Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Around the World in 80 Days" poll results... and the next poll!



The winner - the 1956 version!

The winner of this poll was fairly easy to see, although voting was much closer than the "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". The original 1956 version of "Around the World in 80 Days" won this vote, with 62% (10 votes), beating out the 2004 Jackie Chan version (31% or 5 votes), with the made-for-tv version trailing with a single vote (6%). Much better participation – a thank you to all who voted!

Next up … lesser know steampunk movies that aren’t necessarily Verne’s works (well, one is an adaptation), but are certainly representational of the era. The selections are as follows….


The Great Race (1965)
Jack Lemon, Tony Curtis

Director Blake Edwards, fresh from the success of the first two Pink Panther movies, indulged his love of classic slapstick comedy with this long free-for-all, which throws in everything but Laurel and Hardy's kitchen sink. The film reunites Some Like It Hot stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, ably aided by a spunky Natalie Wood. The subject is a New-York-to-Paris auto race in the early years of the 20th century, pitting the Great Leslie (Curtis), a goody-goody dressed all in white--even his teeth sparkle--against the malevolent Professor Fate (Lemmon), whose coal-black heart is reflected in his handlebar mustache. He looks like a bill collector from a silent- movie melodrama.

Lemmon does double duty, also playing the pampered, drunken king of a small European country, whose laugh sounds like the wail of a cat in heat. The film may be too long for its own good, and you really have to love Jack Lemmon to put up with his over-the-top performance, but it's side-splitting in spots. It's one of those movies, if seen in childhood, that stays in your mind for years afterward. Some of the bigger routines, such as a pie fight of epic proportions, don't work as well as the simple chemistry between the perpetually exasperated Professor Fate and his much-abused assistant, Max (a terrific Peter Falk). Push the button, Max. --Robert Horton


Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965)
Stewart Whitman, Sarah Miles

An air race from London to Paris provides the premise for this marvelous comedy, which features thrilling aerial photography and some stupefying stunt flying. It's set in 1910, when the (lovingly re-created) airplanes of the period were likelier to sputter and crash than they were to go in a straight line. The international contest requires an international cast, including Stuart Whitman as a cowboy American interested in the ladylove (Sarah Miles) of an English ace (James Fox). Alberto Sordi and Gert Frobe represent the Italian and German nations; Terry-Thomas plans frightful sabotage for race day. From the jaunty opening song and the great opening-credits drawings by Gerald Searle onward, the movie has a pleasingly breezy tone that sits well with the meticulous flying sequences. This is a delightful example of a certain kind of internationally flavored film of the period, somewhat similar to The Great Race, released the same year (1965). --Robert Horton


Master of the World (1961)
Vincent Price, Charles Bronson

Inspired more by Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea than the Jules Verne novels it purports to be based upon (1896's Clipper of the Clouds and 1904's Master of the World), this American International Pictures production is a mildly diverting period fantasy adventure, buoyed mainly by leads Vincent Price and Charles Bronson. Nineteenth-century government agent Strock (Bronson) hires Prudence (Henry Hull), a munitions maker and balloon enthusiast, to help investigate the source of a mysterious voice that emanated from Pennsylvania's Great Eyrie. With Prudence's daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster) and her fiancé Philip (David Frankham), the pair flies over the mountain, only to be shot down and taken captive by Robur (Price).

Using his colossal airship Albatross, Robur plans to end world warfare by decimating any country that refuses to lay down its arms. Despite solid efforts by Price and Bronson (who reportedly disliked each other), a thoughtful script by fantasy author Richard Matheson, and a lively score by Les Baxter, Master never takes flight. Miniature effects by Tim Baar, Wah Chang, and Gene Warren (a.k.a. Projects Unlimited, which created creatures for "The Outer Limits") are hobbled by AIP's infamously low budget, and B-movie vet William Whitney's direction is painfully lethargic. Lacking the necessary super-sized scope and star power of other Verne adaptations, including 1958's Around the World in Eighty Days and 1959's Journey to the Center of the Earth, Master is for AIP and Price completists only. MGM's digitally transferred full-frame print looks fabulous and includes the original theatrical trailer. --Paul Gaita

(This particular movie was mentioned by Mr. O'Toole, and after having recently seen it on TMC, I must concur, the move was quite enjoyable)!

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