Main      Site Guide    
At-A-Glance Film Reviews

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum (1966)



Reviews and Comments

"Was 1 a good year?"

Stephen Sondheim's stage musical A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum didn't survive Richard Lester's translation to the screen so well. Almost all of the music was cut out, and what's left (save for the wonderfully funny opening number, Comedy Tonight!) is hackneyed and flat.

However, it's still a remarkable film, utterly hysterical, and showcases the definitive performance of Zero Mostel as the conniving slave Pseudolus seeking his freedom via nonstop scams and shameless manipulation of those around him. He played the role on the stage, and it's a good thing he was contracted to do the film, because no one else could have done the role justice.

Backing Mostel is an ensemble cast exhibiting great comic energy. This is one of those comedies where a handful of characters interrelate in mind-bogglingly complex permutations, and the scams and cons are layered so thick, it's a riot when things go wrong -- this character has to pretend to be one thing to one character, another to another, and that character has to be at three places at the same time, etc. The cast and witty script are what keep all this from bursting at the seams.

Phil Silvers is cast in type as the greedy Lycus, Michael Crawford is a suitably witless romantic lead, Buster Keaton (in his last role -- a small one but a scene-stealer) plays a hopelessly confused father of missing children, and that's just part of it.

It would have been nice to see Sondheim's play reproduced more faithfully on the big screen, but given the splendor and chemistry of this version, it's hard to complain.