Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 24th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1913 & 1959
Directors: Sergio Leone/Mario Bonnard (1959 Version)/ Mario Caserini, Eleuterio Rodolfi (1913 Version)
Cast: Steve Reeves, Christine Kaufmann, Fernando Rey (1959 Version)/ Fernanda Negri Pouget, Eugenia Tettoni Fior, Ubaldo Stefani
DVD Released: 2003
Approximate Running Time: 94 Minutes (1959 version)/88 Minutes (1913 Version)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (1959 version)/1.33:1 Full Frame (1913 Version)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 & Mono
DVD Release: Alan Young Pictures
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL
Retail Price: $34.95
The Last Days of Pompei (1959 Version): Glaucus (Steve Reeves) a Roman legionnaire returns to his home in Pompei after fighting abroad for the last two years. Shortly after his arrival he is told the news of his fathers death at the hands of masked bandits who leave only one clue behind the symbol of a cross which is generally associated with Christians. Glaucus swears to avenge his father at any cost and with the help of Antonius they soon discover the true identity of those who wear the masks and their leader.
The Last Days of Pompei was Steve Reeves first film since gaining international fame as the character Hercules. The Last Days of Pompeii like Hercules is a sword and sandal epic which sees Steve Reeves cleanly shaven this time around and he has no super powers. The film was directed by Mario Bonnard who fell in early on and was replaced by Sergio Leone who also by coincidence also he step in once before to help finish another film directed Mario Bonnard titled “Hanno rubato un tram”.
The Last Days of Pompei clearly looks like it had a bigger budget to work with then most Peplums made during this era in Italy. The sets designed for this film are impressive and are on par quality wise with films like Spartacus. The direction most of which was handled by Sergio Leone is efficient as it captures the essence of the performances and the grandeur of the massive sets. The style one would expect from Sergio Leone is virtually non existent as his directing style had not been fully fleshed out yet.
The films screenplay also comes with a strong pedigree as it was written by Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci and Duccio Tessari. The film has all the standard action sequences one would come to except when watching a sword and sandal film. Acting wise Steve Reeves relies less on his brawn and more on his emotions. Facially his expressions for the most part are dead on and the actor who dubbed his lines is also very good as is the rest of the cast who were dubbed for the English language track.
Overall The Last Days of Pompei is a thrilling action adventure and one of the best Peplum ever made.
The Last Days of Pompei (1913 Version): Glaucus saves a blind slave girl named Nidia from her cruel master. Nidia soon falls in love with her new master Glaucus who only has eyes for the beautiful Jone. Nidia enlists the help of Arbace the high priest of Isis who makes Nidia a love potion to give to Glaucus. Arbace does this for selfish reasons since he secretly lusts after Jone.
The story in the 1913 version is completely different then the 1959 remake. In the 1913 version about three quarters of the films is a sappy love story before the films breaks in some action as all of Pompei is destroyed as Mt. Vesuvius erupts. The sets are no that impressive as the 1959 remake and the destruction Pompei at the hands of Mt. Vesuvius when it erupts is pretty tame by today’s standards. Overall the story is not that engaging and the lack of action make this one a tedious affair.
The 1959 version of The Last Days of Pompei is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Outside of a few instances in which the color and image fluctuate the colors look faithfully reproduced. Details are reasonably sharp as the image remains stable for most of the film. Very early on the image is jittery for about a minute. Overall the image is good with some room for improvement.
The 1913 version of The Last Days of Pompei is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The image has noticeable print damage through out. Considering the films age the overall quality of this transfer is more then watch able.
The 1959 version of The Last Days of Pompei comes with three audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital mono mix in Italian and a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sounds slightly beef up when compared to the other two. The other two audio mixes outside of some noticeable hiss are more then adequate as they get the job done. No English subtitles have been included.
The 1913 version of The Last Days of Pompei like all silent films comes with inter-title cards and they are in Italian and no English subtitles have been included. The films score which makes up this films audio is in above average shape.
Extras for this release include the films original trailer (in Italian no English subs), a brief poster gallery, A Steve Reeves photo gallery, an alternate opening credits and bios (in Italian) for Sergio Leone, Mario Bonnard & Steve Reeves. The main extra is an alternate version of the films finale which runs about fifteen minutes in length.
Despite its lack of English audio/subtitles outside of the main feature (The Last Days of Pompei – 1959 Version) this release from Alan Young Pictures is still worth checking out if you are a fan of Peplums.