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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

NR CC

Zero Mostel repeats his stage role as Pseudolus, the cunning Roman slave who'll do anything to win his freedom. The plot hinges on three Roman houses next door to each another. One is the home of Pseudolus' masters: the philandering Senex (Michael Hordern), his domineering wife Domina (Patricia Jessel), and their handsome but empty-headed son Hero (Michael Crawford). The second house is a brothel belonging to unctuous procurer Lycus (Phil Silvers). The third house has long been empty, in that its owner, the senile Erronious (Buster Keaton), has gone on a long journey to find his children, who were kidnapped in infancy by pirates. This all-star cast scam their way through this boisterous romp amidst gorgeous girls, mistaken identities, stunning surprises, cunning disguises and great Sondheim songs.

Starring:
Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers
Runtime:
1 hour, 37 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Musical, Comedy
Director Richard Lester
Starring Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers
Supporting actors Buster Keaton, Michael Crawford, Jack Gilford, Annette Andre, Michael Hordern, Leon Greene, Roy Kinnear, Alfie Bass, John Bluthal, Pamela Brown, Patricia Jessel, Beatrix Lehmann, Frank Thornton, Peter Butterworth, John Bennett, Andrew Faulds, Jennifer Baker, Susan Baker
Studio MGM
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Holman on September 17, 2014
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
This is one of my favorite comedies (musical or otherwise) of all time, and there are so many great moments I can watch it again and again. But that said, I was disappointed when the blu-ray arrived. There are some musicals in my collection that looked pretty awful on DVD, but the blu-ray was a big improvement. Gigi comes to mind; I was almost embarrassed to show the DVD to friends in my home theater, but the blu-ray was a big step up in video quality. The same can't be said for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Not that the DVD was horrible, but it wasn't all that great, either. The blu-ray isn't much better. There is more detail and the color is more vivid, but we're still dealing with what must be an old master, with scratches and specks and noticeable fading -- flaws that are conspicuous enough to take me out of the hilarity and remind me that I'm watching a movie, and a not very good print of one. To make the blu-ray an even more dubious value, it offers almost nothing in the way of extras; there's the trailer, that's it. If you already own the DVD, you really have to love this film to feel good about parting with another $25 for the blu-ray version.
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Format: DVD
Great fun musical comedy loosely based on T. Maccius Plautus' 2nd century B.C. comedy "Miles Gloriosus" ("Braggart Warrior").
The widescreen format lets you see pratfalls and edge-of-scene antics that are missing in the pan and scan version. Zero Mostel was a comic genius; it's a pity that he didn't leave us more movies to enjoy. Michael Hordern is superb as Senex, as are Jack Gilford and Phil Silvers as Hysterium and Lycus. When I was a child I didn't enjoy the musical numbers, I remember fast- forwarding through to get back to the comedy. I now appreciate the songs as well; they are genuinely funny and full of double-entendres that you have to hear repeatedly to fully enjoy. The entire movie, despite its classical setting, has a swinging-sixties feel that you'll have to watch a Rat Pack film to match. You almost expect Frank Sinatra to walk into a scene, singing a song in between drags on his cigarette.
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Format: DVD
Not having seen the play, I am able to enjoy the film without comparison to other formats. It is hilarious, frantic and a perfect example of Richard Lester's early work.

The DVD transfer is crisp and colorful with very clear audio - way better than the version shown on TCM. Artifacting is barely existent. The transfer is anamorphic widescreen though the description provided by Amazon does not note this.

For a good, though bawdy, burlesque played broadly and strictly for laughs, you can't go wrong.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you cherish the memories of Zero,Phil,Jack,and Buster...you must get this very funny and very well-presented DVD.It's a great mixture of slapstick;burlesque;hamming it up for the camera;and silliness that makes you long for the days when these wonderful ,almost obscenely talented, and always hilarious men were making movies.It's a delight.Hopefully,if this is your first exposure to the likes of these fellas,you will be compelled to investigate more of their screen work.One of my friends who watched the movie with me when I received it commented that "they surely had a ball making this movie,didn't they?" That's what you'll have when you watch it! I really miss these guys.If you don't laugh out loud as Zero plays the "soothsayer," check your pulse!!
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Format: DVD
The opening musical number of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum" boasts that it has something for everyone: a comedy with "lovers, liars and clowns," and "nothing with gods, nothing but fate/weighty affairs will just have to wait."

That song pretty effectively sums up what to expect in this not-terribly-faithful adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's stage musical -- a complicated tangle of wacky antics, silly acting and mass confusion. It has some rough patches such as the sometimes nausea-inducing cinematography, but Zero Mostel steals the entire movie with sweaty, crazy-eyed abandon that it's impossible not to laugh your head off.

Cunning slave Pseudolus (Mostel) is always trying to get enough money to buy his freedom. When his dim master Hero (Michael Crawford) falls in love with a virginal courtesan named Philia (Annette Andre) in the house next door, Pseudolus sees the perfect opportunity. And by glorious chance, Hero's parents -- the appropriately-named Domina (Patricia Jessel) and henpecked Senex (Michael Hordern) -- are off on a visit to her mother.

But oh woe! It turns out that Philia is already sold to the bombastically boastful Roman captain Miles Gloriosus (Leon Greene). So Pseudolus tricks the slave merchant Marcus Lycus (Phil Silvers) into thinking Philia has the smiling plague, and he and Hero start gathering the ingredients for a potion so the lovers can elope.

But things inevitably get wacky when various people converge on the area -- deaths are faked, identities are mistaken, suicides are threatened, drag is worn and Pseudolus and his weary fellow slave Hysterium (Jack Gilford) soon end up this whole loony scenario up to their hears.
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