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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.

Directors:

Ernest B. Schoedsack, Merian C. Cooper (uncredited)

Writers:

James Ashmore Creelman (story), Melville Baker (story) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Preston Foster ... Marcus
Alan Hale ... Burbix
Basil Rathbone ... Pontius Pilate
John Wood John Wood ... Flavius - as a Man
Louis Calhern ... Prefect (Allus Martius)
David Holt ... Flavius - as a Boy
Dorothy Wilson ... Clodia
Wyrley Birch ... Leaster
Gloria Shea ... Julia
Frank Conroy ... Gaius Tanno
William V. Mong ... Cleon - the Slave Dealer
Murray Kinnell ... Simon - Judean Peasant
Henry Kolker ... Warder
Edward Van Sloan ... Calvus
Zeffie Tilbury ... The Wise Woman
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Storyline

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

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 October 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Untergang von Pompeji See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Despite all the spectacle, the movie was a box-office flop, and required several re-releases, often on a double-bill with She (1935) to earn back its cost. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

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 »

Alternate Versions

RKO planned to issue a French and a Spanish version of this film, with Preston Foster and Gloria Shea repeating their lines in those languages, but it is not known if those foreign versions were ever made. See more »

Connections

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

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User Reviews

 
An Effective Period Piece
22 April 2005 | by telegonusSee all my reviews

The Last Days Of Pompeii tells the story of a poor blacksmith in ancient Rome who becomes a gladiator and in turn a wealthy man, while his son, upon encountering Jesus, grows up to become a Christian. The film is a spectacle from the middle thirties, after the De Mille manner, which is to say it tries to look big but is actually, upon closer examination, at best mid-sized. RKO didn't really have the bucks to make a film on as lavish a scale as they surely would have wished. The film has many flaws, but also virtues. It was made by the King Kong team of Ernest Schoedsak and Merian Cooper, who were very resourceful gentlemen, highly creative and not at all like other Hollywood film-makers, and therefore the movie has a unique style that's difficult to put into words. The best way I can describe their approach is to say that it's highly individual; its makers had their own way of doing things, and therefore told their their story, or more properly showed it, so that the movie doesn't resemble other films with similar themes. Also on the plus side is its cast, not of thousands, maybe of hundreds; more likely of dozens. In the leading role Preston Foster's anchors the film in a kind of emotional reality. He may not have been the most versatile of actors but he was a most sincere one, and he is excellent in the lead. Also good is Basil Rathbone as Pontius Pilate, surprisingly unhammy. It's a very good movie overall, hokey as hell but always watchable, and in the end, while the spectacle of Mount Vesuvius erupting isn't all it might be, the movie as whole at least holds firm, and I for one was moved by it, not to tears maybe, but in a more modest way, by the smaller, more intimate tale of a good man who comes to his senses too late, at least for redemption in this world.


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