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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum [DVD]
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Richard Lester directs this farcical musical comedy. Set in ancient Rome, it tells the story of Pseudolus (Zero Mostel), an idle slave who has made a deal to win his freedom if he can procure for his master (Michael Crawford) the beautiful virgin slave, Philia (Annette André), who lives in the house next door. Pseudolus does his best, but the forces of farce are against him and his efforts soon come up against a series of bizarre complications involving mistaken identites, sly tricks, comic chases, unexpected arrivals and narrow escapes. Phil Silvers, Michael Horden, Roy Kinnear and Buster Keaton also star.
The words of the opening song pretty much describe the menu in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum--"Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone: a comedy tonight!"--a frantic adaptation of the stage musical by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove. The wild story, based on the Latin comedies of Plautus and set in ancient Rome, follows a slave named Pseudolus (Zero Mostel, snorting and gibbering) as he tries to extricate himself from an increasingly farcical situation; Mostel and a bevy of inspired clowns, including Phil Silvers, Jack Gilford and Buster Keaton, keep the slapstick and the patter perking. The cast also includes the young Michael Crawford as a love-struck innocent.
This project landed in the lap of Richard Lester, then one of the hottest directors in the world after his success with the Beatles' films. Lester telescoped the material through his own joke-a-second sensibility, and also ripped out some of the songs from Stephen Sondheim's Broadway score. The result is very close to the vaudeville spirit suggested by the title--though anyone with a low tolerance for Zero Mostel's overbearing buffoonery may be in trouble. Oddly enough, amid all the frenzy, Lester creates a grungy, earthy Rome that seems closer to the real thing than countless respectable historical films on the subject. Frankie Howerd, who played Pseudolus on the London stage, kept the tradition going with his Up Pompeii TV series. --Robert HortonSee all Product description
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The cast are very good and some of them come from the broadway version of the show.
Nice songs, and slapstick jokes as well as a few like Up Pompei which is a similar premise of the love lorn son of the house and the house slave show wants to be free.
This is a decidedly no frills release. The case is good quality with a nice cover, but the disc itself has absolutely nothing but the actual film - no extras, no commentaries, no subtitles, not even scene or chapter select. It is a Region B disc, so it probably won't play outside Europe. I already had this film on dvd, and that at least had subtitles, so I was a bit disappointed about how very basic it was. And the opening titles seemed to jump a little to me, while the sound was not up to much. But after a minute or two I was absolutely blown away. I have watched this film a good many times, it's one of my favourite musicals, but I never knew before just how colourful it was. The sets, props and costumes are gorgeous, you could lose the plot just looking at the walls. The dvd version makes the colour palette seem very faded, pastel almost, but now you can see how lush the colours really were. And the scenery is amazing too, it feels like you are in the picture with them. There are some astonishing visuals whose impact has always been lost on me, never having seen the cinematic release. Now I can see what an absolute artist Nic Roeg was. So though this is not perfect, I'm extremely glad I bought it; it has made an old favourite like a brand new favourite for me.
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