- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
One of the great musical farces of Broadway, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum gets a decent if occasionally uninspired treatment on its way to the cinema. Richard Lester, known far and wide as a great film comedy director, seems a bit at odds and ends in dealing with a musical which has cut about half of the stage numbers and never seems sure if it’s a stage piece or a movie. A hybrid in just about every way possible, Forum still incites big laughs, but they’re a pittance to what a well-directed stage version can bring forth.
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 39 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 09/09/2014
Roman slave Pseudolus (Zero Mostel) wants his freedom above all other things, and he finally hits on a way he can get it. If he can deliver a virginal courtesan Phylia (Anette Andre) living next door in the House of Marcus Lycus (Phil Silvers) to his young master Hero (Michael Crawford), he’ll be granted his freedom. But there are, of course, complications. Phylia has already been promised to Roman general Miles Gloriosus (Leon Greene), and Hero’s henpecked father Senex (Michael Hordern) has also gotten a gander at the young maiden and wants her for himself for at least a quickie before his harridan wife Domina (Patricia Jessel) returns from a trip. Pseudolus, ever hatching plans and schemes, tries numerous tricks and lies to work things out, but instead things seem to get worked into greater and greater muddles that even faithful slave Hysterium (Jack Gilford) can’t figure a way out of.Almost everything that’s remotely funny verbally in the screenplay by Melvin Frank and Michael Pertwee comes straight from the hysterical Broadway libretto by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. In expanding the single stage set for the film, Lester chooses very unusually to concentrate on close-ups of the actors especially in the film’s first half freeing him from having to find any interesting comic blocking for his stageful of clowns. The few musical numbers that remain from the original score by Stephen Sondheim get cinematic "flash edit" treatments even if the opening “Comedy Tonight” (the pick of the score) lazily incorporates clips from the film to come instead of coming up with ingenious new shots to complement the vocals. The lovers’ love ballad “Lovely” and its comic reprise later by Pseudolus and Hysterium get parallel treatment (though the second version doesn’t make sense to have the two slaves romping idyllically since they’re not the ones in love), and the film’s two big remaining comic numbers “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” for the four comic male stars Mostel, Silvers, Horden, and Gilford (minus one verse) and “Bring Me My Bride” for Miles don’t earn the same amount of expected hilarity that they bring forth on stage. Lester makes sure he spends more than adequate amounts of time on the introduction of the courtesans, but a farcical comic chase in chariots that climaxes the picture is more frantic than funny and really has nothing to do with Forum.Reprising their performances from the stage, Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford do the best they can with some of their best musical comedy material taken away (Mostel loses two solos, Gilford one) but effectively scale down their performances for movies and never (well, hardly ever) resort to popped eyes or frantic double takes in creating their funny characters. Leon Greene who played Miles in the London production of the show offers a splendid bombastic performance both in song and spirit. Second-billed Phil Silvers (who was originally offered the role of Pseudolus in the Broadway original and who later played it in a revival and won a Tony Award) has been given a little more to do as Lycus to justify his billing and stardom. With songs eliminated, Michael Hordern’s Senex and Patricia Jessel’s Domina have much less to do in the movie than their stage counterparts do, and Michael Crawford and Anette Andre are agreeable young lovers, his voice less squeaky here than it would prove to be in Hello, Dolly! a few years later. Buster Keaton has some funny bits as an elderly farsighted Roman citizen who’s more a part of the mêlée than anyone suspects, and Inga Neilsen as the courtesan of Pseudolus’ choice says nothing but looks simply scrumptious doing it.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
The film’s original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. This is one of the best of the recent Kino Lorber Studio Classics with a generally sharp and clear picture with nice amounts of detail (only some age-related dust and dirt pop up during the chariot chase at the end). Color is nicely saturated (if a touch brownish) with realistic flesh tones for all, and contrast has been applied with considerable consistency. The film has been divided into 8 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix offers exceptionally clear dialogue in the center channel and an impressive spread of Ken Thorne’s Oscar-winning music adaptation in the appropriate channels. Sound effects don’t always carry a great amount of impact (the crashes in the chase scene seem rather anemic), but this is a well above average sound mix of its era.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:24, HD)
Special Features Rating: 1/5
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum doesn’t live up to the absolutely hysterical hilarity of its stage counterpart, but the film does preserve some of the legendary performances that brought acclaim to some of these star comics, and with a very good video and audio transfer is an easy recommendation for purchase.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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