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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

'Up Pompeii' DVD: Hilarious Forum/Roman Holidays Mash-Up

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Watching this import from Australia requires a (well-worth buying) international DVD player.}

These inexcusably delayed thoughts regarding the Madman Entertainment DVD release of the 1971 British theatrical film "Up Pompeii," which is based on the Frankie Howerd Britcom of the same name, shows that awesome things come to those who procrastinate. The good performances and clever puns exceeded Benny Hill expectations by creating a Monty Python level experience.

"Up" is a bawdy R-rated combination of the smash play and film musical farce "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and the tamer vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon series "The Roman Holidays" (think "The Flintstones or The Jetsons" set in Ancient Rome.") It is further assumed that "Up" is in this same spirit as the (as yet unwatched) modern Britcom "Plebs."

The underlying premise of both the show and the film is that Howerd plays scheming and cowardly slave Roman Empire-era slave Ludicrus, (This role is very similar to the one that Howerd plays in the reviewed Madman release "Up the Front.") The primary story in "Up" revolves around a brutal Roman soldier pursuing small and wimpy Ludicrus after the latter unwittingly acquires proof of a coup against Emperor Nero. Other characters having names such as Sextus, Boobia, and (the relatively fey) Nausius provides a further sense of the fun and satirical style of "Up."

Ludicrus both serving as a one-man Greek chorus breaking down the fourth wall between the characters and the audience highlights the humor of Howerd and contributes to the "Forum" vibe. One of his best asides is commenting on seeing the lively daughter of his master with a man is that the daughter is with one of her ex-lovers. Howerd then explains that he means "X," as in 10.

The political shenanigans occur in the midst of a fairly explicit orgy with an apparent cast of 1,000s, a trip to the baths, and a one-sided wrestling match. Ludicrus additionally finds himself unfortunately incarcerated with a particularly Pythonesque pair of cellies.

The result of all this is that the vast majority of Americans who are unaware that productions such as "Up" even exist and do not think to look across the seas to get miss out on some of the best entertainment that our past masters produce.

The special features in "Up" include the trailer and .pdf versions of the original script and pressbook.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Up" is strongly encouraged to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.