Top positive review
30 people found this helpful
on 24 January 2009
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who later became Lord Lytton, published the Last Days of Pompeii in 1834 and the novel met with instant and enduring success. In the 20th century it enjoyed many cinematic incarnations, indeed the Italian version of 1913, one of the landmarks of the early cinema, is still widely available. But only this 1984 mini-series adheres closely to the elaborate plot of Lytton's classic romance,indeed the scriptwriters have embellished it to generally good effect by introducing new plot lines and fleshing out some of the minor characters. But what makes this handsomely mounted mini-series worth watching is its extraordinarily accurate and vivid recreation of Pompeii and the Roman world. The art, architecture and fashions of the Flavian era (the late 1st century AD) are minutely recreated in such details as the towering hairstyles adopted by upper class women, or in the painted wall of the amphitheatre's arena which is no longer evident to the modern tourist as the pigments have faded away. Frankly, I'm surprised they went to so much trouble but also rather pleased. There's a pretty good cast which includes the venerable Laurence Olivier in an important cameo and the climactic destruction of the city as the populace are trapped in the amphitheatre is spectacularly well done. I'm surprised this impressive mini-series has not enjoyed greater popularity and wider distribution. This German release is of excellent quality and can be played with the original English language soundtrack (I should note that a few scenes appear to be awkwardly cut so I suspect some footage has been removed perhaps to avoid tedium.) Highly recommended, then, to all those who like me enjoy the sword and sandal genre. And if you scout around you should be able to pick up the 3 disc version at a reasonable price.
Postscript to the above (August 2012). I note that my review has been attached to the 2 disc "Choice Collection" release which I believe is an import from the US, apparently of good quality but lacking the extras on the third CD of the German release such as the documentary. As these extras are in German without subtitles, buyers may prefer the 2-disc import if they can secure it at a lower price and their DVD players are multi-region.