American West, George Raft as a sinister saloon owner--every role is perfectly filled. And if you're not the type of viewer who immediately recognizes classic film actors at first glimpse, don't worry about it. You won't miss a thing. The good-natured cameos are so skillfully worked into the fabric of the film that they never intrude upon the plot.
Is "Around the World in 80 Days" flawless? Of course not. Parts of it, like the opening monologue by famous, cigarette-in-hand newscaster Edward R. Murrow, are certainly dated--but in a way, this gosh-gee-whiz segment showing a relatively tiny rocket being fired into the stratosphere is a nostalgic reminder of what life was like mere days before the first artificial satellite orbited a planet that would never be the same again.
Now, after a seemingly endless wait, nostalgia buffs can see this wonderfully good-natured film on DVD. The restoration is virtually flawless (there are a few places where the print could have been cleaned up a bit), but compared with the faded VHS copies that have been floating around for years, this release of ATWIED is absolutely stunning, its color and sound brilliantly restored, and well worth the modest investment to obtain it. The special added features are generally worthwhile, too. Highly recommended!
If the objective of a film is to entertain, then this one fills the bill admirably, and it works its magic every time that you view it. Based on Jules Verne's tale, Mike Todd produced a sweeping panorama of the world of 1872, as Plileas Fogg (David Niven), a proper British gentleman, claims that progress has been so great that a person can circumnavigate the earth in as little as 80 days. His fellow club members hoot and bet a fortune that he cannot, so Fogg and his servant, Passepartout (the wonderful, Mexican comedian Cantinflas), set off from London to Paris and on around the world by train, ship, elephant, and even balloon, and we are treated to a magnificent spectacle. Along the way, Fogg runs afoul of Mr. Fix (Robert Newton), a detective who mistakenly tries to arrest Fogg for robbing the Bank of England. Fogg also saves the Indian Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine) from burning on the funeral pyre of her dead husband, and romance grows in a particularly 19th century, British manner. Tension grows as they struggle to get from Japan to San Francisco, across the American continent and the Atlantic in time to meet the deadline. This is a thoroughly enjoyable film that doesn't grow old.
on June 27, 2003
According to the Digital Bits, Warner Brothers will be releasing AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS in a 2-disc SE. The exact date is not known, but Warner representatives have said it is coming soon, with the prologue, intermission, etc. I will try to give you more details when I can!
on September 7, 2004
An eagerly awaited and long overdue restoration of the movie that won the Oscar as the best film of 1956. That was a pretty good year for movies and the competition was intense. But Around The World In 80 Days was entertainment in capital letters, although younger members of modern audiences might wonder what all the fuss was about.
The film certainly looks and sounds wonderful in this special edition DVD. If you are going to see it, this is the way. The extras are not overly exciting - a bit disappointing really. The most interesting is probably the complete version of Melies' Trip To The Moon (not certain what that has to do with Around The World other than also being based on Jules Verne) but that gets to be heavy going after a while.
Around The World In 80 Days was, of course, the brainchild and crowning glory of super showman Mike Todd. By all accounts, getting the film made and financed was not easy and production occasionally ground to a halt while more funding was secured. That probably accounts for the slight unevenness and occasional rough edges. Some scenes seem almost unfinished and the narrative jumps over large sections of geography. Maybe it's just time restrictions or sloppy editing, but the film does have an uncertain pace unusual for productions on this scale. And the camera doesn't linger on quite as many exotic landscapes as you might expect.
But Todd's biggest and best gimmick for the film was the invention of the cameo role for big name stars. Fifty or so well known personalities pop up all along the route, which provided the extra fun of spotting them and putting the correct name to the face ("Is that Jack Oakie?" "No, that's Jack Oakie." "Mom, who's Jack Oakie?") Some have larger bits than others - Jose Greco gets a superb solo spot, Peter Lorre is Peter Lorre, Noel Coward and John Gielgud make a great double act). A few, like Frank Sinatra, never utter a word - they're just there. But they provide a real sense of class to the affair. Sadly, quite a few of them will now go unrecognized by younger viewers.
The four main stars are a curious mix. Mexican comedian Catinflas is quite good as Passepartout, even if his accent is a little too thick at times. His clowning livens up many scenes, especially in an extended Spanish bullring sequence. Robert Newton plays Detective Fixx like a distant cousin of Long John Silver. A rather subdued Shirley MacLaine seems a strange choice to play an Indian princess. And David Niven seems to play Phileas Fogg just a trifle too straight. Not even a hint of a tongue in cheek.
The later television version of Around The World with Pierce Brosnan makes an interesting comparison and is enjoyable in its own right - even an improvement in some areas. The more recent film with Jackie Chan is best forgotten. It is the 1956 movie that will always be remembered and ultimately be most entertaining. And on this DVD, it is better than ever.