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  Up Pompeii Sandals And Scandals
Year: 1971
Director: Bob Kellett
Stars: Frankie Howerd, Michael Hordern, Patrick Cargill, Barbara Murray, Bill Fraser, Lance Percival, Julie Ege, Adrienne Posta, Royce Mills, Madeline Smith, Russell Hunter, Kenneth Cranham, Bernard Bresslaw, Aubrey Woods, Roy Hudd, Derek Griffiths, Lally Bowers
Genre: Comedy, Sex, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 3 votes)
Review: The Roman Empire is at its height, and the citizens of Pompeii spend all the time they can enjoying themselves - except for the slaves, that is, including Lurcio (Frankie Howerd), who is busy preparing an orgy for his master Ludicrus (Michael Hordern). While at the market to buy food and women for the festivities, Lurcio gets into an argument with Centurion Bilius (Lance Percival); he escapes after his groceries have been tipped out of their basket, but in his haste, he accidentally picks up a scroll instead of a cucumber, which has the names of an assassination plot written on it...

This saucy comedy was written by Sid Colin, and it's no surprise that Talbot Rothwell had the idea behind it, as it does come across as a broader version of one of the historical Carry On movies. It was based on the successful BBC sitcom, a vehicle for the inimitable Howerd, and was one of the many films based on sitcoms that appeared in the seventies, all with the intention of propping up the ailing British film industry by putting on cruder versions of what was popular among television audiences.

As narrator and main character, Howerd doesn't let one double entendre go by without a knowing look to the camera - as he says, you have to be careful what you say around there. He is in the privileged position of being the most self-aware character, never letting you forget the artificiality of the set up (as if the studio-bound locations weren't obvious enough) and always ready with a quip or a long-suffering remark.

The jokes are as old as Pompeii itself, they even do the "Would you like me to dip your bread in my gravy?" prison gag, and every possible sexual connotation is mined. You can't say "It's about this long" or "I wonder if I dare show it to her?" without Lurcio taking it the wrong way, so to speak, and of course he also makes his share of off-colour quips. A Christian will say, "I was thrown to lions once," and Lurcio will respond, "What happened? Did Nero have his thumb up? I'll rephrase that...", or the soothsayer will wail, "All will soon be revealed!" and Lurcio will observe, "It certainly will if you don't let go of my knickers!"

So the humour is forced, but Howerd's delivery is impeccable, even if it's all a bit too desperate in its bid to appeal to the adults. Up Pompeii takes every chance to revel in the decadence of Ancient Rome, because the light-hearted approach takes the edge off the orgies, fleeting nudity and murders. It's only when it gets to the end, when what famously befell the city finally happens, does it seem conservative, as if the citizens are being punished for their loose morals - you can't really have a bawdy romp where everyone dies at the end. You might be better off with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, but the cast here is seasoned enough to wring sufficient laughs out of the creaky material. Music by Carl Davis. Followed by two variations: Up the Chastity Belt and Up the Front.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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