Well respected Pompeiian Glaucus performs an act of kindness by buying Nidia, a blind slave being mistreated by her owner. Nidia falls in love with her new master, but he only has eyes for Jone. Jone in turn is lusted after by Arbace, an Egyptian high priest of Isis. When Nidia beseeches Isis for help in capturing Glaucus' heart, Arbace gives her a "love" potion, which really will affect his mind and not his heart, thus opening the way to Jone for himself. When Arbace's disciple is murdered Glaucus finds himself in hot water, shortly after which Mt. Vesuvius erupts. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
An Ambitious Attempt That's Still of Some Interest
Despite its old-fashioned format and performances, this early full-length feature is still of some interest, at least historically, and it is probably a little better as a movie than many give it credit for. It was quite an ambitious attempt to tell a relatively involved story with some large-scale settings and a few special visual effects.
It follows a formula that may be even more popular now than it was in the 1910's: take a tumultuous historical event, introduce a set of fictional characters, and show what was going on in their lives when the event took place. In this respect, "The Last Days of Pompeii" may to some degree have established the formula that is still being used for films such as "Titanic", "Pearl Harbor" and many others. If you adjust for the limitations of its era, "The Last Days of Pompeii" is at least as good as those films, as well as many others of the genre.
The story, though sometimes too melodramatic and implausible, is interesting enough most of the time, and while the settings aren't going to impress anyone now, they do display a fair amount of creative effort. None of the cast give particularly strong performances, but their acting styles are not inherently any worse than the acting styles of the present. Some of the present day's most popular performers use affected, artificial styles that are trendy now, but that won't look any better in 90 years than the histrionics of this Italian cast look today.
There's no denying the weaknesses, many of which come from the tableau format and/or from inexperience with telling a full-length story on the silent screen. There are some stretches, especially in the first half, which move very slowly. Some of the characters, especially Nidia, could have been much more compelling with more creative filming and acting.
Within just a few years, the stereotyped tableau format would be largely abandoned, better ways of telling a story would be developed, and better ways of integrating the camera and the performers would be devised. While that might not make this film any better in itself, it was the first few ambitious attempts like "The Last Days of Pompeii" that helped lead to such improvements. While it's only an average film in itself, it deserves also to be remembered as a pioneering effort.
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