A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a 1966 British-American DeLuxe Color musical comedy film, based on the stage musical of the same name. It was inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (251-183 B.C.) – specifically Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus and Mostellaria – and tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door.

The film was directed by Richard Lester, with Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford reprising their stage roles. It also features Buster Keaton in his last motion picture role; Phil Silvers, for whom the stage musical was originally intended; and Lester favorites Michael Crawford, Michael Hordern and Roy Kinnear.

The musical was adapted for the screen by Melvin Frank and Michael Pertwee from the stage musical of the same name with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. The film's cinematography was by Nicolas Roeg.


In the city of Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero, Pseudolus (Zero Mostel) is "the lyingest, cheatingest, sloppiest slave in all of Rome", whose only wish is to buy his freedom from his master's parents, the henpecked Senex (Michael Hordern) and his dominating wife Domina (Patricia Jessel). When he finds out that his master, Senex's handsome but dim son Hero (Michael Crawford), has fallen in love with Philia (Annette Andre), a beautiful virgin courtesan from the house of Marcus Lycus (Phil Silvers), buyer and seller of beautiful women next door, Pseudolus makes a deal: he will get the girl for Hero in return for his freedom.

Unfortunately, the virgin has been sold to the great Roman soldier, Captain Miles Gloriosus (Leon Greene), who even now is on his way from conquering Crete to claim her as his bride. In an attempt to fake out the great Gloriosis and buy enough time to come up with a plan that will give Philia to Hero, Pseudolus and his overseer, Hysterium (Jack Gilford), stage a sit-down orgy for fourteen. Pseudolus informs the captain that his bride is dead and blackmails Hysterium into masquerading as the corpse of Philia to fool the captain and send him heartbroken away; but things go wrong at every turn.

When the supposedly dead "Philia" suddenly comes back to life after the great Gloriosis announces his intention of cutting "her" heart out as a memorial, an hilarious chase across Rome and on into the countryside ensues. Eventually, Miles Gloriosis collars Hero, the real Philia, Hysterium, Marcus Lycus, Pseudolus, and Gymnasia, the silent woman courtesan fancied by Pseudolus, and brings them back to Rome to untangle the skein of deception and see that justice is done.

In the end, Hero gets Philia; Senex's next-door neighbor Erronius (Buster Keaton) learns that Philia and Miles Gloriosus are in fact his long-lost children; Marcus Lycus is spared from execution for breaking a marriage contract; Miles Gloriosis takes the gorgeous Gemini twins as his consorts; and Pseudolus gets his freedom, the beautiful Gymnasia to be his wife, and a dowry of 10,000 minae, compliments of Marcus Lycus.

See also

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