The 2007 Italian miniseries Pompei is more adequate than enthralling, but it's certainly better than its low reputation even in its dubbed English version. Like the peplum of the 1950s and 1960s, it's a curious mixture of the lavish and the economical, with the stunning standing set of Rome in Tunisia's Empire studios put to good use in a show filled with unfamiliar faces (unless you watch a lot of Italian TV) and special effects that sometimes have a cartoonish work-in-progress feel to them, and like those peplum its best seen in an undemanding mood. Aside from the odd supporting player from lesser Dario Argento pictures, the closest the show has to a big name is Il Postino's Maria Grazia Cucinotta as the nymphomaniac wife of the show's villain-in-chief, with the leads going to Tom Berenger lookalike Lorenzo Crespi and uberbabe Andrea Osvart as lovers separated by circumstances that are positively Dickensian he is captured and held prisoner for years only to return to Pompei to find her cheated out of her legacy and sold into slavery. Not only that, but she and the rest of the household slaves are facing death for the murder of their master unless he can unravel a land fraud and the obligatory plot to assassinate the new emperor and find the real killer while the air starts getting heavier, the fish start dying in the sea, the water gets undrinkable and Vesuvius gets ready to blow its top. Yet while the plot may be somewhat Dickensian and prone to melodrama (it seems a fair bet that Barnaby Rudge was among at least one of the writers' bedside reading), the characterisation is pretty much by the numbers, with few of the supporting characters fleshed out or particularly interesting, so it's hard to care much when they start meeting their fiery fates. There are a few odd moments of unintentional humor a mad display of overacting from the villain in the last half hour and a fortunate rock landing on one henchman's head at exactly the right moment in particular but while less than compelling, it fills three hours amenably enough if you're not expecting much.
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