Tag Archives: Jules Verne

Around the World in 80 Days

Directed by Michael Anderson
Produced by Kevin McClory, William Cameron Menzies & Michael Todd
Written by: Novel: Jules Verne
Screenplay: James Poe, John Farrow & S.J. Perelman
Starring
David Niven
Mario Moreno “Cantinflas”
Robert Newton
Shirley MacLaine
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Lionel Lindon
Editing by Howard Epstein, Gene Ruggiero & Paul Weatherwax
Distributed by 1956 – 1976: United Artists
1983 – present: Warner Brothers
Release date October 17, 1956
Running time 183 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Around The World In 80 Days is a film that I loved to watch as a kid, despite its very lengthy running time. Watching the film today it doesn’t really hold up as being so special, but it is a fine film nonetheless.

The film follows Jules Verne’s novel with the exception of the scenes in the balloon and the bullfight in Spain, which I gather were done just to give the  fans of the Mexican Cantinflas, who plays Passepartout, something to cheer about. I am not so sure about the choice of Cantinflas to play the ‘worthy fellow’. Verne’s Passepartout is a Parisian, not latino, and unlike the way he is portrayed in the film he is not a skirt chasing comic relief.

I wonder if this could be the reason why I did not enjoy the film this time around. I have recently read and enjoyed the novel and found the film adaptation to be lacking in detail and quite watered down. The film seems to go from one scene to the next without any growth for the characters (Shirley MacLaine’s Aouda is just there and unlike her namesake in the novel adds very little to the plot).  There is really colourful and spectacular scenery and lots of cameos but ultimately while the film is fun, it feels a little empty. It feels very rushed compared to the novel and some vital plotpoints are left out or tweaked. Despite the film being 3 hours long it feels much shorter although some scenes are a little pointless and seemed just designed to show off the special guest star who is playing a cameo rather than furthering the plot. Perhaps if the film spent more time on the plot and of developing the major characters and less on trying to tell the world that a certain guest star is appearing in a particular scene I would have enjoyed the film a little more.

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Directed by Richard Fleischer

Produced by Walt Disney

Written by Jules Verne (novel) & Earl Felton (screenplay)

Starring Kirk Douglas
James Mason
Paul Lukas
Peter Lorre

Cinematography Franz Planer

Editing by Elmo Williams

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures

Release date(s) December 23, 1954

Running time 127 min.

When one thinks about Walt Disney they usually picture Mickey Mouse, Snow White or perhaps Jimminy Cricket. Disney and animation are two words that are synonymous, so it’s understandable that the live action films that he made aren’t as well-known as his cartoons. That’s a shame because many of them are very good. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea from 1954 would have to be one of my favourite Disney live action films.

Though 20,000 Leagues Under the see features a fine cast it is James Mason who dominates the screen as the iconic Captain Nemo. Even alongside stars of the quality of Peter Lorre and Kirk Douglas it is Mason whose performance becomes indelibly etched in the viewer’s mind. This is simply his film and he is always excellent as Captain Nemo, especially when he shows the mental anguish that Nemo goes through when he seeks his vengeance on mankind and those who imprisoned him and tortured his wife and child on the prison island of Rura Penthe. He does not relish having to commit murder until the deed is done, and this shines through with Mason’s performance.

The same cannot be said for Kirk Douglas, who is hamstrung with a truly annoying character. Usually Douglas is a fine, dependable actor, but here he is burdened with some really clichéd seafaring jargon and typically Disney-esque happy-go-lucky attitude that becomes grating after about twenty minutes. It is only when he briefly shows his frustration at being Nemo’s prisoner that he gets to show any substance with his performance. This is not Kirk’s fault, as his Ned Land character was brought in to counter-balance the mood of the film opposite Mason’s tortured soul in Nemo. As this is a Disney film, and their primary target audience has always been families, they needed a goofy, lighthearted family friendly hero.

Another thing I should mention here is the special effects which were considered to be awesome back in 1954. They still hold up well today, especially the underwater photography and shots of the Nautilus streaking through the water. Less successful is the fight with the giant squid, which to 21st century eyes looks a little bit lame. Still if you can overlook that it is quite menacing and the fight is quite well staged.

Overall I think that 20,000 League Under The Sea is a terrific movie suitable for all ages. This is not only Disney’s finest live-action film but one of the best adventure movies of the 1950s, one which still stands up well today over 55 years since it was first released.

* This movie was not released in Australia until 22 December 1955, 364 days after Americans first got the opportunity to see it.