When David's father dies, his mother remarries. His new stepfather Murdstone has a mean and cruel view on how to raise a child. When David's mother dies from grief, Murdstone sends David to... See full summary »
Edna May Oliver
The adventurous Lady Edwina Esketh travels to the princely state of Ranchipur in India with her husband, Lord Albert Esketh, who is there to purchase some of the Maharajah's horses. She's ... See full summary »
Based on the Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel. Set in the shadows of Mt. Vesuvius just before its famous eruption, the film begins with Glaucus, a Roman legionnaire, returning to his home from ... See full summary »
Peaceloving blacksmith Marcus refuses lucrative offers to fight in the arena...until his wife dies for lack of medical care. His life as a gladiator coarsens him, and shady enterprises make him the richest man in Pompeii, while his son Flavius (who met Jesus on a brief visit to Judaea) is as gentle as Marcus once was. The final disaster of Marcus and Flavius's cross purposes is interrupted by the eruption of Vesuvius. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Much of the music in the battle scenes and the final cataclysm is taken directly from King Kong. See more »
Pontius Pilate committed suicide in Gaul in approximately 38 A.D. and could not have been present in Pompeii during the same year that Mt Vesuvius erupted (79 AD). See more »
Money is all that matters. Well, I can get money! It's easy to get money! All you have to do... is kill.
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The foreword at the beginning of the film is a disclaimer stating that this film is not based on Bulwer-Lytton's novel at all. (It does not use the novel's plot, nor does it have any of the novel's characters.) However, the disclaimer goes on to say that the filmmakers are indebted to him for the description of the destruction of Pompeii. See more »
"The Last Days of Pompeii" was a film that captivated me during childhood and still intrigues me today, albeit on a different level. As viewers' comments have noted, "Last Days" is a little heavy handed with its moral theme and the character development of Marcus the Blacksmith-turned Gladiator-turned head of the Arena. Marcus (Preston Foster) is an innately good man, blessed with a loving wife, baby son, and a career, until an out-of-control chariot shatters his existence. With his wife (Gloria Shea) nearing death, Marcus must turn to the Arena, against his earlier values, now faced with the reality that money is the key to everything. Marcus becomes a killing machine, progressing up the gladiator billing to the top spot, but then adopts the son, Flavius (David Holt), of a slain adversary, resulting in another change. Acquiring a Greek slave (Wyrley Birch) to tutor his son, Marcus eventually heads for the Holy Land to make his fortune, meets Pontius Pilate (Basil Rathbone), and encounters Christ. Pilate uses Marcus in a symbiotic way that benefits them both, but it is the Lord who heals Holt when he lies near death. Marcus turns his back on the Lord, despite the protests of Simon (Murray Kinnell), in order to get his money back to Pompeii. The scene shifts, with Flavius (John Wood) now a young man appalled by the events in the Arena and struggling to remember the man who healed him in his youth. The conflict between father and son, arrival of Pilate to take Flavius to Rome, the corrupt Prefect (Louis Calhern) who demands gore for the "Games," and Flavius' romance with a slave (Dorothy Wilson) all intertwine and lead to the climatic eruption of Vesuvius. Marcus redeems himself in the emotional conclusion.
As a child, I loved Marcus' spiritual journey from innocent joy to sorrow to hard-hearted bitterness to mercenary greed and, finally, to redemption. As an adult, I still like the tale, but have focused more on the acting and production values. I disagree with the commentators who call the acting "wooden." Foster gives one of the best performances of his career as Marcus. As many note, Rathbone renders a sympathetic, sensitive delineation of Pilate. And the supporting players are superb: Edward Van Sloan as a kindly neighbor, Frank Conroy as a kind but condescending noble, Gloria Shea as the young wife, Dorothy Wilson as the son's love interest, Calhern as the despicable Prefect, Zeffie Tilbury as an old Greek soothsayer, etc. Even the minor roles are well-etched: Ward Bond as a bragging opponent of Marcus, Jason Robards Sr. as the tax gatherer, Reginald Barlow as the slave market proprietor, Kinnell as the Judean peasant, and many more. One can even spot Jim Thorpe throwing coins after a gladiator battle. A few players did very underrated work in "The Last Days of Pompeii." Alan Hale Sr., as Burbix, captures the rough edges of a criminal and then the fierce loyalty to his understanding friend Marcus. William V. Mong, as the growling-at-times, cowering-with-fear at others, slave dealer, Cleon, gives a wonderful, colorful performance that is anything but "wooden." But it is Wyrley Birch, as Leaster, the kindly Greek scholar/slave, who provides the moral compass for the film, counseling Marcus, tolerating his greed and seeming imperviousness to the suffering of others, while educating his son Flavius that there is a better way and far superior values than those his father seems to endorse. Birch walks the tightrope and never becomes overly sentimental. Truly, Leaster represents the apex of Birch's career.
"The Last Days of Pompeii" is an enjoyable film on many levels, including as a morality tale. It is much more than that, however. And for lovers of old character actors, it is a treasure trove!
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