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Around The World In 80 Days

cast: Pierce Brosnan, Eric Idle, Peter Ustinov, Christopher Lee, and Julia Nickson

director: Buzz Kulik

280 minutes (PG) 1989
MIA DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Donald Morefield
With the latest Hollywood adaptation, starring Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan, doing the rounds in cinemas, it's certainly worthwhile to revisit this epic 1980s' TV version of Verne's classic adventure, now available in complete form on two-disc DVD. Before Pierce Brosnan became British agent James Bond, he portrayed English gentleman and somewhat unlikely Victorian adventurer Phileas Fogg.
   Comic actor and Monty Python star Eric Idle is arguably odd, but nonetheless satisfactory, casting as Fogg's new, resourceful French manservant Passepartout. Christopher Lee is one of the card players at the Reform Club who prompts Fogg to accept the challenge of a whirlwind tour of the planet. Pursued by bumbling Detective Wilbur Fix (Peter Ustinov), who suspects Fogg of robbing the Bank of England; our globetrotting heroes are delayed first at Dover by a visit from sultry actress Sarah Bernhardt (Lee Remick), and then waylaid in revolutionary Paris by street violence and rioting (amusingly the citywide chaos is of such intensity that even the local branch of travel agent Thomas Cook is closed for business!).
   Following advice from scientist Louis Pasteur (Hugo De Vernier), Fogg opts to test fly prototype dirigible the Purple Cloud, on behalf of rustic inventor Lenoir (Jean-Pierre Castaldi) - who's farmyard floozy Lucette (the ever-luscious Arielle Dombasle) provides an attractive diversion on the ground level and on a troubled flight to Italy. Later, while crossing the Indian subcontinent, the chivalrous Fogg, and resourceful Passepartout - demonstrating low cunning in marked contrast to Fogg's direct approach - rescue foreign Princess Aouda (Julia Nickson) from being sacrificed to Kali. Of course, fastidious, uptight Fogg falls hopelessly in love with exotic Aouda, despite struggles to protect her from bounty hunters. Their journey onwards to a colourful America ensures the second half of Verne's celebrated voyage are just as entertaining as the European and Asian travels...
   This TV miniseries is promoted as boasting a dazzlingly starry supporting cast featuring in cameo roles and, although some of these actors are no longer with us, the line-up remains suitably impressive with John Mills, Jack Klugman, Roddy McDowall, Patrick Macnee, Darren McGavin, Robert Morley, James B. Sikking, Simon Ward, John Hillerman, Robert Wagner, and Jill St John doing favourably typecast service to the familiar plot, each big name (like Anna Massey portraying Queen Victoria) given their moment to shine.
   Filmed mostly on location, Around The World In 80 Days has tolerable faults (although I did have to cringe at a couple of the production's decidedly primitive and unspectacular 'photographic effects') but it should not be dismissed outright as simplistic or culturally lightweight adventure when the director's avoidance of bad travelogue clichés provides such greatly enjoyable family viewing, overall.
   The two-disc special edition DVD has the rather annoying problem of overlong fade-to-black interruptions (where too-numerous commercial breaks would be), but the handsome production benefits from top quality Dolby digital sound. Disc extras include extensive production notes, text biographies of the principal cast, a production stills gallery, and a trailer.
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