Movie Critique - Around the World in 80 Days

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A perfect film to go on a travel adventure, specially during these trying times where we cannot travel to a whole lot of places. 

Around the World in 80 Days is a 1956 American adventure comedy film directed by John Farrow at first and then later Michael Anderson to finish the film, produced by Michael Todd and distributed by United Artists. The film is based on the 1872 Jules Verne's novel titled Around the World in Eighty Days. Screenplay for the film was written by James Poe, John Farrow and S. J. Perelman.

I have seen the 2004 version of this film starring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan and Cecile de France several times but had never read the book. But when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) was airing the 1956 version of the same I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch it. And who wouldn’t want to see David Niven, a film noir fixture, in a romantic role. The film also has Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton in the main cast. 

In 1872, Englishman Phileas Fogg (portrayed by David Niven) claims that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days at the Reform Club where he places wager with four skeptics, his entire fortune as a bet. Together with help of his trusty valet Passepartout (portrayed by Cantinflas) Fogg starts his journey that takes him through a series of experiences, a following of fans and foes alike, a determined Police Inspector Fix (portrayed by Robert Newton) searching for him to catch the money Fogg supposedly stole, and also find love in Princes Auoda (portrayed by Shirley MacLaine

David Niven practically worked for this film for nothing. After seeing him in several film noir, I always feel delighted to see David Niven in a different role. He plays the quintessential English bachelor who takes on the bet very calmly. In fact his character Fogg all through his journey he doesn’t show any signs of feeling anxious or frustrated or anything. He doesn’t even deter from his daily schedule and the type of meals he takes despite the environmental conditions around him.

This was Shirley MacLaine's third film role. As the Indian Princess, Princess Aouda, she tried her best I must say. But she didn’t come across Indian in anyway. Even the way she was dressed is not traditionally how princesses used to dress back then. I don’t think the filmmakers captured the core and essence of what was British Raj then. 

This is the last film role of Robert Newton as Inspector Wilbur Fix. Contrary to the 2004 version, Inspector Fix's role is quite different. And also shows compassion and regret in the portrayal of his character.

It also has a plethora of celebrities in cameo appearances (atleast 50), some of them include Charles Boyer as Monsieur Gasse, Thomas Cook Paris Clerk; Peter Lorre as a Steward on the SS Carnatic; Charles Coburn as Pacific Main steamship company clerk in Hong Kong; Marlene Dietrich as the saloon hostess; George Raft as bouncer; Frank Sinatra as saloon pianist (whom we see mostly from behind except for one scene); Red Skelton as the drunk hoarding food into his mouth at the saloon; Buster Keaton as a train conductor, and  among many many others. This film started the trend to celebrities invited for cameo roles in future films.

This plethora of characters reminded me of three Bollywood (= Hindi language films) where an enormous number of stars made cameo appearances. First one was titled John Jaani Janardhan from the 1981 huge blockbuster hit film Naseeb (= Destiny) sung by Mohammed Rafi, music composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal to the Lyrics penned by Anand Bakshi. It was pictured on Amitabh Bachchan who place the role of John Jaani "Johnny" Janardhan in the film.

The entire song took a week of filming which turned out to be a grand event for all the stars who made the cameo appearances as themselves. Some of the stars we see are Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Rakesh Roshan, Vijay Arora, Waheeda Rehman, Sharmila Tagore, Mala Sinha, Bindu, Simi Garewal and Simple Kapadia.

The second one is the song titled Deewangi Deewangi from 2007 blockbuster hit Om Shanti Om  Sung by a plethora of singers - Shaan, Udit Narayan, Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan and Rahul Saxena. Music was composed by Vishal-Shekhar to the Lyrics penned by Javed Akhtar. 

The several actors who appear as themselves in the song are: Rani Mukerji, Zayed Khan, Vidya Balan, Jeetendra Kapoor, Tusshar Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shilpa Shetty, Dharmendra Deol, Shabana Azmi, Urmila Matondkar, Karisma Kapoor, Arbaaz Khan, Malaika Arora, Dino Morea, Amrita Arora, Juhi Chawla, Aftab Shivdasani, Tabu Hashmi, Govinda Ahuja, Mithun Chakraborty, Kajol Devgan, Bobby Deol, Preity Zinta, Rekha Ganesan, Riteish Deshmukh, Saif Ali Khan, Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Lara Dutta, Sunil Shetty, Gauri Khan and Rishi Kapoor. Note that Dharmendra was the only actor who appeared in both these two songs.

And the third song is titled Apna Bombay Talkies from the 2013 anthology film Bombay Talkies, again sung by a large plethora of singers - Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Kumar Sanu, Sadhana Sargam, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kavita Krishnamurthy, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shaan, Shreya Ghoshal, KK, Sukhwinder Singh, Shilpa Rao, Mohit Chauhan, Sonu Nigam. Music was composed by Amit Trivedi to the Lyrics penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya and Swanand Kirkire.

The various star cast who appear as themselves in the song are: Aamir Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Karisma Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Juhi Chawla, Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerji, Sridevi, Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Imran Khan, Vidya Balan, Kareena Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Anil Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan.

Anyways, these three songs will come to my blog as separate posts in the near future. But now back to the film in question. Apart from the 50+ celebrities in cameo roles, the film makers also used approx 10,000+ extras for various scenes - bull fighting scene; for a fight scene with Indians on a train - and tons of models of various boats, ships and trains. And 140 sets and several animals were also used for the filming. 

The film won five of the eight Academy Awards it was nominated for - Best Picture; Best Cinematography, Color; Best Film Editing; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture; and Best Writing, Best Screenplay, Adapted. But had not been nominated for any of the acting categories.

The film's theme song Around The World is still a popular song. Music composed by Victor Young, Lyrics by Harold Adamson and Sung by Bing Crosby.

There are no opening credits. The film begins with Edward R. Murrow narrating a prologue about the history of flight leading up to the actual story of the film. It has only closing credits with the film title appearing at the end - the longest end credits at that time at 6 minutes and 21 seconds. 

The end credits are really interesting. They begin with the words WHO WAS SEEN IN WHAT SCENE...AND WHO DID WHAT, followed by the story recapped in 6 minutes in the form of animated cartoons with the cast members names listed along-side the character. The film's title comes as the last thing shown.

It was filmed in a widescreen format and the second film to win a Best Picture in that format at the time. The first one was the 1954 On the Waterfront. This film has a 4 minute intermission during which time a piece of music was performed in the theaters, Entr'acte. The film ends with an exit music as well before the end credits start to appear, which was almost 4 minutes. 

Another memorable piece from the film is Jose Geco's amazing flamenco dance (uncredited in the movie as Jose Greco and Troupe). Check it out here:

A huge success of a film for all the film makers involved. Unfortunately producer Mike Todd passed  two years after this film released in a plane crash. A spectacle of a film that lasted 182 minutes, making it longer than most films at that time.

Very spectacular and glamorous adaptation of a fantasy adventure novel with some super awesome cast, breathtaking locations and start to finish comedy tied in. A perfect film to go on a travel adventure, specially during these trying times where we cannot travel to a whole lot of places.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Part of the title of the film also reminds me of another Bollywood song. It is titled Duniya Ki Sair Kar Lo from the 1967 film Around The World pictured on Raj Kapoor and Rajshree. Music composed by Shankar Jaikishan to the Lyrics penned by Hasrat Jaipuri. Song was sung by Mukesh and Sharda. Though a commercial failure this song remained memorable.

b. The narrator in the beginning of the film talks about a Jules Verne book, From the Earth to the Moon, which was published in 1865 that basically outlines the ambition of a society of gun enthusiasts to launch three men onto moon using an enormous Columbiad space gun. Having not read the book, was it close to what the space rockets have been built since the 1940s to attempt to land on moon, is something I have to find out later. 13 years after the film was released, and almost a century after (97 years to be precise) the book was published, man indeed landed on moon on July 20, 1969.

c. The book From the Earth to the Moon was made into an adventure short film by Georges Meiles in 1902, in Paris - a silent film titled A Trip to the Moon. A 35mm filmed movie adventure. A further more shortened version of Meiles movie is shown in the beginning of the film with the narrator Edward R. Murrow continuing with his narration. You can watch the movie on Youtube now.

d. As of this film, as the narrator says, man hasn’t landed on the moon, and no one knows at that time if Meiles was right. But three years after, on September 13, 1969, a man-made object would touch moon though. 

e. Note the penny-farthing bicycle that Passpertout rides in the film. Cantinflas specially trained to ride it himself in the movie. 

f. This was the final film of Harcourt Williams who appears in the cameo appearance of Hinshaw, the Reform Club steward in the film. 

g. Checkout Phileas Fogg's wardrobe, all arranged according to seasons and countries. My! My!

h. Ronald Coleman appears in the cameo role of Great Indian Peninsula Railway official. He had come out of retirement for this cameo appearance. 

i. Some of the locations we can see in the film are: Plaza Mayor of Chinchon near Madrid used for Bull Fighting; Lansdowne Bridge on the Indus River in the now Pakistan; Cruising along the Chao Praya River in Thailand past the Grand Palace of Bangkok; Great Buddha of Kamakura in Japan; Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. The narrator Edward R. Murrow shows the launch of a rocket in the prologues of this film. However the first rocket was launched on Oct 4, 1957, a year after the release of this film. So was the narration added in later versions of the film to include the rocket launch? How did the clip get into this movie a year earlier.

b. In the beginning of the film, Passpartout is seen riding his bicycle, when the passenger in the cab yells "Move Over. Move Over, Sir!" and then he later looks at the cab driver and seems to say " Move that confounded contraption". We can hear the words, but his lips aren't moving when he utters these words to the cab driver.

c. Fogg and Passpertout are flying above the mountain range. At that height they should have felt cold and worn winter outer gear to keep them from freezing. Yet they look unscathed and very comfortable. Furthermore at that height they didn’t need a bucket of ice to cool their wine either, it would have been frozen too. 

d. As Fogg arrives in Bombay, India several fishing boats are seen passing by. One of them has the flag of Pakistan. In 1872 India was not yet divided into India and Pakistan. The flag would have been that of East India Company's which would have been in turn the flag of Great Britain. 

e. Passpartout does a tour of Japan in the little time he has before Fogg arrives, all in a day, and places that are at least 300 miles apart (Great Buddha and Heian Shrine are approx 300 miles apart); specially during the time when flights were not common and travel would have taken several days. 

f. Heian Shrine was not built until 1895. If the film was set in 1872 how did this appear in Fogg and Passpartout's journey?

g. Heian Shrine is 300 miles west of Yokohama. And Fogg mentions that that place is Yokohama. 

h. When the bridge starts to break, we see that the train had already crossed it. But again the subsequent scene when the bridge completely falls down, shows the last bogie of the train still going.

i. When the Native Americans attack the train, Buster Keaton mispronounces "Cavalry" as "Calvary" in the dialogue that ensues between him, Fogg and Passpartout.

j. Note a wooden construction on the rear of the ship SS Henrietta, supposedly a camera platform.

k. Fogg mentions in one scene that they crossed "International Date Line". IDL was not established until 1884. If the film was set in 1872 they wouldn’t have known about IDL.


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