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Part comedy, part adventure, part travelogue, part exercise in showmanship, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS ($27) is certainly one of the most unique and enjoyable films to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The brainchild of producer Michael Todd, this adaptation of Jules Verne novel is a delightful cinematic spectacle the greatly benefits from gorgeous Todd-AO cinematography, plus a bevy of all star cameos, that almost reads like a whoís who of the golden age of motion pictures. Sure, younger generations of film fans may not be enraptured by the pleasures of watching AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, but anyone who loves classic movies and old time movie stars is certain to be thrilled by this motion picture experience.

The seemingly simple plot of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS concerns a positively punctual Victorian English Gentleman named Phileas Fogg (David Niven), who enters into a high stakes wager that he can circle the globe in a mere eighty days. Traveling very lightly, Fogg and his newly hired Gentlemenís Gentleman Passepartout (Cantinflas) set out to prove that steamships, trains and other forms of modern transportation (or the late nineteenth century equivalent) have made it possible to travel around the world in the time allotted. Along the way, Fogg and Passepartout have their share of adventures, as well as running into a series of interesting characters. The cast AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS also features Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton, Finlay Currie, Robert Morley, Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Charles Boyer, Evelyn Keyes, Josť Greco, Gilbert Roland, Cesar Romero, Cedric Hardwicke, Melville Cooper, Reginald Denny, Ronald Colman, Charles Coburn, Peter Lorre, George Raft, Red Skelton, Marlene Dietrich, John Carradine, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, Andy Devine, Victor McLaglen, Jack Oakie, Beatrice Lillie, John Mills, Glynis Johns and Hermione Gingold.

Warner Home Video has made AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS available on DVD in an approximately 2.20:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. For this release, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS has been restored to its roadshow length, and for the most part, its complete1956 cinematic luster. In general, the image appears sharp and produces a terrific level of detail. Of course, there is the errant shot that appears slightly soft, as well as some slightly dated looking opticals that give away the filmís true age. The film elements used for the transfer havenít been given a complete digital overhaul, so they do exhibit occasional blemishes, but nothing particularly distracting. There is a bit of grain here and there, but that too is inconsequential. Colors appear gorgeous throughout the presentation and are rendered with a level of vibrancy, which would make one almost think they were watching a vintage IB Technicolor print. Blacks appear velvety, white are stable and the picture boasts excellent contrast and shadow detail for the era in which it was produced. Due to its length, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS is spread across two discs, which helps to keep digital compression artifacts very well concealed.

For this release, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mix. Considering that this film is rapidly approaching its fiftieth anniversary, this 5.1 channel track sounds absolutely marvelous. There is plenty of activity in all of the channels, with nice separations all around, plus some surprising use of the split surrounds. Musical fidelity is quite nice, with Victor Youngís score coming across in a smooth and relatively rich sounding manner. Sound effects usually hold their own, although, there is an occasional sound that isnít wholly convincing. The bass channel never approaches modern depths, but there is just enough there to meet the filmís requirements. Dialogue is always completely understandable, plus the voices have a reasonably natural timbre. A French language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the DVD's basic interactive menus, which provides one with access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one starts off with an eight minute introduction by Robert Osborne, who can be seen regularly introducing films on the Turner Movie Classics. Also featured is a running audio commentary by BBC Radio film historian Brian Sibley (which concludes with the movie on disc two). This is a rich and detailed commentary that offers insight into the filmís production, as well as the actors appearing on the screen- a must listen for any film buff. Since an excerpt appears in the prologue to AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, disc one also includes a complete version of the 1902 Georges Meliesí silent A TRIP TO THE MOON, with a Robert Osborne introduction. Osborne is also on hand to introduce an outtake reel that runs approximately seventeen minutes. A still gallery, a theatrical trailer and a re-release trailer close out disc one.

Moving on to disc two, one will find the rest of the supplemental programming. Hosted by Orson Wells, Around The World With Mike Todd is a fifty minute 1968 biography of the showman that follows his life and career, with a special emphasis on the production of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (this program also features an introduction by Osborne). Osborne also introduces clips from the filmís Los Angeles and Spain premieres, as well as footage from the Academy Awards ceremony where AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS came off the big winner, plus excerpts from the Playhouse 90 broadcast of Around The World In 90 Minutes, which celebrated the filmís one year anniversary. Finally disc two offers a Cameo List of all the stars that appeared in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS is probably the most unique film to ever take home the Oscar for Best Picture, not to mention being a cinematic treasure that movie buffs can revel in. Warner has done a marvelous job with the DVD, offering a wonderful looking and sounding presentation, in addition to some great supplements. If you have never experienced AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, then by all means check out this terrific DVD. However, if you are a serious movie fan, then this is a must have DVD. Highly recommended.



Around the World in 80 Days (Two-Disc Special Edition) (1956)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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