Up Pompeii: Vestal Virgins & The Legacy (1996) Review

Up Pompeii: Vestal Virgins and The Legacy  (1996)
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This review refers to the two-video boxed set of the 1970 British comedy series Up Pompeii starring Frankie Howerd (ASIN 6304269544). I mention this as there is also a 90-minute movie, and reviews are posted next to both items, regardless of the one to which they actually refer.
Having only ever "experienced" Frankie Howerd once before (in 1978's ill-fated Sgt. Pepper movie), my expectations for this series were none too high. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised to find such a cute series as this one. Frankie Howerd is (in my view) simply unsurpassed as a comedian, and in my opinion this series is quite hilarious. On the one hand, it is a situational comedy, and as such it is extremely zany and light but with an abundance of wit (mostly in the form of puns, double entendres, and other such wordplay). On the other hand, the series also has elements of stand-up comedy, with Howerd frequently speaking in asides to the audience in addition to addressing them outright.
One example of the type of jokes to expect: Howerd says to a messenger who`s been stabbed, "You can`t die here, it`s the living room." It`s the type of humour that would have one groaning in less skilled hands (okay, it has one groaning even here), but Howerd is able to carry it off. This example notwithstanding, the humour is generally fairly bawdy, though in the nicest possible way. In other words, any bawdiness is usually the result of the viewer/audience "catching" a second meaning for a word or phrase! (I have, by the way, also seen the Up Pompeii movie, which I also enjoyed although I found it to be somewhat more sexually explicit (with some nudity) and the bawdy humour seemed a little more daring in places. Although personally I preferred the series, the movie is certainly worth seeing if you enjoy bawdy British humour).
Each video in this set consists of three 30-35 minute episodes for a total of six episodes. The plots of each episode are very simple and usually of the "comedy of errors" variety, and as is typical of many British comedies, variations of the same jokes appear in each episode. Finally, an interest in classical Roman history is not required, for the setting (and indeed the story-lines themselves) are merely a vehicle for Howerd's talents and for the jokes.
As a point of interest, some of the episodes were produced by David Croft, and those familiar with Are You Being Served? may (or may not!) recognise Mollie Sugden (Mrs. Slocombe) and Larry Martyn (Mr. Mash) who make a very brief guest appearance. A very slim and young Lynda Baron (Nurse Gladys from Open All Hours) also briefly appears in an episode.
Personally, I really enjoyed this light, zany series. If you enjoy bawdy puns, innuendo and double entendres, I really do recommend checking it out.

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