Up Pompeii

1970 | United Kingdom

The bawdy tales of ancient Rome as told by Lurcio (Frankie Howerd), slave to the womanising senator Ludicrus Sextus. The show was loosely based on the Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbhart and Stephen Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, in which Howerd had starred on the London stage. 

Written by Carry On stalwart Talbot Rothwell, the series featured lots of women showing lots of cleavage, awful puns and smutty asides crudely but brilliantly delivered by Howerd, who 'oohed' and 'aahed' through every episode in the camp comic style that made him a cult figure in his later years. Howerd was a past master at the double entendre and in this series he had the chance to relish in it. Each show started with 'The Prologue', where Howerd participated with his audience and let them in to his confidence whilst bringing them up to date with the comings and goings in Ancient Rome, until he was interrupted by Senna, The Soothsayer, who would reveal that weeks plot in the form of a prediction. From that moment on Howerd would have to contend with his master, his master's wife and their offspring as poor Lurcio became the innocent pawn in their lusty machinations. 

Popular enough on television to generate a 1975 feature film and a 45 minute Easter special (Further Up Pompeii) in the same year. LWT made a one-off special in 1991 (Up Pompeii's Missus), a revival that failed to recapture the feel of the original. A sequel, Whoops Baghdad, followed Pompeii in 1973.

Published on February 10th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (2000) for Television Heaven.