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The Last Days of Pompeii (1935)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama | 18 October 1935 (USA)
In the doomed Roman city, a gentle blacksmith becomes a corrupt gladiator, while his son leans toward Christianity.


, (uncredited)


(story), (story) | 2 more credits »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wood ...
Flavius, as a Man
Prefect (Allus Martius)
David Holt ...
Flavius, as a Boy
Dorothy Wilson ...
Wyrley Birch ...
Frank Conroy ...
Gaius Tanno
Cleon, the Slave Dealer
Murray Kinnell ...
Simon, Judean Peasant
Edward Van Sloan ...
Zeffie Tilbury ...
The Wise Woman


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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Adventure | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

18 October 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Untergang von Pompeji  »

Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Despite all the spectacle, the movie was a box-office flop, and required several re-releases (on a double bill with King Kong (1933)) to earn back its cost. See more »


The central subplot of the meeting with Jesus is impossible, as Pompeii was destroyed after his death in 79 A.D. Given these dates, Flavius would have been a middle aged man, clearly not the youth in his 20's as portrayed in the film. See more »


Cleon, the Slave Dealer: I don't think you should look down on me, my friend. Aren't we in the same business? We both furnish amusement for the people.
Marcus: I risk my life with the man I'm fighting. You buy and sell wretches to be slaughtered as a spectacle. I'm not proud of myself, but, by Jupiter, compared to you I'm a holy man.
Cleon, the Slave Dealer: You will never be an old one. It isn't bravery that survives; it's brains.
Marcus: Yes, it is well known that the rat lives longer than the lion, but who wants to be a rat? I wouldn't do your dirty work -...
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »


Edited into The Toast of New York (1937) See more »

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User Reviews

DeMille Like Film For RKO
2 June 2011 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

The team that produced King Kong for RKO Pictures, writer Meriam C. Cooper and director Ernest B. Schoedsack, decided to emulate Cecil B. DeMille in giving us The Last Days Of Pompeii. It's not a bad film, but it nearly bankrupted RKO so prohibitive was the cost for that small studio.

The film bears a distinct resemblance to DeMille's eye filling, but now incredibly campy The Sign Of The Cross. Our protagonist here is Preston Foster who plays Marcus the Blacksmith, but before the film is done goes through more reinventions of character than you would find in good and bad Russian literature. As a content, but happy blacksmith a bit of good fortune has him and wife celebrating. But she's accidentally injured and dies for lack of medical care, not that medical care was all that good back in those days to begin with. Foster decides that all that matters in life is the money you can accumulate for a rainy day. Foster is constantly reassessing life throughout the film.

Foster gets to go to Judea and is on the scene of the crucifixion and before that has Jesus heal his adopted son David Holt who grows up to be John Wood. Foster also meets Basil Rathbone as Pontius Pilate who also does some major reassessing after presiding over the trial of Jesus.

If the Oscar for Special Effects was in existence in 1935 it would have been interesting to see either The Last Days Of Pompeii or Mutiny On The Bounty would have won the award. Those scenes of the volcanic eruption of Versuvius are what guaranteed this film would not show a profit. They do rival what DeMille was capable of, but DeMille had a far bigger studio and more financial security in Paramount.

Also in the cast are Louis Calhern as the Roman consul and Alan Hale as Foster's number two man. They give their usual good performances.

As for RKO Studios and Preston Foster, they got some Oscar recognition for another film that Foster did for them that year. It was the low budget, but incredibly powerful Irish story, The Informer where Victor McLaglen won for Best Actor. A much better film than The Last Days Of Pompeii.

Still the spectacle of this film can still awe you, even on the small screen.

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