Last Days of Pompeii, The (1935)

“Money is easy to get… All you have to do is kill!”

Last Days of Pompeii Poster

After the accidental death of his wife (Gloria Shea) and infant son, a poor but happy blacksmith (Preston Foster) in Pompeii reluctantly becomes a gladiator. Out of guilt, he adopts the son (David Holt) of an opponent he has killed, and soon becomes a prosperous horse trader. Years later, his grown son (John Wood) is more interested in freeing slaves than in inheriting his father’s wealth and status.


Loosely inspired by Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1834 novel of the same name, this historical epic by the producers of King Kong (1933) is primarily notable for its depiction of Mount Vesuvius erupting onto Pompeii. However, these final scenes — while impressive — play second fiddle to the bulk of the film, which tells a surprisingly heartfelt story of fatherly devotion. Preston Foster does a fine job depicting Marcus’s transformation from a gentle blacksmith to an ambitious horse trader, and is believable as an older man. Basil Rathbone is equally impressive — and appropriately regal — in his brief scenes as Pontius Pilate. Unfortunately, the film is marred by Roy Webb’s generic score, which makes no attempt to transport viewers into ancient times; we eventually believe in this world despite the soundtrack, not because of it.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Preston Foster as Marcus
  • David Holt as young Flavius
  • Basil Rathbone as Pontius Pilate
  • Impressive set designs
  • A reasonably accurate depiction of ancient Roman life
    Roman life

Must See?
No. While it holds some historical interest and is enjoyable to watch, this is ultimately not must-see viewing.


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