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There is really not a great deal that need be said about this film. From the introduction, delivered by the eversonorous Edward R. Murrow, until the end, which comes three hours later, the picture is a complete joy to watch. It is not great drama or high comedy, nor does it pretend to be. It just combines all the atractions of a spectacular travelogue with the entertainment of a fine variety show, and serves them up by means of a new motion picture process known as Todd-AO. And that, it should be understood, is no mean feat.
But since there are always some people who want to get emotionally involved in their entertainment, and since producer Mike Todd obviously set out to please everybody, the picture even has a plot. Adapted by humorist S. J. Perelman from a novel by Jules Verne, the story relates the adventures of a very correct 19th century English gentleman who, on a wager, sets out to circle the globe in eighty days. So he packs up a couple of shirts and his valet and proceeds by train, sailing ship, balloon, elephant, windpropelled railroad car, and various other exotic means of transportation. Somewhere in India a love interest enters in the shape of a native--though properly British-educated--princess whom the travelers rescue as she is about to be sacrificed on her late husband's funeral pyre. There is even a second lastminite rescue when the valet is nearly broiled alive by some American Indians. It's all great fun.
David Niven, an old hand at delivering the cultivated sneer, plays the intrepid and imperturbable voyager in a way which leaves nothing to be desired. A famous Mexican comedian named Cantinflas is consistently funny throughout as the valet, and shines particulary in a humorous interpretation of a bullfight. Shirley MacLaine plays the Indian princess, and the late Robert Newton makes his last screen appearance as a detective who pursues the travelers under the impression that he is chasing a pair of bank robbers. Todd has also somehow managed to get 44 stage and screen stars to play bit parts. They include such varied figures as Sir John Gielgud, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, and Jose Greco; and not the least attraction of the picture is identifying them as they appear.
But the real star of the film is a great deal of imposing scenery and the process in which it is filmed. Todd-AO uses a large curved screen which, however, has a less awkward shape than that used in Cinemascope. The great advantage of the process is that objects in the background are every bit as clear and in focus as those near the camera. It is far the most impressive of the recent proliferation of movie gadgets, and alone is nearly worth the Saxon Theater's outrageous prices.
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