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Plot:

Pseudolus is the laziest slave in Rome and has but one wish, to purchase his freedom. When his master and mistress leave for the day he finds out that the young master has fallen in love with a virgin in the house of Lycus, a slave dealer specializing in beautiful women. Pseudolus concocts a deal in which he will be freed if he can procure the girl for young Hero. Of course, it can’t be that simple as everything begins to go wrong.

Also Known As: Der skete noget skægt på vejen til Forum, Zabawna historia wydarzyla sie w drodze na forum, Em Roma... era assim, Ez mind megtörtént útban a Fórum felé, En morsom ting hendte på veien til Forum, Algo gracioso sucedió camino del Foro, En kul grej hände på väg till Forum, Sattuipa hassusti matkalla Forumiin, Sattuipa hassusti matkalla Foorumiin, Aptallar sehri, Um Escravo das Arábias em Roma, Смешное происшествие по дороге на Форум Soviet, Toll trieben es die alten Römer, Le forum en folie, Golfus de Roma, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Kul grej hände på väg till Forum, De pussycats van het oude Rome, Dolci vizi al foro, Viva Roma, Странна случка на път за форума, Toll trieben es die alten Römer West

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  • gencay-zorlu
    gencay zorlu

    I can’t think of a single stage musical that made it to the screen without a few alterations — perhaps Jesus Christ Superstar. But this film is a travesty. From Sondheim’s original score of some fourteen songs (one of the best Broadway scores of the 1960’s), we’re left with only four. No one in the cast is a particularly talented singer anyway. Richard Lester’s quirky direction shines in every scene, but at the expense of the material, which was much funnier, more textured, and hadn’t already been seen a thousand times. Lester has no idea how to really stage a musical number, so he fills every moment with sight gags and his trademark jump-cuts. Watching Michael Crawford chasing after mare’s sweat is almost as tedious as listening to him sing. The whole thing degenerates into the standard 60’s comedy chase scene. Ho-hum.

  • aron-scholten-van-voorhout
    aron scholten van voorhout

    I am with the majority of people on this site who love this movie forwhat it is: A Hollywood ADAPTATION of a Broadway Musical. It is an ADAPTATION, folks! I am a thesbian too, and I love musicals when performed onstage. I am in fact playing Pseudolus right now in a collegeproduction. Yes, the stage play is great. The movie is an entirely different entity. And for what it is, it is greattoo! Movie adaptations of musicals often cut songs to make up foradditional footage that would not be possible on stage. Hence, themultiplicity of settings. The interiors as well as exteriors ofbuildings. The temple of the Virgins. The colloseum scene. Andthe fabulously entertaining climactic chariot race. Audienceswatching a film on the big screen need more than what works on aBroadway stage. Who would argue that the magnificent settings inthe Austrian Alps in the movie adaptation of The Sound Of Musicdetracted from the original musical??!! No one, that’s who!This movie is fabulously entertaining. It has an all-star cast, thebest songs from the play are maintained, and the new material isall very funny (such as the scene with Domina’s mother, or Lycus’attempts to enter Senex’s house). It is perfectly okay to appreciateboth the Broadway musical and the Hollywood adaptation. At least,all these actors did their own singing!

  • oleg-adilyan
    oleg adilyan

    As a fan of the Broadway musical (I’m partial to the revival with Nathan Lane, myself), I was so excited to get to the video store and rent this movie with Zero Mostel, who I adored in Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” What I found was huge disappointment. The original score, which included sixteen songs, had been butchered in this movie to include only six. I could almost understand this, because movies have time limits. But the movie dragged on anyway, and when I’d finished, I couldn’t believe it had only been an hour and a half long. The ending was quite possibly the longest sequence of events in movie history, and as it’s impossible to hold a horse chase on stage.However, the movie does have its moments. Zero Mostel is still quite hilarious as Pseudolus the slave, and when Hysterium was forced into cross-dressing, my stomach hurt from laughing so much. Not to mention the fantastic Erronius, the befuddled old man looking for his children. If you’re a Zero Mostel fan looking to kill some time, then I recommend this movie, but don’t expect a whole lot of enjoyment out of it.

  • brandi-simmons
    brandi simmons

    With apparently no faith in the pretty strong material, the filmmakers decided to do away with most of the aspects that made the musical charming in the first place (like, oh, most of the music!) and replace it with groovy 60’s trickery that looks like something right out of Benny Hill (look, the action is sped up to make everyone look like they’re running really, really fast…isn’t that funny?) Zero Mostel does what he can, but he can’t salvage this. No one else even registers.I saw this on stage, and that version blows the film version out of the water.Grade: D

  • kumaar-ajit
    kumaar ajit

    This adaption of the stage musical moves at a dizzying pace. At times it is difficult to keep track of all that is happening. However, the film does have some very funny sequences. Zero Mostel puts in a great performance. Most of the songs are fun, “Everybody ought to have a Maid” is a standout, and the opening song “Comedy Tonight” will be ringing in your head for days. I didn’t like the way they presented “Comedy Tonight” though, over much of the song they showed a montage of scenes from the film that we haven’t seen yet. The song has so many great possibilities, why do that? Overall, an enjoyable film, but frenzied to say the least. The video version is further proof that Pan and Scan is the Devil’s tool.

  • spencer-woods
    spencer woods

    Maybe I would have enjoyed this more if I had seen it before seeing a stage presentation. So much of the wit, fun, and, yes, innocence, not to mention many great songs, were eviscerated in the film production. Worthwhile only for Mostel, Gilford, Silvers and Jessel.

  • marine-imbert-du-ruiz
    marine imbert du ruiz

    Slapstick farce based on a Broadway comedy/musical about some crazy complications when a slave (Zero Mostel) tries to win his freedom in ancient Rome.The script is OK with some funny lines and sight gags, the girls are all very beautiful (and horribly objectified–but this was done in the 1960s) and the comedians (Mostel, Phil Silvers, Jack Guilford, Buster Keaton) are at their peak…but I didn’t really enjoy this.For one thing it’s WAY too fast and frentic with director Lester spinning the camera all over the place. In most of his movies this technique works…it doesn’t here. You have some very telented comedians here…they don’t need camera tricks to get the joke across. Often the camera cuts away to something else in the middle of a joke…it gets very annoying and is enough to make you reach for the Dramamine. It got on my nerves a lot…more than once I wished I could reach out and force the cameraman to stay still. Also this movie relies way too much on slapstick–there’s a closing chase sequence that goes on forever and has TONS of it.Still, I’m giving it a 7 just for the cast alone (what a pleasure it is to see Keaton not doing a beach party movie and Silvers is hysterical) and some very funny parts. Also the opening song and the “maid” song are real treats. So, it’s worth catching on a slow night.

  • jeffrey-blake
    jeffrey blake

    Director Richard Lester lends his frenetic style of direction in this film version of the Broadway musical comedy. Zero Mostel won the Tony Award for his stage performance as a slave in ancient Rome, who is willing to do whatever it takes to gain his freedom. He brings much of the exuberance to the film that helped him garner that prestigious award. Mostel aids his master’s naive son, Michael Crawford, in meeting a virgin beauty in the town brothel next door with the expectation of earning that freedom. Phil Silvers, Jack Gilford, Buster Keaton, and many other comedy greats drum up some good laughs in their supporting roles. The film suffers, though, due to many uneven moments, especially a chase scene near the movie’s climax. The best song and certainly the most famous is “Comedy Tonight.”

  • pani-urszula-jedrasiak
    pani urszula jedrasiak

    I have seen this show performed live numerous times (once starring Zero Mostel!), and know it well. (In the interest of disclosure (like I’m a reporter or something…) I’ve even performed in it). Done well, it’s a hilarious romp across the stage. Done poorly, it’s a bore. And this movie does it very poorly indeed.This film suffers from the dreaded “opening up” disease that infects so many Hollywood films. The Broadway original is performed on one set consisting of three houses. While the film does concentrate on the three houses, there’s other scenery to view, including a ludicrous chase sequence that seems to take place throughout all of Rome. This removes the small, intimate feeling of the show and doesn’t allow for the sense of panic and doom that occurs as the situations Pseudolus gets himself into get worse by the minute.Additionally, the direction is lame. The show is a musical, but the movie seems embarrassed by that. The songs are poorly directed, with annoying camera tricks and bits of business that ruin the pacing. It even seems that the songs were almost an afterthought in the direction of the movie. (When directing Popeye, Robert Altman said he wanted the songs to appear out of nowhere instead of the way they usually have a beginning, middle and end. The same seems to be true here, and it doesn’t work in either film.) The physical business that runs throughout the movie is so far over the top that you end up wondering when the funny bits will start.The pluses are obvious: Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford, two old pros trying to make it all work. Buster Keaton is wasted in a role that could be hilarious had he been allowed to play with it.I’m aware that this movie got a pretty decent rating from viewers, which puts my comments in the minority. All I can suggest is that if you have the opportunity, see the original show and then see the movie again. I’d be willing to bet you’d revise your score down. Way down.

  • kotryna-ambrasas
    kotryna ambrasas

    With my newly-found interest in musicals, I was really looking forward to seeing this film adaptation of a Tony-winning play featuring a stellar cast. I read the synopsis beforehand and thought that the plot line contains many elements which promise comic brilliance reminiscent of its classical heritage: the framed prologue, errors of mixed identity, cross-dressing, schemes going awry, parodies of romantic love and military prowess, and the overall mock-heroic style. Moreover, I was looking forward to the music and performances—of course, because those are what one anticipates from an acclaimed musical in the first place.The movie version, however, is a huge disappointment. Even though I understand that film adaptations of stage plays more or less would have unavoidable flaws because of the change of the medium, this particular one obviously suffers from a problematic vision of the director and the production team. Firstly I don’t understand why more than half of the numbers were cut. Also the survived songs don’t fit well into the flow of the narrative. They seemed to be added rather randomly and abruptly. The filming of these numbers is similarly filled with jumbles of burlesque imagery that in trying too hard to be funny undermine the witty humor those pieces should have emitted.As a commentator before me has pointed out, the failure of this movie (in my opinion) is probably due to the “open-up” cinematography that has adulterated many other Hollywood versions of Broadway shows. It’s noticeable that the “three houses” mentioned in the opening tune (which fortunately the film preserves) set a central sphere within which the original play operates. This spatial confinement should have worked to give the dramatic piece an inviting immediacy and a classical structure. The movie, on the other hand, falls for the psychedelic and pastiche fashion typical of the 60’s, and is thereby chopped up into a hodgepodge of phantasmagoric scenes. Such technique, of course, was revolutionary at the time and has contributed to some of the greatest movies ever made. However, it doesn’t work well here. What I can see is only a collage of vibrant colors surrounding slapsticks that are rather on the banal side (the final chariot chase, for instance) — no complexity or even cleverness.Having limited opportunities for seeing this musical on stage, I could only wish that there would be a remake more faithful to the Broadway original in the future—probably specifically for home video rather than for movie theaters, as (again, in my opinion) how the 2000 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, which is basically a taped stage play, compensates for the regrets left from the 1973 adaptation, which also has distorted and fragmented the original play with a desert setting, excessive editing, and idiosyncratic gimmicks.

  • nicole-mejia
    nicole mejia

    Growing up in the Sixties, I remember the classic comedians. This has 3 of the best. Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford, and Buster Keaton. I will always remember this as being one of my all time favorite movies. They just don’t write like that anymore.

  • tapani-makela-rantala
    tapani makela rantala

    I first got introduced to Zero Mostel (as many did, I presume) via Mel Brook’s finest comedic masterpiece, The Producers. Mostel has the capability to play huge, larger-than-life roles like has-been producer Max Bialystock. In this movie, however, Mostel’s role is different and much less over-powering. But Mostel proves his comedic mettle by delivering a finely nuanced hilarious performance without which, this film will be mediocre.

  • malin-antonsen-gulbrandsen
    malin antonsen gulbrandsen

    The music in this film by Steven Sondheim is excellent and I enjoyed most of the songs despite the fact that most of the actors couldn’t sing if their lives depended on it. And as for the story, it was pretty interesting, though after a while I felt pretty weary from the fast pace and the film actually got a bit tiresome–like it just ran out of steam. Now this isn’t to say that I hated the film. At first, I really liked it, but after a while I just was ready for it all to end. I think Leonard Maltin hit the nail on the head when he commented that the film just tried a little TOO hard! In other words, it lacked subtlety and kept assaulting you so fast that you just wish the film had slowed down and taken a more leisurely pace. Also, sadly, this was Buster Keaton’s last film and the role wasn’t particularly memorable. Heck, blink twice and you might just miss him!

  • wesley-long
    wesley long

    Now, just because I’m a classics scholar, I don’t entirely have the authority to judge this movie. NEVERTHELESS, I loved it. This is Plautus through the eyes of some of the best (re)writers in history. I do have a few things to complain about, such as the fact that Plautus hardly ever wrote plays in Rome (usually they were in Athens), and that – for Mercury’s sake! – for a bunch of Patricians and upper-class people, these Mercatores sure dressed like pathics and catamites. Roman men do NOT wear colors or patterns. Not at All. AAAAAAIIIGH!

  • wendy-barnes
    wendy barnes

    Whenever I feel down, whenever the world is getting on top of me, whenever I just need some light-hearted fun, I turn to ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’.The cast is superb: Zero Mostel (“Was 1 a good year?”); Jack Gilford (“I live to grovel”); Phil Silvers (“I know that sound – and I love it!”); even classical actor Michael Hordern enters into the spirit of things (“All that flesh… just next door.”) Above all, my man of the movie award goes to Buster Keaton. Nearly seventy and making his last film he steals every scene he appears in and the line “My daughter a eunuch?” kills me every time. He even manages an old-style ‘hundred-and-eight’ slapstick fall. The animated end titles provide a lovely tribute as a little Erronius goes running to-and-fro among the credits.The plot is a wonderfully complex farce but “there’s a happy ending, of course”, plenty of laughs along the way, and a chariot chase that’s not quite like the one in ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’.The production design is worth noting, too. Not much Roman grandeur here, but narrow streets full of people and animals, a city that really looks lived in.A terrific film that restores your zest for life!

  • angela-cox
    angela cox

    I never saw this in the 60’s though I was of an age to…just saw it the other night on television and only watched it for Buster Keaton, whom I have recently developed a great joy in seeing. I enjoyed the whole thing…silly, (sexest,yes, a movie of the 60’s), funny stuff. My kids aged 10 and 12 really enjoyed it, too.

  • lic-maria-cristina-amador
    lic maria cristina amador

    When I was in High School I had a role in a production of this musical. The film actually stays pretty close to the plotting of the Broadway show, but the truth is that it’s story lines are tried and true ancient Roman comic lines from the plays of Plautus and Terence. As such, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM is a useful film – it is one of the few movies that are based on ancient drama. Of Greek tragedy only Sophocles OEDIPUS THE KING and Euripides THE TROJAN WOMEN made it onto the screen. None of Aristophanes’ comedies did, although a “western” version of LYSISTRATA (heavily bowdlerized) called THE SECOND GREATEST SEX was produced. Menander has not popped up yet (with only THE GROUCH extant, there is little chance of that). But this Sondheim musical is the sole example of Roman Comedy – specifically the play MILES GLORIOUSUS (“THE BOASTFUL SOLDIER”). When Aristophanes created “Old Comedy” he created a phantasy comedy of kingdoms of birds or dead playwrites holding contests for supremacy. Political satire was also quite important. After the end of Athenian’s Golden Age, even Aristophanes had to tone down his plays. Menander introduced a comedy of character and situation. THe Romans followed Menander’s example. So A FUNNY THING HAPPENED is actually a comedy of daily regular life in Rome – it is not a realistic view of Roman society, but it is a type of distorted mirror of that society.It is also important for another reason: Zero Mostel. There is no doubt that Mostel was one of the great Broadway performers of his generation, but his movie record on this is spotty. Mostel was best recalled for his Leopold Bloom in ULYSSES IN NIGHTTOWN, Pseudolus in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED, the lead role in RHINOCEROS (by Ionesco), and (most of all) the original Tevye the Dairy Man in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. But only two of these performances got filmed – Pseudolus in this Richard Lester movie, and (in the 1970s)RHINOCEROS (with his co-star from THE PRODUCERS, Gene Wilder). The real loss for his fans was that Tevye was played by Topol in the Norman Jewison film version of FIDDLER. Topol was very good in the film (and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance), but one wishes Jewison could have used Mostel. It would have been an interesting film record of a major Broadway performance. Mostel’s filmography is an odd one. He first crops up in the early 1950s, most notably in two of Humphrey Bogart’s last films, THE ENFORCER and SIROCCO. He (like his friend, and fellow FUNNY THING performer, Jack Gilford) was blacklisted in the McCarthy period, so that Mostel turned to working in nightclubs and developed his interest in painting (his painting always showed great promise). The slow resurrection of his carreer in the late 1950s led to some movie roles of interest, such as THE HOT ROCK, GREAT CATHERINE, THE ANGEL LEVINE, but the films were mostly flops. Only twice, when he starred in THE PRODUCERS and FUNNY THING HAPPENED did a glimmer of the manic power of the actor show up on celuloid, preserving an idea of what he was at his best. For that reason alone A FUNNY THING HAPPENED is worth watching and enjoying.The supporting cast is great too, including Buster Keaton in one of his last roles as a befuddled old man, Gilford as Hysterium (Mostel’s foil in the household where they are both slaves), Phil Silvers as Lycus the procurer (one of Silver’s best performances on screen), and the two Michaels (Hordern and Crawford) as Senex and Hero – father and son (and rivals for the same girl). One particular added joy is the ill-fated Roy Kinnear, here playing a gladiatorial trainer who treats the use of a mace as though it were a golf club. A few numbers of the score are cut (FREE, IMPOSSIBLE) but they keep in COMEDY TONIGHT, EVERYBODY OUGHT TO HAVE A MAID, and one of Sondheim’s few good love ballads, LOVELY. All this and a look at the power of mare sweat (don’t ask – you have to be there). I found this film a great joy.

  • iago-begiashvili
    iago begiashvili

    This movie really does have something for everyone. Beautiful singing for the girls, erotically dancing half-naked prostitutes for the guys, and a lot of laughs for both. The late Zero Mostel was fabulous in this movie. For great music, great laughs, and great-looking women, rent “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

  • vera-krejcova
    vera krejcova

    Zero Mostel. Need I say more? Reason enough to rent this movie, despite the hideous ‘pan and scan’ that makes viewing it a chore. Based on a Broadway musical, it’s clever and fast and sexist in that kind of 1960’s way. Buxom ladies, lascivious men with comb overs abound. It’s fun if you’re in the right mood, and Zero Mostel makes it all go down smoothly. I think this (and the Producers) was his best role, and it also has many recognizable supporting players that make you laugh simply by showing their faces.

  • orgun-korugan-sensoy
    orgun korugan sensoy

    I saw this film when I was a young girl (seven or so) and I adored it. When I was about fourteen, I finally got to see the stage production. When I saw the film again, I realized there were some bad choices made. I think the film has many excellent points and some bad points: Good: -For starters, you couldn’t have asked for a better cast. I don’t just mean Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford (though both are incredible) but casting Buster Keaton was inspired. -Very accurate portrayal of ancient Rome (up to a point, of course). The only reason I bring it up is because when I took Latin in high school, we studied ancient Rome and I like the research that went into that for the film. -The chase scene at the end. That’s what I remember laughing at the most as a child. Bad: -Cutting so many songs, specifically “Free” and Hysterium’s number (I must say, Jack Gilford was highly underused in this film).-The direction of most remaining musical numbers and some scenes.-Changing the character of Dominia. I don’t mind it too much (she does get some good lines in there) but I liked having another strong female character aside from Philia. Now I have nothing against Richard Lester. In fact, I enjoyed his work in A Hard Day’s Night and Help! and I think when it comes to those types of films, he does well. I’m just not completely sure if he was right for this film. He treated the songs like music videos, kind of forgetting that in this case, the songs are being used to tell a story, not just for entertainment. We recently watched parts of the film in my Musical Theater History class, and that was one of the point brought up. He tended toward the fast pace/quick edit direction, which I think worked for “Comedy Tonight”, but not much else (especially not “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid”). While I disliked some of his direction on “Lovely”, I did like that he repeated (more or less) the same direction in the reprise of the song. I will say, though, when he’s good in the film, he’s really good. I can’t deny there are parts in the film that are incredibly funny, most notably the chariot chase. I am a bit torn about the film. In the long run, I will probably always love the film and watch it when I get the chance, despite its shortcomings. Still, I wouldn’t mind a remake of it. And I think we can safely say this isn’t the worst film version of a Sondheim show (A Little Night Music anyone?).

  • madison-mitchell
    madison mitchell

    “Forum” is one film adaptation of a Broadway musical that is a half-glass of water. On the half-full side we get to see Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford reprising their Broadway roles, and they’re joined by a fine supporting cast including Phil Silvers as Lycus (ironically, he would star as Pseudolus in the 1972 Broadway revival) and Buster Keaton in his last film. But even though the film delivers the laughs and opens itself up well from its stage origins (let’s face it. That climactic chase in the Broadway version is wonderful but it just wouldn’t work on film at all). But what I can’t forgive is how nearly three-quarters of Sondheim’s outstanding score (his best I think) has been jettisoned to give us a too short running time of barely an hour and a half. And on top of that, why do *both* of Milos Gloriosus’s numbers get kept, while Mostel’s two best numbers from Broadway, “Pretty Little Picture” and “Free” (which is supposed to be the heart of the show) are gone (along with Gilford’s “I’m Calm”)? That, I do not understand at all. It’s gotten to a point where I purposefully stop the film after Psuedolus falls out of the tree so I can then play Mostel’s version of “Free” from the Broadway cast CD (which is where it would have belonged in the film). And it’s too bad this wasn’t a roadshow movie with an intermission because Mostel’s funny Act One closer would have worked great there as well.All in all it’s worth having, but be prepared for your mood to shift from seeing the film as a half-full glass or a half-empty one.

  • naumov-vatslav-vikentevich
    naumov vatslav vikentevich

    Despite having some mistakes, I think this film is overall great, specially in comedy terms. Crazy, dynamic and modern spirit of Lester’s direction fits more or less well into “A funny thing happened on the way to the forum”(not as well as it did in “The Knack” or “A Hard Day’s Night, but very well anyway). Zero Mostel seems to be a little-bit repressed by Lester, but he does a great job, as the rest of the cast. The beautiful colour photography, some funny songs and a funny storyline with a lot of hilarious visual and verbal jokes makes this a really funny picture. The chariot scene, and with it, all the end of the movie is memorable. Don’t miss it.

  • univ-prof-johanne-holst
    univ prof johanne holst

    I hadn’t seen this in twenty years, and then on TV (with many cuts and commercials), so I jumped at the chance to view a video recently. “Funny Thing” is just as funny as I remembered it to be — a marvelous opportunity to see the brilliant and hilarious Zero Mostel, plus a dream cast that includes Jack Guilford, Phil Silvers, Michael Crawford (very young), Roy Kinnear, etc.Zero Mostel was an incredible Broadway comedic genius, but his most famous work was probably in “Fiddler on the Roof”, where it only exits as the wonderful Broadway cast album. When they made the film, they inexplicably passed over Mostel to cast the much lower keyed Topol as Tevye. “Funny Thing” is more brilliant vintage Mostel from roughly the same period, but we get the real thing as he reprises his performance. No one can really approach Mostel for his comic timing, ability to not only sing but sing FUNNY and the expressiveness of his face.Directed by Richard Lester (Hard Days’ Night, Three Musketeers), the film is particularly beautiful in its period setting — Lester had a spectacular eye for detail – and I honestly believe that this is the most realistic film ever done VISUALLY about Ancient Rome. From the credits, I see it was filmed in Madrid, Spain, which must have an incredible treasure trove of Ancient Roman buildings. The sets, costumes, extras etc. are pitch perfect….with one glaring exception. Like a lot of movies, the filmmakers could not bear to show us an attractive young woman in authentic period costume or makeup, so all the courtesans are circa 1967, right down to their blue eye shadow, false eyelashes, push up bras and back-combed hair!! I understand from reading other comments that nearly 3/4 of the Stephen Sondheim score was cut for the film, which seems like a shame. However, what’s left is very funny and well-integrated into the comedy. Many popular sixties film editing techniques are here — quick cross cuts, Keystone Kops-like action sequences — and while a bit dated, they fit the broad comedic tone of the story surprisingly well. The ending title sequence is spectacularly done, with wonderful Roman type and fresco’s integrated into it.Comedy styles go in and out of fashion, so this may not be everyone’s taste these days. But having a visual record of a brilliant performer is a highlight and a cultural treasure, and that’s what this performance by Zero Mostel truly is. I think most people won’t be able to help laughing out loud, even at some of the dumbest and corniest of jokes here, and as usual, the Sondheim score (what remains of it) is delightful and witty.

  • stacy-williams
    stacy williams

    Recently re-released on DVD, this film is a revelation for anyone who has only seen the pan-and-scan version. So many of the film’s visual jokes are lost when you can’t see the whole picture, and if there’s one thing Richard Lester knows how to do, it’s pack in visual jokes. Some people complain that Lester altered the original show too much, cutting songs and dialogue alike, but this is the only way people can see Zero Mostel’s fantastic — and frenetic — performance, so count your blessings. Michael Hordern is also a hoot as the whipped Senex. Other members of Lester’s stock company put in appearances, from Frank Thornton and John Bluthal to the always-welcome Roy Kinnear (as a matter-of-fact gladiator trainer). And Michael Crawford never had it better than when he was in front of Lester’s camera.

  • bailey-collins
    bailey collins

    Very funny film version of the smash Broadway musical, but minus most of the music. Sort of a bawdy tribute to slapstick comedy and vaudeville, the film is uniformly wonderful, the pace fast, and the jokes funny. This show was a major success on Broadway for Zero Mostel and decades later for Nathan Lane.The plot is zany and convoluted and the style of comedy is similar to 60s slapstick used in everything from Tom Jones to Lock Up Your Daughters. Director Richard Lester uses film technique to keep the few musical numbers from stopping the pace of the film, and it works surprisingly well. And the fond look at slapstick (speeded up film, drag, pratfalls, etc.) is especially apt here considering the great Buster Keaton is in the cast.Mostel reprises here as the wily slave who drives the manic action. He wants to be free. Mostel is just wonderful and gets to use his full bag of tricks as a comedian as well as sing “Comedy Tonight.” Equally good is Phil Silvers, who sells slave girls next door to the snooty matron (Patricia Jessel) her husband (Michael Hordern), and their innocent son Hero (Michael Crawford—yes THAT Michael Crawford). The great Buster Keaton (in his final film) plays Erronius, an old man seeking his long-lost children. Jack Gilford plays a fellow slave, Leon Greene plays the pompous Roman general looking for his bride. Then there are all those slave girls — Annette Andre as the virgin; Inga Neilsen as the mute. Michael Hordern is a surprise as the old lecher and gets to sing, “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid.” Jessel is a scream as the hag wife. Lots of scantily clad girls and horny old men.Hilarious jokes (Mostel as the soothsayer) and sight gags abound. Mostel, Silvers, and Gilford are masters of this sort of broad comedy, and Silvers and Gilford make truly ugly women. Crawford (decades later The Phantom of the Opera) is really funny as the dopey Hero and does most of his own stunts. Greene is also very funny as the overblown general. Lots of other good performances in small parts: Beatrix Lehman as the 104- year-old with no working organs, Peter Butterworth as the Roman soldier, Frank Thornton (Are You Being Served?) as a Roman citizen, the grunting Janet Webb as Fertilla, Roy Kinnear as the trainer, Alfie Bass as the sentry, Ronnie Brody as the short soldier. There’s so much action here you have to watch this several times to catch all the background jokes. The final madcap chariot race is hilarious. Great fun. And flies everywhere!