Watch out for that volcano!
June 10, 2012 6:06 PM   Subscribe

The Last Days of Pompeii, written by the infamous Edward Bulwer-Lytton, was a Titanic size blockbuster novel back in the 1830s--- but it has not aged well. It is most well known for its many film versions-- there was the silent landmark film from 1913, an adaptation in 1935 and a spaghetti peplum with Steve Reeves from 1959-- but perhaps the most memorable (and exhaustive) version was the colossal star-studded miniseries made in 1984.

This movie made a big splash when it was released-- and got lots of extensive press coverage, if not the best reviews--but was forgotten for many years (except by die-hard fans). However, lovers of cheesy 1980s TV can now rejoice-- The Last Days of Pompeii has not only been finally released this month on DVD, but it is also available in its entirety on Youtube.

It has everyone and everything! Zorro is in love with Fonzie's girlfriend, but she's in love with Lancelot from Excalibur, but he's in love with Juliet, whose virtue is being menaced by another Lancelot. There's also Georgina Worsley as a hooker with a heart of gold, dancing at the mansion owned by Bobby from Deliverance… and to add to the love polygons, there's this other guy who's in love with Bobby's daughter, none other than Lady Oscar from the live-action Rose of Versailles movie. Let's not forget Laurence Olivier, Ernest Borgnine, Duncan Rehgehr, Siobhan McKenna and not to mention, the one and only BRIAN BLESSED!!!

The Last Days of Pompeii episode 1:
1 1/10
1 2/10
1 3/10
1 4/10
1 5/10
1 6/10
1 7/10
1 8/10
1 9/10
1 10/10

The Last Days of Pompeii episode 2:
2 1/7
2 2/7
2 3/7
2 4/7
2 5/7
2 6/7
2 7/7

The Last Days of Pompeii episode 3:
3 1/7
3 2/7
3 3/7
3 4/7
3 5/7
3 6/7
3 7/7
posted by suburbanbeatnik (24 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This is a real book/movie?? All I know it from is from Mayor Shin's remark in The Music Man about how the ladies' auxiliary is going to be putting on "the last days of pom pee eye"..


posted by DU at 6:24 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read that book back in eighth grade or so. Was the prose purple? Like a bruise on a violet. Was it a page turner? Why, yes, turns out the good lord got famous for a reason. He was the Stephen King of his day.
posted by rikschell at 6:33 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a character called Gordon? And how is he?

I was uninterested until right at the end, and now I am settling in.
posted by Mezentian at 6:37 PM on June 10, 2012

We watched this in my high school Latin class. I seem to recall that several of the positions people die in (mostly in the 6th part of episode 3 there) match with actual plaster casts from the ruins of Pompeii.

On rewatch though it seems they're close but not quite-- there's a dog, but he's next to the pole, not wrapped around it. And there's a couple clutching each other but they must move after their screen shot too, assuming they're referencing this cast.

Ah well, yay for cheesy movies at the end of a semester.
posted by nat at 6:37 PM on June 10, 2012

Poor old Bulwer-Lytton - he was really quite well regarded in his day.

Of course, I know about him because Lovecraft liked him, so...
posted by Artw at 7:22 PM on June 10, 2012

I just hope I win that damn contest this year.
posted by sourwookie at 7:50 PM on June 10, 2012

He's the "dark and stormy night" guy, too (the FPP includes this link).
posted by jamjam at 7:52 PM on June 10, 2012

We totally watched this in Latin class in my Catholic high school for some bizarre reason. Highlight of the semester (save for the 70s version of Romeo and Juliet we watched in English class).
posted by joe lisboa at 8:24 PM on June 10, 2012

The story was reworked by Hollywood in a movie starring Tom Hanks, you know. In that version, no one dies a grisly lava-engulfed death. Instead, there is romance and comedy, and a happy ending.

Geology meet Gee!-ology.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:57 PM on June 10, 2012

Poor old Bulwer-Lytton - he was really quite well regarded in his day.

He was a bastard who Took his kids away from his wife, locked her up in an insane asylum for criticising him, and used his publishing connections and legal resources to prevent her books from being published. An utter bastard.
posted by smoke at 11:21 PM on June 10, 2012

Thanks for posting this. I didn't even know this existed, for which I should be ashamed. Not least because I do adore Brian Blessed.

(minor point, personal pet peeve: there was no lava in Pompeii. If there had been lava, there would be no standing ruins, no one could have made the plaster casts, and the ancient city of Pompeii would probably still just be some mysterious lost city referenced in ancient texts that it sure would be nice to find someday. As you were.)
posted by Eumachia L F at 12:58 AM on June 11, 2012

According to John Sutherland, Bulwer-Lytton 'can plausibly claim to be the father of the English detective novel, science fiction, the fantasy novel, the thriller, and the domestic realistic novel' (and of course Bovril). Not bad going for one man.

As for the Bulwer-Lytton marriage, it's a bit more complicated than 'he was an utter bastard'. Bulwer-Lytton and his wife had both had affairs, so they couldn't risk exposure in the divorce courts. Instead they embarked on a campaign of public mud-slinging, using all the weapons of publicity at their disposal -- and if he was pretty ruthless about it, so was she. It was one of the great celebrity scandals of the early Victorian era. Nowadays they'd be slugging it out on Twitter.
posted by verstegan at 1:29 AM on June 11, 2012

and if he was pretty ruthless about it, so was she.

Yeah, but he wasn't the one who ended up with his kids taken away from him, was locked up in asylum, and prevented from publishing because of unflattering cariactures, so I kinda feel like personal animosity withstanding, Eddie was by far the bigger bastard.
posted by smoke at 1:38 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ahh, but what a prolix and prolific writer. I am the proud owner of the 1899 set of volumes of the Complete Works of Bulwer-Lytton. The Caxtons is one of the most hilarious books I've ever read. He made up some very fine new words, too. I used to have a list of Bulwerisms which I inflicted on my family. Any reference to "a safron bag worn next the skin" can still crack up my closest relatives.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:31 AM on June 11, 2012

What I really want to see is Pompeji Musical.

(On second thought....)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:11 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, but....

For those interested, her Collected Letters have been published and promise some pretty unsavory reading. Very pricey, so - off to the library!
posted by IndigoJones at 6:11 AM on June 11, 2012

By the standards of some Victorian fiction he was quite restrained. I've never gotten over reading one (reissued as a lot a lost classic, a description it in no way merited, except for the lost bit) where one of the main characters gets brain fever from novel reading and expires in an afternoon. I really wish I could remember the title because no one ever believes me when I describe the plot.

Last Days is one of my guilty Victorian novel pleasures. It is quite terrible, but like so many terrible books I cannot look away from it once I pick it up.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:01 AM on June 11, 2012

Was there another Roman-themed miniseries in the 80s? I could swear I remember a different one from this.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:20 AM on June 11, 2012

I, Claudius?
posted by Artw at 8:26 AM on June 11, 2012

Chrysostom, are you thinking of I, Claudius? (also starring the great Brian Blessed)
posted by Eumachia L F at 8:28 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

(why don't I preview? gah!)
posted by Eumachia L F at 8:29 AM on June 11, 2012

Too busy adding necessary and useful links, I guess. :-)
posted by Artw at 8:43 AM on June 11, 2012

Ah, it came to me: A.D.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2012

I really thought the book had an explosive conclusion.
posted by pjern at 6:02 AM on June 14, 2012

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