Up Pompeii (1969-1970)

 “You see the effect I have on women? See they go mad. “

Up Pompeii–an extremely popular British television series in the 1960s and 70s–featured one of Britain’s best loved comedians, the late great Frankie Howerd. As the title suggests, the comedy programme is set in ancient Pompeii. This two-tape VHS set includes 6 episodes from the series.

Tape 1:
The Legacy
Roman Holiday
Exodus

Tape 2:
Vestal Virgins
The Love Potion
James Bondus.

Frankie Howerd plays Lurcio, the gossipy, crafty, campy, self-serving and leering slave of Senator Ludicrus Sextus, his wife Ammonia, daughter Erotica and son Nausius. Lurcio persists in trying to tell his “prologue” as he introduces each segment, but he is constantly interrupted by events that constitute each glorious, riotous episode. Full of cheeky innuendos, and bawdy double entendres, Lurcio frequently chides the audience for not catching jokes quickly enough and admonishes them to behave for their imagined collective dirty thoughts. Several ongoing jokes appear in each episode. For example, his mistress Ammonia–a “nagging old cow” is always trying to deceive her husband. Nausius is constantly in love and writing ditties (that don’t rhyme), Erotica runs around with different gladiators, and the soothsayer always spoils Lurcio’s stories.

In The Legacy Ludicrus Sextus will inherit a substantial sum if only he and Ammonia have a child. The problem is that Ludicrus and Ammonia really can’t stand each other, so it’s up to Lurcio to ‘fix it.’ In Roman Holiday Lurcio meets two runaway slave girls–a couple of “ravers” who are being pursued by their captors. Lurcio helps hide the girls but as he sadly comments: “Once more my loofah must go back into cold storage.” In Exodus poor Lurcio finds himself in the bargain basement of the Nefarious Slave Boutique where he’s marked down and sold to a rapacious widow–Mrs. Night and Day.

In Vestal Virgins Pompeii becomes “Dodge City” when Lurcio tries to locate Miss Miracle of BC 72 for the Festival of Vestal Virgins. The winner of the festival of Vestal Virgins will win a week’s holiday in Rome and a night out with Mark Antony. In The Love Potion Lurcio has a night off, and he acquires a love potion–with disastrous consequences. In James Bondus Lurcio comes into the possession of a set of plans for Pompeii’s secret weapon–a giant catapult. Lurcio decides his girdle in the safest place to hide the plans, and soon everyone is more than a little interested in the contents of Lurcio’s knickers.

If you like Benny Hill, then there’s a good chance that you’ll enjoy Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii. This is fairly silly, but good natured stuff, and for those of us who remember Frankie fondly, it’s wonderful to see him again.

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