Saturday, September 25, 2010

1956: Around the World in 80 Days

Based on the book by Jules Verne, this film, as its title implies, is about people who attempt to go around the world in 80 days (a world that is almost entirely populated by Caucasians with varying shades of makeup who are conveniently fluent in English).  Phileas Fogg - a prim and proper, obsessive-compulsive Englishman, who may or may not have robbed a bank - decides to prove to the members of a gentleman's club that this feat can be accomplished.  Bets are placed, and Fogg sets off around the world that very day, along with his new valet Passepartout.

So this film is definitely not my favorite Best Picture winner.  I think it deserved the award more than The Greatest Show on Earth did, but only slightly (funnily enough, there was a circus scene in this film, but it was very brief).  David Niven is a perfect Phileas Fogg, so he's fun to watch.  But a lot of the "action scenes" go on way too long and are really boring, like Passepartout fighting the bull or the Indians chasing the train.  It certainly didn't need to be three hours long.  Also, this may come from watching the film more than 50 years after it was made, but I felt that it insulted my intelligence.  Did the filmmakers really expect me to believe that the sets were real?  Did they really expect me to believe that white people in makeup were members of different races?  I find it disturbing that Shirley MacLaine even tried to pass for a princess from India, especially since she didn't really have any dark makeup on.  Audiences might have gone for it in the '50s, but not today.  This is definitely not a timeless classic.

By far my favorite aspect of the film was all the cameos, some of which I didn't even pick up on until the credits at the end (which were some of the coolest ending credits I've ever seen, I must admit).  The ones I did catch were very fun to spot: Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, Glynis Johns, and many others.  If I ever see this film again, it will be to look for the cameos that I missed.

Next up: The Bridge on the River Kwai (oh, good, I thought it was about time for another depressing war movie)

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