Dir: Bob Kellet, 1971
Following the trend of turning T.V. shows in movies, Frankie Howerd’s Up Pompeii took advantage of the freedom that the cinema offered.
Set in Pompeii before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Up Pompeii Howerd as Lurcio, slave to his master, Senator Ludicrous Sextus.
Boiled down, Up Pompeii is, really, a more risque Carry On Cleo. But whereas the Carry On movies were restricted to ‘A’ certificates, this film version was allowed to a “AA” rating, limiting the audience to those 14 years and older.
The film is, fairly, adult with its numerous scenes of topless women and vulgar humour, that sort of which you didn’t find at the BBC. An often employed trick by Ludicrus Sextus, as he squeezes by any young girl, is one such example.
Although the film was written by Sid Colin, the series was created by Carry On scribe, Talbot Rothwell and the influence of that long running series, is plainly evident. Using actors and actresses that were known to be in the Carry On films, further ties the two together.
But, unlike many other big screen adaptations, Up Pompeii actually works, and is very funny. The film doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, and provides a steady stream of laughs.
Typical for a seventies British comedy, the film has its quota of corny lines that you can’t help but smirk at. Like Kenneth Williams’s classic, “infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”, Howerd has his own with “I’m a miserable pleader”.
Rothwell does a brilliant job of transposing the humour from the series, on to film. He, deftly, navigates the pitfalls that the rest of the adaptations find themselves in. With nary a recycled joke in sight, Up Pompeii feels fresh, instead of rehashed and stale.
Although the soundtrack is, rather, scarce, the main theme is a wonderfully catchy tune, that you’ll find yourself singing days after. Sung by Howerd, the lyrics are a delightful prose of innuendo and double entendre, punctuated with the comedian’s famous, “ooh, er!”.
Arguably the best of the TV to big screen movies, the film still stands head and shoulders above the rest, even those released today.
British comedy at its finest.