Film Review – AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS (1956)

AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS (1956, USA) ***½
Adventure, Comedy, Romance
dist. United Artists; pr co. Michael Todd Company; d. Michael Anderson, John Farrow (uncredited – Spanish sequences); w. James Poe, John Farrow, S.J. Perelman (based on the book by Jules Verne); pr. Michael Todd; assoc pr. William Cameron Menzies, Kevin McClory (uncredited); ph. Lionel Lindon (Technicolor. 35mm, 70mm. Todd-AO. 2.20:1); m. Victor Young; chor. Paul Godkin; ed. Howard Epstein, Gene Ruggiero; pd. Ken Adam (uncredited); ad. James W. Sullivan; set d. Ross Dowd; cos. Miles White; m/up. Edith Keon; sd. Ted Bellinger, Fred Hynes, Joseph I. Kane (4-Track Stereo (Mag-optical) (35 mm prints) (1956) | Mono (optical) (35 mm prints) (re-release prints) | 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System) | 4-Track Stereo (Perspecta Sound encoding) (35 mm magnetic prints) (1956)); sfx. Lee Zavitz; vfx. Fred Sersen (uncredited); titles. Saul Bass, Shamus Culhane; rel. 17 October 1956 (USA), 3 July 1957 (UK); cert: G/U; r/t. 167m.

cast: David Niven (Phileas Fogg), Cantinflas (Passepartout), Shirley MacLaine (Princess Aouda), Robert Newton (Inspector Fix), Charles Boyer (Monsieur Gasse – Thomas Cook Paris Clerk), Joe E. Brown (Fort Kearney Station Master), Martine Carol (Girl in Paris Railroad Station), John Carradine (Col. Stamp Proctor – San Francisco Politico), Charles Coburn (Steamship Company Hong Kong Clerk), Ronald Colman (Great Indian Peninsular Railway Official), Melville Cooper (Mr. Talley – Steward R.M.S ‘Mongolia’), Noël Coward (Roland Hesketh-Baggott – London Employment Agency Manager), Finlay Currie (Andrew Stuart), Reginald Denny (Bombay Police Inspector), Andy Devine (First Mate of the ‘S. S. Henrietta’), Marlene Dietrich (Barbary Coast Saloon Owner), Luis Miguel Dominguín (Bullfighter (as Luis Dominguin)), Fernandel (French Coachman), John Gielgud (Foster – Fogg’s Ex-Valet), Hermione Gingold (Sporting Lady), José Greco (Flamenco Dancer), Cedric Hardwicke (Sir Francis Cromarty – Bombay to Calcutta Train), Trevor Howard (Denis Fallentin – Reform Club Member), Glynis Johns (Sporting Lady’s Companion), Buster Keaton (Train Conductor – San Francisco to Fort Kearney), Evelyn Keyes (Tart – Paris), Beatrice Lillie (Leader of London Revivalist Group), Peter Lorre (Japanese Steward – S.S. Carnatic), Edmund Lowe (Engineer of the ‘S. S. Henrietta’), Victor McLaglen (Helmsman of the ‘S. S. Henrietta’), Tim McCoy (U.S. Cavalry Colonel), Mike Mazurki (Drunk in Hong Kong Dive), John Mills (London Carriage Driver), Robert Morley (Ralph – Bank of England Governor), Alan Mowbray (British Consul – Suez), Edward R. Murrow (Edward R. Murrow – Prologue Narrator), Jack Oakie (Captain of the ‘S. S. Henrietta’), George Raft (Barbary Coast Saloon Bouncer), Gilbert Roland (Achmed Abdullah), Cesar Romero (Achmed Abdullah’s Henchman), Frank Sinatra (Barbary Coast Saloon Pianist), Red Skelton (Drunk in Barbary Coast Saloon), A.E. Matthews (Club Member), Ronald Squire (Reform Club Member), Basil Sydney (Reform Club Member), Harcourt Williams (Hinshaw – Reform Club Aged Steward), Ronald Adam (Club Steward), Walter Fitzgerald (Club Member), Frank Royde (Clergyman), Robert Cabal (Elephant Driver-Guide).

Niven heads the huge cast as the supremely punctual Phileas Fogg, who places a £20,000 wager with several fellow members of London Reform Club, insisting that he can go around the world in eighty days (this, remember, is 1872). Together with his resourceful valet Passepartout (Cantinflas), Fogg sets out on his journey from Paris via balloon. Meanwhile, suspicion grows that Fogg has stolen his money from the Bank of England. Diligent Inspector Fix (Newton) is sent out by the bank’s president (Morley) to bring Fogg to justice. In India, Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda (MacLaine, in her third film) from being forced into committing suicide so that she may join her late husband. The threesome visit Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Only hours short of winning his wager, Fogg is arrested by the diligent Fix. This lavish production is more of a triumph of logistical organisation than offering any real dramatic or comic worth. The travelogue and episodic nature of the story is lovingly captured in Anderson’s widescreen frame. Shots of a busy Victorian London are realised with style, whilst others around the globe mix location footage and studio inserts. Niven is at his best as the epitome of a stiff-upper-lipped Englishman. Cantinflas offers energetic support and acrobatic comic relief, whilst MacLaine has little to do in her role as the liberated Indian princess. There are longueurs – notably an extended bullfight sequence and endless stock locational footage inserts. but there is also good humour and a spirit that carries the production through. Many past and present stars appeared in cameos. The last film of both Harcourt Williams and Newton. Runs for 183m with entr’acte and exit music. Remade in 2004.

AA: Best Picture (Mike Todd); Best Writing, Best Screenplay – Adapted (James Poe, John Farrow, S.J. Perelman); Best Cinematography, Color (Lionel Lindon); Best Film Editing (Gene Ruggiero, Paul Weatherwax); Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Victor Young)

AAN: Best Director (Michael Anderson); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color (James W. Sullivan, Ken Adam, Ross Dowd); Best Costume Design, Color (Miles White)

Film Review – ESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979)

BBC Two - Escape to AthenaESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979, UK) **½
Action, Adventure, Comedy, War
dist. ITC Film Distributors (UK), Associated Film Distribution (AFD) (USA); pr co. Incorporated Television Company (ITC); d. George P. Cosmatos; w. Edward Anhalt, Richard Lochte (based on a story by Richard Lochte and George P. Cosmatos); exec pr. Lew Grade (uncredited); pr. David Niven Jr., Jack Wiener, Erwin C. Dietrich (uncredited); assoc pr. Colin M. Brewer; ph. Gilbert Taylor (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Lalo Schifrin; ed. Ralph Kemplen; ad. Petros Kapouralis; set d. Peter James; cos. Yvonne Blake; m/up. Eric Allwright, Paul Engelen, Ramon Gow, Mike Jones, Jacques Moisant; sd. Nicholas Stevenson, Derek Ball, Bill Rowe (Mono); sfx. John Richardson; st. Vic Armstrong; rel. 9 March 1979 (UK), 6 June 1979 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 125m.

cast: Roger Moore (Major Otto Hecht), Telly Savalas (Zeno), David Niven (Professor Blake), Stefanie Powers (Dottie Del Mar), Claudia Cardinale (Eleana), Richard Roundtree (Nat Judson), Sonny Bono (Bruno Rotelli), Elliott Gould (Charlie Dane), Anthony Valentine (SS Major Volkmann), Siegfried Rauch (Braun), Michael Sheard (Sergeant Mann), Richard Wren (Reistoffer), Philip Locke (Vogel), Steve Ubels (Lantz), Paul Picerni (Zeno’s Man), Paul Stassino (Zeno’s Man).

A bizarre mix of World War II adventure and comedy, involving a group of Allied P.O.W.s, Nazis, black market priceless art treasures, Greek resistance, a Greek monastery, and a secret German rocket base. The film was shot in Rhodes and feels like it was made on a holiday for its impressive roster of stars – most of whom sport anachronistic apparel and haircuts. There is a laziness to much of the direction and story-telling that is only marginally offset by some excellent stunt work and pyrotechnics. That said the action sequences are often poorly shot and fail to generate the level of excitement and suspense the budget spend deserves. As for the cast, Moore is badly miscast as the German Commandant, whilst Gould’s wisecracking  troupe comedian character and performance feel like they belong in another movie. The pluses are Savalas’ determined resistance leader and Cardinale’s passionate brothel owner. Niven coasts on his natural charm as an art historian, whilst Powers delivers an energetic performance as a dancer pursued by Moore. Roundtree has little else to do than fire his gun, whilst Bono is another bizarre casting choice as an army chef. Even Lalo Schifrin’s score lacks pizzazz. Ultimately, Cosmatos is not able to find the right tone and action fans will be disappointed in this sub-Alistair MacLean tale.  Watch for William Holden in a brief cameo as one of the prisoners. Edited US prints run to 101m.

Film Review – THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)

Image result for the guns of navarone 1960Guns of Navarone, The (1961; USA; Eastmancolor; 158m) ****  d. J. Lee Thompson; w. Carl Foreman; ph. Oswald Morris; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, James Darren, James Robertson Justice, Richard Harris, Bryan Forbes, Allan Cuthbertson, Michael Trubshawe, Percy Herbert, George Mikell. A British team is sent to cross occupied Greek territory and destroy the massive German gun emplacement that commands a key sea channel. Top-notch WWII action-adventure yarn with well-staged set-pieces, a strong cast and a acript that is more thoughtful than usual for the genre. Peck, Quinn and Niven deliver memorable performances. Oscar winner for Special Effects (Bill Warrington, Chris Greenham). Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. Followed by FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1978). [PG]