Here and There
English Gentlemen Phileas Fogg (David Niven) finds himself in conversation with other members of the Reform Club in London over how long it would take to go around the World. It leads to Phileas accepting a wager that he can't be back at the club within 80 days and accompanying Phileas will be Passpatout (Cantinflas) his new gentleman's gentleman. Their trip around the World is an eventful one from Passpatout participating in bull fighting in Spain to rescuing Princess Aouda (Shirley Maclaine) whilst in India. Phileas's journey soon captures the nation's interest back home but also Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) of Scotland Yard who believes Phileas may have been the robber who stole a vast amount of money from the Bank of England.
Oh to be a child again when the illusion of cinema could mesmerise you for hours upon hours. That is how I sadly feel when watching "Around the World in Eighty Days" a movie which impresses in many ways but also disappoints due to the wisdom which comes from age and watching plenty of movies.
Now first things first and "Around the World in Eighty Days" is the sort of spectacle which I doubt we will ever witness again because of the sheer scale of it. Here are just a few facts: over 74,500 costumes were used, nearly 69,000 extras were used and the cast and crew flew over 4,000,000 miles making this movie. And then there are the list of cameos, a term which came about because of this movie, with it reading like a who's who of Hollywood showing up in small parts with some actors coming out of retirement for a part whilst others who wished to be in it were reportedly turned away. There is absolutely no denying that "Around the World in Eighty Days" is a spectacle which even starts off by showing Georges Méliès 1902 short "A Trip to the Moon" which is a treat in itself for movie fans.
Then there is the acting and as already mentioned "Around the World in Eighty Days" features a ridiculous number of actors with the likes of Cesar Romero, Gilbert Rowland, Finlay Currie, Frank Sinatra, George Raft and Buster Keaton appearing in small parts. There are also the central actors with David Niven, Robert Newton and Shirley Maclaine all playing their parts well. But for me the star of "Around the World in Eighty Days" is Cantinflas the Mexican comedian who makes Passpatout a Chaplin-esque character full of visual comedy which would be right at home if it was the Little Tramp doing it. In fact if it wasn't for Cantinflas I would go as far as saying that "Around the World in Eighty Days" could have become boring.
And here is the thing because with age comes wisdom so when we have a scene of Fogg and Passpatout travelling by train with Passpatout sticking his head out of the window to stare at the stunning sunset or the elephant which is running beside the track you know that Cantinflas was in the studio with his head out of a stationary train whilst the second crew had taken the footage on location of the elephant and sunset. It just stops "Around the World in Eighty Days" from being as wow as it probably was to young audiences back in 1956. Not only that whilst there is plenty of entertainment from the adventures and mishaps they find themselves in there are times when "Around the World in Eighty Days" ends up little more than a travelogue, an impressive one when you consider the scale of many of the set pieces but still one which seems to get too distracted by set pieces showing off each country rather than focussing on the story.
What this all boils down to is that "Around the World in Eighty Days" is impressive purely because of the scale of this production and it is entertaining mainly thanks to Cantinflas. But due to it getting distracted by showing off each country whilst also the obviousness of the footage shot in studios prevents it from having the wow factor it probably had on its original release.