Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)

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Released 4-Aug-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio
Introduction-Robert Osbourne
Audio Commentary-BBC Radio's Brian Sibley
Outtakes
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer-2 (1956 And 1983)
DVD-ROM Extras
Introduction-Around The World Of Michael Todd By Robert Osbourne
Featurette-Around The World Of Michael Todd
Introduction-Los Angeles Premiere By Robert Osbourne
Featurette-12/23/1956 Los Angeles Premiere
Introduction-Academy Awards By Robert Osbourne
Featurette-Highlights From 3/27/1957 Academy Awards
Introduction-Around The World In 90 Minutes By Robert Osbourne
Featurette-Highlights From 10/17/1957 Playhouse 90 Broadcast
Featurette-Spain Greets A Lovely Envoy
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 174:38
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:20)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Michael Anderson
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring David Niven
Cantinflas
Finlay Currie
Robert Morley
Ronald Squire
Basil Sydney
Noel Coward
John Gielgud
Trevor Howard
Harcourt Williams
Martine Carol
Fernandel
Charles Boyer
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Victor Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.20:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.20:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Jules Verne set Around The World In Eighty Days in 1872, and in those times eighty days probably seemed like a very short time in which to circumnavigate the globe. Of course, technology has moved on in incredible leaps and bounds, shrinking the globe to quite small proportions. A balloon, one of the most recognisable modes of transport used in this film, circumnavigated the globe in only 13 days 8 hours and 33 minutes recently. A man using only regularly scheduled flights performed the same trick in only 44 hours and 6 minutes, although I am sure that he did not enjoy the scenery nearly as much as our characters. The fastest trip under the current rules appears to be a flight by the now sadly out of service Concord which set a record of 31 hours 27 minutes 49 seconds, though it seems rather silly to be talking times down to the second on a round the world trip!

    Journey To The Center Of The Earth, From The Earth To The Moon and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, amongst many others, are instantly recognisable titles both for their original prophetic novels and for the famous films that were later based on them. It is incredible to realise that these novels were written in the early 1860s. Jules Verne's ability to predict the future is nothing short of incredible - in Robur the Conqueror he predicts heavier than air aircraft more than twenty five years before their development. In Around The World In Eighty Days we are taken on a trip (a central feature of many of Verne's novels) around the world, the world as it was in the 1870s.

    Two characters escort us on this trip; Englishman Phileas Fogg and his valet, Passepartout. Phileas Fogg is the epitome of an English gentleman. He has two obsessions; time and whist (a card game). While at the Reform Club, another great English institution, he becomes involved in a discussion with the other members about the time that it would take to go around the world. He states that it would be possible to complete this trip in eighty days and is willing to bet his fortune on being able to complete this trip. The bet is placed and the time noted and Phileas Fogg is off around the world, accompanied by Passepartout. In the book, Passepartout is a Frenchman but this is changed in the movie. The book spends its time on the adventures at each location reached, with some very long sections of the trip in kilometres being covered in little more than a couple of paragraphs.

    This is in contrast to the film where the trip itself is a very large part of the action. In fact, for a film which runs for 174:38, it actually only contains about 30 minutes of storyline. The real impact of this film at the time was in its widescreen aspect ratio. Up to this point, films were presented at the standard Academy flat ratio (1.37:1). There was one other format (Cinerama), but this had severe limitations in that the width was made up of three separate screens each with their own projector. This left a couple of problems, the first being a dark line in between each image where they joined and the second being the requirement to use three cameras to film every scene.

    The famous Mr Todd was unhappy with these limitations, and in combination with American Optics (thus the name of the process: Todd-AO), invented a new widescreen process, one that used a single camera and special lenses to capture a very wide image, somewhere around 2.20:1. On a side note, it was the incredible success of this film and the process that triggered competition to develop the Cinemascope process The image in the Todd-AO process is captured on 70mm film, with 65mm dedicated to image and the remaining 5mm used for the five channel sound system, which consisted of four speakers spread across the front of the theatre and a single surround channel.

    Most of this film simply explores this new medium; there are wide sweeping shots of scenery which act as set piece demonstrations of what is little more than a travelogue. Of course, this is the perfect material to showcase this scenery - where else do you get more scenery than on a trip around the world, even if you are in a hurry? Of course, there was much ado about the number of film crews and the number of locations around the world that were visited. In actual fact, while the scenery shots were certainly filmed on location, the majority of the action actually took place on various back lots or sound stages around Hollywood.

    The cast do a very credible job with the storyline that is available to them. David Niven is a great choice to play Fogg and a young Shirley MacLaine plays Princess Aouda. The most interesting character, and certainly the most interesting casting choice, is Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" as Passepartout. Born in Mexico, he was one of the greatest stars ever in Spanish language films. At the time of the making of this film he was the highest paid actor in the world. He was a  combination of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, with singing and dancing skills along with the ability, due to having been a bullfighter and clown in his youth, to actually perform all of his own stunts including the famous bullfight sequence.

    Of course, the final piece in the incredible jigsaw puzzle that makes up this film is the cameo appearances. Michael Todd, with his amazing charisma, managed to talk over 45 big name stars into playing very small parts throughout the film. He is credited with inventing both the concept and the term 'cameo'.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented over two discs. The first disc contains the first section of the movie, being 108:05 long and breaking where the original intermission was. There is also the first section of the commentary and a number of other special features on this disc. The second disc contains the remainder of the film and further special features.

    The film opens with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio image set into the centre of screen in a box that does not reach the top or bottom of the frame. In this is presented the prologue and then the famous Georges Melies original turn of the century version of A Trip To The Moon. From there the film opens the matte to the full width of the screen giving us a measured aspect ratio of 2.20, the original aspect ratio. The entire transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Considering the age of this film it is in very good condition overall.

    Sharpness is good for the most part as is the shadow detail. There is very little low level noise. There is some slight overall brightness variation and pulsing but I think this is a limitation of the emulsions of the time.

    Colours are accurate and well saturated and free of any noticeable noise.

    There are no visible MPEG artefacts present. There is some slight wobble in the image - look at the grandfather clock at the extreme right of frame at about 15:00 on the first disc to see this movement. This stays fairly constant throughout the film. The film master, taking into account its age, is in quite good condition. There is some minor grain but far less than I expected. There are also some specks and black marks that appear on the image with some scratches, particularly near the end of the first disc and into the second. The most obvious artefacts are at 59:26 where there is quite a lot of dirt on the lens of the camera, which occurs in a few shots. The worst of the film artefacts occur right at the start during the rocket launch and are quite bad, but this soon clears up. I am of course not including the film artefacts contained in the original footage of A Trip To The Moon in this discussion, which is not unexpectedly showing its extreme age.

    There are three sets of subtitles on these discs; English, Italian and English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles are accurate and easy to read. They appear over the bottom of the image, leaving the black bars created by the difference in aspect ratio of this film and the standard 16x9 DVD frame empty - it's a shame they could not have placed the subtitles in this space.

    There are two RSDL discs which carry this movie, the first having its layer change at 54:20 in a fade to black between scenes making it basically invisible and the second occurring at 32:43, also in a fade to black with no audio, so again basically invisible.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     In typical Todd style we are introduced to his five channel sound system within minutes of the film having started. A military brass band starts off on the right of the screen and promptly marches across the screen and through the surrounds. There are further examples of this not much later in the film such as the passing of the fire engine (horse and carriage type).

    The sound is again in good condition considering the limitations of the day in which it was recorded.

    There are three audio tracks on these discs; English Dolby Digital 5.1 main feature audio, Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 main feature audio and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track. I listened to the English main feature audio and the commentary.

    There are no problems with the dialogue quality nor with the audio sync.

    The music travels around the world along with our travellers, at least in an American interpretation sort of way.

    There are some good surround effects but for the most they carry ambience with the majority of the action being carried by the front speakers.

    The bass drum in the band is about as deep as we get in the bass department.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The static menu is presented at 1.78:1, and consists of a cartoon picture of the balloon with the characters below and a train, boat and other transport methods on top of the balloon. This is the famous drawing that became closely associated with the film and with the story in general, to the point where it has been used on the cover of the book despite the fact that there is no balloon flight in the story. There is a Dolby Digital 2.0 sound accompaniment.

Commentary: BBC Radio's Brian Sibley

    There is some very interesting information in this commentary though a large part of it is covering the biographies of the cameos in quite some detail. While this takes up a lot of time, the length of the film leaves plenty of time for other information.

Outtakes (16:47)

    These are a series of outtakes introduced by Robert Osborne, who talks for 1:21 and who is then followed by 15:28 of outtakes. The original audio has been lost so there is just a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with some music playing. These outtakes do not contain anything of real interest and have really only been included because of the incredible fact that they still exist.

Stills Gallery (11:12)

    A series of still pictures containing a mix of publicity shots, production shots, extracts from the film and movie posters. Once selected you can simply wait and each image will stay on screen for about eight seconds, or you can speed things up with the chapter skip button. There are 84 images.

1956 Theatrical Trailer (4:07)

    A very long trailer presented at 2.21:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It certainly goes on for a while and in my opinion gives away too much of the story, complete with excited voiceover. The last minute is taken up with listing the many stars in the film. The film stock is not in the best of condition and this contains many scratches, marks and other imperfections.

1983: Re-Release Trailer (3:02)

    Less voiceover and more extracts from the film - an interesting contrast between the two trailers, each reflecting their own decade. I quite like the way in which this one is put together with the numbers game that they play. Presented at 1.78:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The film stock is again not in the best of condition.

Around The World Of Mike Todd (51:50)

    Including an introduction by Robert Osborne, this is an interesting documentary conveyed through interviews with the many people that he knew including Elizabeth Taylor, his wife. This is a fascinating look at a true Hollywood showman with lots of interesting information and personal remembrances. Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Los Angeles Premiere (2:49)

    Footage of the grand premiere in Los Angeles, this film actually had many premieres. Note the long list of famous people attending. Presented at 1.33:1 (B/W) and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Again introduced by Robert Osborne.

The Academy Awards (2:43)

    Robert Osborne again supplies the introduction followed by black and white TV footage of a press interview after the Academy Awards where the film took out the Best Picture award. Presented at 1.33:1 (B/W) and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Around The World in 90 Minutes (48:26)

    Playhouse 90 was a TV show that presented a new drama each week. On this particular week, they did not present a new drama but instead covered Mike Todd's party, held to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the New York opening of this film. There are 18,000 guests at this party (yes, that number of zeros is correct) and it is one of the most extravagant things that I have ever seen. This is a fascinating piece of television history as it was covered live! Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by both a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an introduction by Robert Osborne.

Spain Greets a Lovely Lady (0:36)

    Newsreel footage of Mike Todd and Elizabeth Taylor visiting Spain. It is short, but it is always interesting to see old newsreel footage if for no other reason than to compare it to news coverage in the present day.

DVD-ROM

    The least interesting part of placing this disc into your DVD ROM is the series of links to pages of the Warner Bros. online site. The most interesting part is the inclusion (as a series of jpg images) of a complete copy of the film's Almanac containing a plot synopsis, cameo biographies (47), colour pictures and much more in its 75 pages. It originally sold for a dollar (the price is on the cover) and was produced by Random House Publishing. If you hate the Interactual DVD player as much as I do, you can browse the jpgs direct in the directory \common\win\pages.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    We have here a very clear R1 winner. The missing DTS soundtrack is bad enough, but why leave out the full version of Trip to the Moon?

Summary

    This is truly a piece of Hollywood history. There are just so many firsts here that it truly deserves its place in cinematic history. As a storyline-driven film it is a little slow, but that is probably not the reason to watch the film today. Mike Todd was a very interesting character and the documentary on his life is an excellent inclusion as are the other special features. A very good package all up.

    The video is good.

    The audio is also good.

    The extras are interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
re: DTS??? I don't think so. - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
No DTS on Region 1 - dlormans (This is my biography)
1. Chronology of widescreen development 2. Victor Young. -
Runtime Of First and Second Discs -