14 November 2003 | Poseidon-3
The Last Days of Peyton Pla...er.....Pompeii.
God bless the '80's. Only then could a mini-series be this long, have so many varied stars and near-stars and revel in the excess of squalor, silliness and Styrofoam. The little hamlet of Pompeii (where people pray before the Egyptian goddess Isis, Christians are tossed to the lions, gladiators fight to the death and female citizens wear makeshift tube tops in the steam bath!) is situated in front of a matte painting of Mt. Vesuvius. Over the course of the 245 hour mini-series (okay.......245 MINUTES.....it just seems like that many hours) a plethora of cliched, soapy situations take place. Hunky Gladiator Regehr longs to leave the game, hooker with a heart of gold Down is secretly a Christian (!), Greek Clay pines away over goddess-to-be Hussey and wealthy, but untitled Beatty strains for social credibility. Also on board are Nero as a villainous religious fanatic, Quayle as the stuffy governor, Borgnine as the keeper of the gladiators and Olivier as a reclusive man of means. Most preposterous of all is Purl as a blind slave who knows every nook and cranny of the city (this mere casting tidbit alone has caused some people to fall on the floor laughing.) Viewers will need an abacus (or some other ancient counting device) in order to keep track of who is who, who loves who and who wants to kill who. This is only a smattering of the large canvas of characters, a very uneasy mix of British and Americans and an even uneasier mix of talent and no-talent. Even the actors who are usually good are undone by the trite, pat script in which everything comes to a boiling head just at the moment when Vesuvius is doing the same. There is built-in camp in seeing flimsy, permed-haired men foppishly discussing all the "women" they are lusting after and it's nice to see ultra-hunky Clay in his teeny toga and sometimes even less. Also, Down gives a poor man's Joan Collins spin to her whore character which by the end has become a performance of such rich cheese that it lingers in the memory. Nero gives her a run for her money in a hammy, attention-grasping portrayal. Olivier swoops in, however, and mops the camp floor with them all in his big, important scene while McKenna looks on admiringly. (Someone forgot to tell him that Sam Goldwyn and Alfred Hitchcock are dead and he's wasting his talent in a by-the-numbers TV mini-series.) Predictible, ludicrous, but, to a point, watchable, this is the type of movie in which the city is falling apart yet characters can run around and find each other instantly, in some cases even falling inadvertently into the arms of the one they were screeching for! There's definite curiosity value in seeing 2 Lancelots, a Juliet, Heathcliff, and the Virgin Mary acting alongside Fonzie's girlfriend, Mr. Rogo from "The Poseidon Adventure" and the guy who got raped in "Deliverance", but it wears thin awfully fast.