Around the World in 80 Days
Two-disc Special Edition

Starring: David Niven, Cantinflas and Shirley MacLaine
Warner Home Video
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: U
Available 05 July 2004

London, October 1872 and Phileas Fogg (David Niven) bets his fellow club members that he can circle the globe in 80 days. Accompanied by his valet, Passepartout (Cantinflas in his only English language film), and the wandering Princess Aouda (Shirley MacLaine), Fogg crosses Europe, India, Japan, the Pacific and the United States in a race against time and all the odds...

Around the World in 80 Days was originally released in 1956 and features an all-star cast including Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Peter Lorre, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, John Mills and a cast of thousands.

Producer Michael Todd (who married Elizabeth Taylor and was killed in a plane crash in 1958) coined the term "Cameo Role" in a bid to entice big celebrities to appear in this movie - the notion of a "small role" was not seen as appealing back in the '50s.

The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and ended up winning five, including the most prestigious, best picture as well as best cinematography, best editing, best music and best adapted screenplay.

This film dates back to the days when the producer was king. Michael Todd's vision, modified somewhat from Jules Verne's classic story, was made exactly the way he wanted. He was ridiculed at the time for including a hot air balloon sequence (not in the original book) as well as changing the nationality of Fogg's manservant - Passepartout was French in the book, while Cantinflas is Mexican.

There are overly long and tiresome moments in the movie (including the very drawn out bullfight and the ridiculously over the top cowboys and Indians scene. But, on the whole this is a well made film.

I also loved the fact that this release has kept the original intermission break and also includes the intermission music as well as the music that would have played in theatres after the end credits had finished. And that brings me to another point worth mentioning - the excellent end credit sequence which recaps the entire movie in bizarre 2D animation.

While the movie may not have aged as well as it might, this double disc collection is one of the best sets I've personally seen in a long time - especially when you consider the age of the movie.

There are enough documentaries and featurettes to keep even the most information hungry film buff satisfied. In fact, the audio commentary alone is worth the price of this disc, and is packed full of behind the scene information.

Extras include: audio commentary by BBC Radio's Brian Sibley; "Around The World Of Mike Todd" producer profile featurette including interviews with Elizabeth Taylor, Gypsy Rose Lee and Ethel Merman; "Playhouse 90: Around The World In 90 minutes" Excerpts of the 1957 Madison Square Gala, celebrating the film's one year anniversary; 1957 Academy Awards ceremony highlights; Introduction; Newsreel; Outtakes; Photo gallery; and original 1956 and reissue 1983 theatrical trailer.

This is a fantastic presentation of a movie that, while not quite a classic in the same vein as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Wizard of Oz, is still worthy of adding to your collection.

Nick Smithson

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