Last Days of Pompeii Review

This is a review of the 1984 television epic mini-series “The Last Days of Pompeii”, based on the 1840’s novel by Edward Bulwer Lytton. This has been filmed many times. I have seen versions filmed in 1913, 1926, 1935, and 1959. This is certainly the closest to the original story than any other film version ever made. It has long been available in Europe (Region 2) but has only recently been available in the United States (Region 1).

Good actors, good acting, well presented story line, and amazing technical quality. It appears that many of the rooms and background street scenes were copied directly and accurately from the real rooms and streets of Pompeii. If you want to see what Pompeii looked like before it was wrecked by earthquake and volcanic eruption, this film will show you. Amazing in its details and accuracy.  The ancient world was a colorful world. The reconstructed views of the Temple of Isis are breathtakingly beautiful and actually match the archaeological evidence. The costumes are good too. Upper class women’s hairstyles and jewelry are a bit overdone perhaps, a little too much glitter, but still follow ancient precedents. All the male characters wear short skirted tunics or long robes, which is correct for that era. I have noticed that recent films set in the ancient world usually show the men wearing trousers and exposing their bellies down to crotch level, which of course is not at all accurate.

The story line is the usual mix of Christian propaganda with a bit of Hollywood drivel: the evil pagans are persecuting the pathetic Christians while the murderous priests of Isis are plotting to subvert the Empire. The disturbing bit occurs at the very end when a character declaims that the destruction of Pompeii was a good thing because it showed the Christian god destroying any who did not follow him, thus being a harbinger of the destruction of the Empire and the triumph of Christianity. In real life there is no evidence that there were ever any Christians in or near Pompeii. One technical error: there were no lions in Pompeii’s amphitheater, and no evidence of any caged animals being kept there. Overall, this is an excellent film, if you overlook the Christian crap.

Warning: this is a two disc set from the Choice Collection label. It is supposed to be used with “play only” DVD devices. I was concerned about that limitation, but the thing played successfully after some finagling. Technical quality is superb: bright clear full screen presentation, sharply defined, no glitches. Other editions might be available.

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Published in: on September 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ostia Antica

We have discovered a most interesting website, www.ostia-antica.org , devoted to the city of Ostia. Ostia was the port city for Rome, at the mouth of the Tiber River. Goods and people arriving at Rome by sea landed at Ostia and then proceeded to Rome via road or up the Tiber River via barge. Ostia was extremely important during the late Republic and Imperial eras, and extensive ruins of the city have survived to the present day. The site provides maps of the site and detailed information about many of the buildings, including building floor plans, photographs, building usage, and restoration drawings for some structures. Details for temples, shrines, houses, apartment buildings, shops, workhouses, warehouses, guild halls, baths, bars, restaurants, hotels, inns, stables, and monuments. This is fascinating stuff. I have been to Ostia a couple of times, somewhat melancholy visits during the rain. A whole city, tumbled down, empty and abandoned. Except for the occasional flock of tourists. There is a rather good, if small, modern museum at the site. Ostia had a varied religious life. Inscriptions attest to the presence of, among others, Jupiter, Hercules, Ceres, Silvanus, Mithras, the Lares, Venus, Fortuna, Spes, Neptune, Mars, the Discouri, Bona Dea, Magna Mater, Bellona, Attis, Sabazius, Sol, Caelestis, Tutela, Serapis, Isis, Bast, Roma, Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Pertinax. Temples for some of these deities, but not all, have been identified in the ruins, and there are other temple buildings with no identifying inscriptions. Many houses and shops had private shrines. One of the interesting things about Ostia is that many, perhaps most, of its residents lived in multi story brick apartment buildings. The site also includes information about nearby Portus. Portus, with its storm resistant manmade harbors, eventually superceded Ostia as the administrative center for the area. Most of Ostia has been excavated today, but most of Portus now lies buried beneath the runways of Rome’s international airport. A fascinating website, well worth multiple visits.

Published in: on January 30, 2012 at 1:07 am  Comments (1)  
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