Pseudolus (Zero Mostel) is the laziest slave in Rome, and has one wish, to purchase his freedom. When his master and mistress leave for the day, he finds out that the young master has fallen in love with a virgin in the house of Marcus Lycus (Phil Silvers), a slave dealer specializing in beautiful women. Pseudolus concocts a deal in which he will be freed if he can procure the girl for young Hero (Michael Crawford). Of course, it can't be that simple as everything begins to go wrong.Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
Since movie musicals were losing popularity in the late 1960s, most of the play's songs were cut, including Zero Mostel's popular tour de force "Free", which would've been sung immediately after he fell out of the tree upon making his deal with Hero. See more »
Miles Gloriosus sings that he's defeated Turks. The Turks would get nowhere near the Roman Empire as a military threat for another few centuries. See more »
I hadn't seen this in twenty years, and then on TV (with many cuts and commercials), so I jumped at the chance to view a video recently. "Funny Thing" is just as funny as I remembered it to be -- a marvelous opportunity to see the brilliant and hilarious Zero Mostel, plus a dream cast that includes Jack Guilford, Phil Silvers, Michael Crawford (very young), Roy Kinnear, etc.
Zero Mostel was an incredible Broadway comedic genius, but his most famous work was probably in "Fiddler on the Roof", where it only exits as the wonderful Broadway cast album. When they made the film, they inexplicably passed over Mostel to cast the much lower keyed Topol as Tevye. "Funny Thing" is more brilliant vintage Mostel from roughly the same period, but we get the real thing as he reprises his performance. No one can really approach Mostel for his comic timing, ability to not only sing but sing FUNNY and the expressiveness of his face.
Directed by Richard Lester (Hard Days' Night, Three Musketeers), the film is particularly beautiful in its period setting -- Lester had a spectacular eye for detail - and I honestly believe that this is the most realistic film ever done VISUALLY about Ancient Rome. From the credits, I see it was filmed in Madrid, Spain, which must have an incredible treasure trove of Ancient Roman buildings. The sets, costumes, extras etc. are pitch perfect....with one glaring exception. Like a lot of movies, the filmmakers could not bear to show us an attractive young woman in authentic period costume or makeup, so all the courtesans are circa 1967, right down to their blue eye shadow, false eyelashes, push up bras and back-combed hair!!
I understand from reading other comments that nearly 3/4 of the Stephen Sondheim score was cut for the film, which seems like a shame. However, what's left is very funny and well-integrated into the comedy. Many popular sixties film editing techniques are here -- quick cross cuts, Keystone Kops-like action sequences -- and while a bit dated, they fit the broad comedic tone of the story surprisingly well. The ending title sequence is spectacularly done, with wonderful Roman type and fresco's integrated into it.
Comedy styles go in and out of fashion, so this may not be everyone's taste these days. But having a visual record of a brilliant performer is a highlight and a cultural treasure, and that's what this performance by Zero Mostel truly is. I think most people won't be able to help laughing out loud, even at some of the dumbest and corniest of jokes here, and as usual, the Sondheim score (what remains of it) is delightful and witty.
18 of 19 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this