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  Gladiatress Roman Rumpus
Year: 2004
Director: Brian Grant
Stars: Fiona Allen, Doon Mackichan, Sally Phillips, Ronan Vibert, David Hayman, Marcia Warren, Tristan Gemmill, Anna Wilson-Jones, Nicholas Le Prevost, Mark Benton, Lloyd Hutchinson, Pauline Lockhart, George Yiassoumi, Philippe De Grossouvre, Pam Ferris
Genre: Comedy, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 55 A.D., the Roman Empire had finally conquered Gaul, yet there were more lands to the North to consider: Britain, for example. Julius Caesar (Ronan Vibert) surveyed the English Channel and drew up his plans to invade the islands, but as he did so one of the injured Gauls (Philippe De Grossouvre) made a break for freedom and waded out into the sea, swimming until he reached land. There he stumbled through the chilly and misty countryside, eventually meeting up with a Celtic tribe led by Dwyfuc (Doon Mackichan), who happened to be looking for a man...

Unfortunately when she finds a squid in his pants she is turned off pretty abruptly, so as you can see this is not the most sophisticated of comedies. In fact, rumour had it that it was judged so bad that it was unreleasable, which may explain why the film was held back for three years before anyone in the public saw it, and even then in most territories it did appear it was a straight to DVD item (for some reason Australians were lucky enough to see it in cinemas). What an ignominious ending for an effort which should have been the crowning achievement of a three-woman comedy partnership that had found success on television as the sketch show Smack the Pony.

But in truth, Smack the Pony was only mildly amusing at the best of times, and Gladiatress was pretty much on the same level. Not that it was irretrievably awful, it was actually perfectly watchable, it simply did not display much ambition towards anything particularly cinematic beyond a spoof of the popular-at-the-time Gladiator. But even then it was still on the level of an extended series of themed sketches, which might have been fine if Nick Whitby's script had reached the lunatic heights of, say, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Alas, it didn't, but when you saw some of the awful rubbish released in the name of British humour to the multiplexes, then at least this was goodnatured and unassuming. It may have leaned too heavily on crude gags - did we really need the farting competition? - but this was in context if nothing else, as it was set in a grimy time of Britain's history after all. First the story has to find an excuse for the trio of Mackichan, Sally Phillips and Fiona Allen to meet up, and the reason it comes up with is that they are all sisters (by different fathers? There's little resemblance), but at the start they don't get on at all.

It takes the kidnapping of Dwyfuc to prompt her neglected sibling Worthaboutapig (Phillips) to set out to recapture her, and this she does by tracking down other, estranged sister Smirgut the Fierce (Allen), and persuading her to accompany her to France to save Dwyfuc. It doesn't go quite to plan, as Dwyfuc is actually enjoying her stay with the more civilised Romans in light of the hunky soldier she gets to seduce, and soon all three are split up, with Worthaboutapig sold into slavery and the aggressive Smirgut losing her confidence. Gladiatress looks like an episode of eighties sitcom Chelmsford 123, and that's about the extent of the humour, but it passes the time without really engaging the brain. Music by James Seymour Brett.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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