Up Pompeii (1971)

Genre: Saucy British Comedy

Lurcio (Frankie Howerd) is a slave in ancient Roman Pompeii. Whilst out shopping for female slaves and other essential supplies for his master’s orgy that evening, he runs into the Roman general, Bilius (Lance Percival), causing Bilius to fall from his horse. Lurcio’s basket of supplies is knocked over in the commotion.

Lurcio picks up his supplies and returns them to the basket, but doesn’t realize he has also picked up a scroll dropped by Bilius.

Prosperus Maximus (Bill Fraser) and his beautiful wife Voluptua (Norwegian pin-up model and actress Julie Ege) are the rulers of Pompeii. Bilius was to bring them the scroll which outlines their plan to assassinate the Emperor Nero (Patrick Cargill) when he makes his visit to Pompeii in a few days time. It is up to Bilius to find the missing scroll.

Bilius' attempts to retrieve the scroll are further complicated when the scroll gets mixed up with another scroll belonging to Lurcio’s master, Ludicrus Sextus (Michael Hordern). It is not long before Lurcio and Ludicrus Sextus find out about the planned assassination attempt.

Because Ludicrus Sextus and Lurcio know too much about the plot, the conspirators decide to murder them. Meanwhile, on his arrival in Pompeii, Nero finds out about the plot and he wants revenge. Lurcio gets caught up in the middle and has to desperately play off the conspirators against Nero for the sake of his own survival.

“…And there’s an au pair if ever I saw one.”
I really enjoyed this film. If you like corny British comedies in the style of the Carry On films, then you would love this one, but compared to the Carry On films, Up Pompeii is much more risqué. It's jam packed full of sexual innuendo and really corny gags, but you can't help laughing for the sheer audaciousness of it all.

“He’d forget what sex he was if he didn’t tie a knot in it…. That is if he could find his handkerchief.”

Based on the popular British TV series of the same name, Frankie Howerd as Lurcio is great. Regularly he would stop mid-story and speak to the camera directly to inform the viewer of the story details.

The cast are all great with many familiar faces from film and British TV, including Bernard Bresslaw playing Nero's Champion wrestler Gorgo, who is pitted against the hapless Lurcio, Michael Hordern playing Lurcio’s master Ludicrus Sextus, Roy Hudd makes a brief appearance and if you are British and was a kid during the 70's, you might briefly spot Play School presenter Derek Griffiths as a slave on the treadmill in the Roman baths.

This film is packed full of female eye-candy and also a surprisingly large amount of naked flesh is on display.

Julie Ege wears an extremely revealing dress in one scene in which she unwittingly seduces a blacked-faced Lurcio. On being found out as an imposter by her guards, Lucio explains:

“I just came here to give her a ticket for the eunuch’s ball.”

If you know your history, you’ll probably guess how the film ends, although there is one surprising scene afterwards which I thought was quite clever.

Directed by Bob Kellett, who would later direct Our Miss Fred (1972), which I previously reviewed here. Up Pompeii spawned two sequels, the medieval romp Up the Chastity Belt (1971) and it’s WW1 counterpart Up the Front (1972).

This movie is great fun and shouldn’t be taken too seriously… well how could it be?

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