Friday, December 31, 2010

Movie Review: Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Interestingly, the iconic image of Around the World in 80 Days, the hot-air balloon, doesn't even appear in the book by Jules Verne—this film was the first to introduce it. But it's become so closely tied to the story that subsequent productions (including The Chipmunk Adventure and the 2004 remake of Around the World in 80 Days) have incorporated the hot air balloon.

This is the first time I've ever seen the Mexican comedian, Cantinflas, perform. His character, Passepartout (which is French), was rather unimpressive as a mujeriego [1], though his stint in a bullfighting ring compensated for that a little. From what I heard during my mission in México [2], Cantinflas was the premier Mexican film comedian—on par with Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton in American cinema. In fact, outside of the US Cantinflas was the top-billed actor on the film.[3] Perhaps I'll have to watch some of his Mexican films before I pass final judgment on his comedic genius.

They made (I think) a poor call by casting blue-eyed, pale-skinned Shirley McClain as the Hindu princess they rescue from suttee. But I guess audiences of the 1950s were content that she had a red dot painted on her forehead. Conversely, they wisely avoid a scene from the book where an LDS missionary [2] boards their train in Nevada and unsuccessfully preaches to them a distorted version of LDS theology.

My verdict: The movie was pleasant, clean, and enjoyable, but certainly not a masterpiece. It is over 3 hours long, so only commit to it if you don't mind spending that long with it. I watched it streaming on Netflix and the image quality wasn't very good. But perhaps the transfer on DVD is better.


[1] This word can be translated into English as "womanizer" or the less-offensive-sounding "ladies' man".

[2] For those who are unsure why Latter-day Saints (Mormons) go on missions, I recommend you visit here and here, where you can learn more about LDS beliefs concerning sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have more questions, ask and maybe I'll do a full post on the topic.

[3] In the US the top-billed actor was David Niven, who played Phileas Fogg. See

[X] Lots of fireplaces in this film, but none of them were  the PollyannaThe Happiest MillionaireOscar fireplace.

Image attribution

Hot air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey is by Mila Zinkova, available at

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