"Around The World in 80 Days" was a lavish film production by the standards of the time, with location shooting in 13 countries across the world and dozens of stars playing cameo roles including Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, John Gielgud and Noel Coward. The leads parts were played by David Niven as Phileas Fogg and Cantinflas (a Mexican comedian and actor very famous across Latin America) as his butler Passepartout. Most people will know the story that Fogg makes a bet with some members of "The Reform Club" in London that he can go around the world in 80 days. He has many adventures along the way, and there is a little twist which allows him to win the bet in the nick of time.
To people of a certain age, composer Victor Young's soundtrack will be instantly recognisable. It's main theme is a song created by Young and lyricist Harold Adamson, and Young uses it (in instrumental form) throughout the film, arranging the theme in different ways to suggest different locations and moods. The song was released as a single by Bing Crosby and became a big hit in 1957 following the success of the film. After a brief fanfare, the "Main Titles" launch straight into the main theme with some soaring strings. In this film Passepartout is Spanish and the second track introduces a range of contrasting material with a comical feel for Phileas Fogg's side-kick, then morphs into the stirring pasadoble from Manuel Penella's opera "El Gato Montés" (The Wild Cat). The busy theme anounces the "Paris Arrival" with the help of a traditional French melody. Then the iconic scenes in the balloon sequence are set to an expansive version of the main theme, with a short interlude on French accordian, before woodwind runs and harp glissandi herald the end of this stage of the journey.
The Spanish section has he spectacle of a Bull Fight, and it is very lucky that Passepartout is Spanish! Then the adventure continues in India with another broad melody and the track later transforms into a train's whistle and a train-ride. The story then takes us to China before taking us across the Pacific to North America. While the music remains light and good-humoured throughout, there is an underlying story and the main theme becomes a Love Theme in "Temple of Dawn". "Prairie Sail Car" then reminds us that there is still a race against time. The pace picks up and snatches of Arne's "Rule Brittania" emphasise the destination on the voyage across the Atlantic, and the tension mounts when the adventurers realise that time is against them. Finally the "Epilogue" rounds things off nicely with a recap of many of the themes for a satisfying conclusion.
Around the World in 80 Days is the last full film score completed by Victor Young. He died later that year (1956) unable to enjoy the industry recognition with his Oscar for Best Dramatic Score which was awarded posthumously the following year. Full of good humour the soundtrack is a fitting tribute to the composer and highly recommended. This review and the Track Listing below is based upon the Soundtrack Album from Vocalion. You can obtain this CD from their website at www.duttonvocalion.co.uk. A very similar though not identical CD is available at these links at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.