Around the World in 80 Days (1989) (DVD Review)

I believe that there have been three major productions of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days.  The first one was with David Niven which was followed by this mini-series with Pierce Brosnan, and finally the Disney version with Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan.  This three part mini-series shared the earlier entries stunt casting of various stars (mainly from television) to play small supporting parts.


Pierce Brosnan stars as Phileas Fogg, an introverted man who lives by the clock.  His entire existence is measured by the structured schedule and routine he follows daily without fail.  When his bathwater is two degrees off he fires his manservant for the mistake.  When Fogg’s card playing co-horts at the prestigious Reform Club (Christopher Lee, Patrick Macnee, and Simon Ward), suggest that it would be impossible to travel around the world in eighty days, Fogg bets his entire fortune to prove them wrong.

His first order of business is to hire a more dependable manservant.  When a Frenchman named Passpartout (Eric Idle) applies for the position he is quickly hired and told to pack for the world wide journey.  Just as Fogg is about to depart London for the trip, the Bank of London is robbed and a witness states that Fogg was the one who robbed them.  His sudden globe trotting trip suddenly looks suspicious and the Bank hires detectives far and wide to hunt Fogg down and bring him to justice including the tenacious Detective Fix (Peter Ustinov).

Fogg’s plans go quickly awry when every step of their journey is met with unforeseen problems.  Whether it’s fighting in the streets with no one available to provide transport, train tracks that inexplicably end short of the goal, ships sinking during major storms, avoiding being sentenced to death in China, or saving an Indian princess from being killed, Fogg and his precious timetable are sorely tested.

Dogged the entire way by Detective Fix who has his own tribulations including never getting a warrant sent to him in time to arrest Fogg or finding transport himself to keep up with Fogg, poor Fix has about as worse a time as the people his is following.  It isn’t too long before he worms himself into the group and joins their adventure while waiting to make his move to arrest Fogg as soon as he is able.

This mini-series was enjoyable and filled with a lot of talented people in supporting roles.  With the excellent John Hillerman as Sir Francis Commarty, Julia Nickson as Princess Aouda, Jack Klugman as Captain Bunsby, Darren McGavin as Benjamin Mudge, and Lee Remick, Robert Morley, Roddy McDowell, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, and more also add to the fun.

Filming on location in Germany, England, Yugoslavia, Macau, and Thailand, adds a lot of grandeur to the series that it otherwise would have lacked.  While the costume design and art direction are superb, the script and the series could benefited from some judicious editing.   Many scenes seemed to be included solely for padding the run-time to allow it to be a three part series.  If it had been cut down to two parts, I would have enjoyed it quite a bit more.

The main cast is fun to watch in this series, especially Brosnan who was just about to become James Bond in Goldeneye, and who at this point was more Remington Steele than Bond.  His Fogg is full of affectations that teeter dangerously close to being hammy but he manages to pull it off.  Peter Ustinov is a delight as always as the long suffering, always one step behind Detective Fix.  Ustinov always makes me laugh even when he doesn’t have any dialog.  Whether it’s a facial expression or his trademark mutterings and grunts between lines, he makes his small role shine and was a big part of why I liked the series.  Eric Idle was also fun to watch but he was never really allowed much to do.  He had a funny scene in a bar but I wish he would have been allowed to do more.


Not much effort was put into this 1.33:1 transfer and even for DVD, it’s not very good quality.  It looks like someone transferred this onto DVD from a VHS tape.  Detail is muddled, colors aren’t consistent, and flesh tones vary from orange to normal.  Black levels are washed out and there’s a fair amount of noise in the picture.


The Dolby audio track is adequate but nothing spectacular.  Dialogue is clear but other than the lively theme song by Billy Goldenberg, this is a front speaker heavy mix without any frequent use of the satellite speakers.

Special Features 

There are no special features which is surprising for a miniseries like this where obviously a lot of money was spent on the production.

Final Thoughts 

This is a fun adventure movie that should have been trimmed down to two parts but the cast makes it worthwhile.  It’s very annoying to have each part be interrupted by the opening title sequence and a recap of the earlier parts, and I wish it had just been edited to make it one movie with no interruptions.  The audio/video quality isn’t very good but this is the only way to see the complete version of  this series as of now.   If you are interested in this two disc set, go ahead and take the plunge since there really aren’t any better options if you want to see the whole version of the series.

Order your copy today!


2 Responses to “Around the World in 80 Days (1989) (DVD Review)”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    Woah! I had no idea this one even existed! I’ve never seen the Steve Coogan and Jackie one, but LOVE the David Niven and (my main man) Cantiflas one.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    I’m a big fan of David Niven too. I haven’t seen the Jackie Chan one either. I wasn’t aware of this one either until recently!