A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

 (1,030)1 h 37 min1966X-Ray13+
Zero Mostel, Buster Keaton, Phil Silvers and an all-star cast scam their way through this boisterous romp amidst gorgeous girls, mistaken identities, stunning surprises, cunning disguises and great Sondheim songs.
Richard Lester
Zero MostelBuster KeatonPhil Silvers
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Michael Crawford
Melvyn Frank
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Foul languagenuditysexual contentviolence
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4.6 out of 5 stars

1030 global ratings

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K T MReviewed in the United States on September 17, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
The World Has Changed
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First off, it's a solid five-star comedy but has a couple flaws you should know. Although it takes place in the time of ancient Rome, it was released in 1966 which today seems just as ancient. Specifically, this burlesque slapstick treats all the women in it as either sex objects or harpies. Sexual harrassment used to be funny, ha-ha. If you can get past that, and there's no reason you should, this movie captures the astonishing comedic talent of Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Jack Gilford and even a young Michael Crawford way before the Phantom existed. The second big flaw will bother theater fans. They cut about half of Stephen Sondheim's wonderful score. He was not the icon then that he is today, but really, it's like cutting the last movement out of Beethoven's Ninth. Oh well, what's there is wonderful and the film is an essential piece of theater history as well as being a dazzling, breakneck eyeful and very entertaining.
7 people found this helpful
J. HolmanReviewed in the United States on September 17, 2014
4.0 out of 5 stars
Great musical -- but if you own the DVD, maybe don't bother with the blu-ray
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This is one of my favorite comedies (musical or otherwise) of all time, and there are so many great moments I can watch it again and again. But that said, I was disappointed when the blu-ray arrived. There are some musicals in my collection that looked pretty awful on DVD, but the blu-ray was a big improvement. Gigi comes to mind; I was almost embarrassed to show the DVD to friends in my home theater, but the blu-ray was a big step up in video quality. The same can't be said for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Not that the DVD was horrible, but it wasn't all that great, either. The blu-ray isn't much better. There is more detail and the color is more vivid, but we're still dealing with what must be an old master, with scratches and specks and noticeable fading -- flaws that are conspicuous enough to take me out of the hilarity and remind me that I'm watching a movie, and a not very good print of one. To make the blu-ray an even more dubious value, it offers almost nothing in the way of extras; there's the trailer, that's it. If you already own the DVD, you really have to love this film to feel good about parting with another $25 for the blu-ray version.
49 people found this helpful
DTLReviewed in the United States on November 22, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Fine Piece of American Burlesque
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This is burlesque. It's a form of comedy. In this case a musical intended to cause laughter through the ludicrous treatment. It often overlaps with caricature, parody and travesty through a theatrical extravaganza. This show is based on a series of Roman comedies by Plautus. It originally ran on Broadway before Hollywood made it a movie. The Hollywood movie is shorter than the Broadway production. They took out several songs. However cinema can do things too. The song, "Everybody ought to have a maid", performed by Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Michael Horden and Jack Gilford could only have been done by cinema. Whatever the film may have lost from the Broadway production it recovered in other ways beyond the limits of theatre. The cast like the film is very good. This is also the last film appearance of Buster Keaton who plays an elderly man in search of his two, lost children. Still It's Zero Mostel's show. A slave seeking his freedom and another slave for his wife. However Phil Silvers, Jack Gilford and Michael Horden all put in fine performances and nearly steal the show from Mostel. I doubt anybody will assemble such a fine group of actors in another film production again. There are two DVDs of the film. The one whose cover shows Jack Gilford and Zero Mostel, possesses a better aspect ratio of 1.85.1 for my TV. The new version of the film on DVD uses an aspect ratio of 1.33.1. .
17 people found this helpful
A. DoddReviewed in the United States on June 11, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Quality reproduction of a classic
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The visual and audio quality of older films made digital is always hit or miss, but 'Forum' on DVD is fortunately a hit.

It's a must own film for musical lovers and those who appreciate the 'never to be seen again' ribald humor of the early 60s. Directed by Richard Lester, who also gave us 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Help,' and starring comic geniuses Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, and silent film pioneer Buster Keaton, there truly is 'something for everyone' who is willing to leave their social justice detector at the door, eat their popcorn, and enjoy the frenetic pace, smart dialogue, fourth wall breaks, and all the glorious absurdity.
I played this film for a Gen Z friend that lives musicals, and she almost forgot her phone existed. In a good way. This film is what we all need to provide relief for a world that's taking everything way too seriously. If you've made it this far, just buy it!
T from Long IslandReviewed in the United States on June 19, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
go buy it
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Like virtually all 1960's films from this have serious half camp type movies it was a hoot, I haven't seen this flick since it was first released in '62 ( I think )and there were a few things that I forgot but not so much as I might have, I was disappointed when Phil Silvers the acquirer of certain highly skilled ladies not include a different girl for the show I saw on the stage at about the same time period. She was a wild dominatrix with the help of her provocative costumes would have made her sudden appearance acceptable in some sections of Holland and some sections of Las Vegas she would have fit in seamlessly. I'm just disappointed that she was not included in this rendition. Other than that it was a good show.
2 people found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on October 10, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
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A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM [1996 / 2016] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] The Cult Move Collection! For The First Time Available in the UK on Blu-ray!

Something appealing; something appalling; something for everyone a comedy tonight! "One of the hottest burlesque shows that ever hit Broadway" [Time Magazine] comes to the screen showcasing the enormous talents of Tony Awards winner Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Jack Gilford, Buster Keaton and Michael Crawford.

This screen adaptation of the stage musical of the same name finds the Roman slave Pseudolus [Zero Mostel] scheming his way to freedom by playing matchmaker for his master's son, Hero, who is smitten with the blonde and beautiful Philia. However, things don't go at all according to plan. The complications that ensue involve blackmail, funny disguises and long-lost children, while Pseudolus desperately tries to keep up with his end of the bargain.

FILM FACT No.1: Music director Ken Thorne received an Academy Award® for and Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment in 1967. In addition, the film was nominated that year for a Golden Globe as Best Motion Picture for Musical/Comedy. The musical's original 1962 Broadway run won several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Author. ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ has enjoyed several Broadway and West End revivals and was made into a successful film starring the original lead of the musical, Zero Mostel. The song "Love Is in the Air" was originally intended as the opening number. The song was cut from the show and replaced with "Comedy Tonight." The song was later featured in the film ‘The Birdcage’ [1996] and performed by Robin Williams and Christine Baranski.

FILM FACT No.2: Veteran film comedian Buster Keaton was terminally ill with cancer at the time of filming. Nevertheless, the 70-year-old actor was able to do many of his own stunts in the film, to the amazement of the cast and crew. ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ would be his final film appearance. Future “Doctor Who” star Jon Pertwee, brother of screenwriter Michael Pertwee, appears briefly as Crassus, who reports that there is no plague in Crete. Jon Pertwee had originally played the part of Lycus in the 1963 West End stage production. Roy Kinnear appeared in eight other films directed by Richard Lester: ‘Help!’ [1965]; ‘How I Won the War’ [1967]; ‘The Bed Sitting Room’ [1969]; ‘The Three Musketeers’ [1973]; ‘The Four Musketeers’ [1974]; ‘Juggernaut’ [1974]; ‘Royal Flash’ [1975] and The Return of the Musketeers [1989].

Cast: Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton, Michael Crawford, Jack Gilford, Annette Andre, Michael Hordern, Leon Greene, Roy Kinnear, Alfie Bass, John Bluthal, Pamela Brown, Patricia Jessel, Beatrix Lehmann, Frank Thornton, Peter Butterworth, John Bennett, Andrew Faulds, Jennifer Baker, Susan Baker, Ronnie Brody, Frank Elliott, Lucienne Bridou, Helen Funai, Bill Kerr, Jack May, Inga Neilsen, Jon Pertwee, Janet Webb, Myrna White, Joaquín Gómez (uncredited), Joey Hamlin (uncredited), Ricardo Palacios (uncredited) and Ingrid Pitt (uncredited)

Director: Richard Lester

Producer: Melvin Frank

Screenplay: Melvin Frank (screenplay), Michael Pertwee (screenplay), Burt Shevelove (book) and Larry Gelbart (book)

Composer and Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim

Cinematography: Nicolas Roeg

Video Resolution: 1080p [Color by Deluxe]

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo

Subtitles: None

Running Time: 97 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artist / 101 Films

Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Madrid, Spain stands in for Italian locations in ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ [1966], directed by Richard Lester ‘A Hard Day's Night’ [1964] and ‘The Three Musketeers’ [1974]. Gleefully zany wordplay peppers the action, with Stephen Sondheim's libretto rhyming "eunuchs" with "tunics," and Zero Mostel, starring as scheming slave Pseudolos, examining a bottle of wine; "was One a good year?" Crammed with stellar comedic talent of its era, the film stars Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford, Phil Silvers and Buster Keaton which was one of his last performances. Larry Gelbart [‘Tootsie’] and Bert Shevelove wrote the Broadway hit on which the film was based, adapting it from a trilogy of comedies by 3rd century BC Roman playwright Plautus.

Set in "a less fashionable suburb of Rome" and swirling with swinging sixties treatments of soothsayers, public baths, and ancient Roman go-go girls, the glory or chaos that was Rome is handled with Richard Lester's signature frenetic directorial style. The film's elaborate sets were strewn with actual fruits and vegetables, which were often left to rot in the Castillian sun at the end of the shooting day. The flies that plagued the production became a motif in the film and are a memorable feature of the animated end credits designed by Richard Williams, who was later recognised for his 1971 television special ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Richard Lester was selected by star Zero Mostel to direct the motion picture although other names originally under consideration for director included Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Mike Nichols. Cinematographer Nicholas Roeg would later graduate to director and reap acclaim for such films as ‘Walkabout’ [1971], ‘Don't Look Now’ [1973] and ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ [1976].

Often at times, a film's title alone can set up certain expectations. For instance, if I'm sitting down to watch a comedy called 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,' then I'm probably going to expect, you know, something funny to happen on the way to the forum. Thankfully, something funny does indeed happen. In fact, lots of funny things happen... along with singing and dancing! A high-energy musical farce from director Richard Lester ['A Hard Day's Night'], the film offers an amusing blend of slapstick charm and goofy satire and all at the hands of a legendary comedic ensemble dressed in brightly coloured togas!

Based on the Steven Sondheim's stage musical of the same name, the story focuses on a scheming but sluggish ancient Roman slave named Pseudolus [Zero Mostel]. When his master's son, Hero [Michael Crawford], begs for help in order to win the heart of a courtesan [Annette Andre], Pseudolus accepts the challenge in return for his freedom. But as the situation grows increasingly complex and dangerous, the clever slave soon finds himself in over his head.

Led by the great Zero Mostel, the cast is absolutely brimming with delightful personality, and the ensemble plays off of one another brilliantly. Zero Mostel is particularly hilarious as the cheating, crafty Pseudolus, playing up every new devious plan with wily glee. Likewise, Phil Silvers, Jack Gilford, and Michael Hordern are equally entertaining, and together they all bring a sharp contemporary comedic sensibility to the ancient Rome setting. Special note must also go to Buster Keaton who delivers a very memorable final screen role. Despite battling cancer at the time of shooting, the celebrated comedian still pulls off many of his own stunts, offering a few inspired bits of slapstick.

In addition to the film's physical sense of humour, much of the comedy also comes from farcical observations, light social satire, witty wordplay, and a few gags that involve silly reversals of expectation. For instance, one scene involves a character tossing a bird with a message to a nearby window... only for the bird to abruptly fall down toward the ground instead. Director Richard Lester does a fantastic job of building up all of these numerous aspects, and as the plot becomes more and more intricate, the various moving pieces collide in a rather inspired explosion of comical chaos.

To this end, Richard Lester brings his usual penchant for playful cinematic style to the screen, enhancing the runtime with some fun visual touches. Quick edits, zooms, and jump cuts are used occasionally to ramp up the energy and pace, including one particularly effective rapid-fire montage that sums up the film's many intersecting plotlines. The spectacular chariot race that marks the story's climax proves to be very exciting as well, and even features some classic fast motion antics that hark back to the silent era.

Of course, the real stylistic highlights of this comic caper film comes during the periodic music and dance numbers, and these scenes are all gloriously goofy. The choreography is especially silly, resulting in some hilarious dance moves from the cast that poke fun at the type of overly dramatic romance one usually associates with the genre. And these visual bits are all bolstered by clever and spirited lyrics. Also, it certainly doesn't hurt that the melodies are pretty damn catchy as well, making it all the more fun to hum along to the absurd sight of Zero Mostel frolicking around with Jack Gilford in drag.

The opening number to 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' promises a "Comedy Tonight" and the filmmakers successfully live up to that pledge, providing a healthy helping of farcical entertainment. The musical might not be a true classic, but it holds up very well and features a delightful ensemble. Lester manages the script's gradually building sense of hilarious disarray perfectly, leading to an entertaining, mad-cap climax that can only be described as "lovely, absolutely lovely."

But the most significant aspect of ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ is the musical score by Stephen Sondheim which was adapted for the screen by Ken Thorne. The latter would snatch the only Oscar for the film for Best Adapted Music Score in the 1966 Academy Award® race against such competitors as Harry Sukman [‘The Singing Nun’], Elmer Bernstein [‘Return of the Seven’] and Al Ham [‘Stop the World I Want to Get Off’]. Ken Thorne [Musical Director] who had previously worked with The Beatles on their score for ‘Help!’ [1965] would go on to compose music for such films as ‘Head’ [1968], the Monkees film debut, ‘The Magic Christian’ [1969] and ‘Superman II’ [1980].

Blu-ray Video Quality – Using what appears to be an older transfer provided by M-G-M, but now via 101 Films `A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' improves much more over the M-G-M's earlier inferior DVD release, but only slightly. The film is provided with a 1080p transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Though a little uneven at times, this is a seemingly authentic and most pleasing image throughout the film. A moderate to heavy layer of grain is also apparent throughout, giving the picture some natural filmic texture. With that said, some shots do look a tad rougher than others, especially the climax and the transfer does have a predominately flat quality. Overall clarity is good, highlighting every line of devious personality in Zero Mostel's expressive face. While a little faded, the colour palette is also pleasing, offering decent pop in some of the costumes and sets with punchy reds, oranges, purples and yellows. Contrast is well balanced, but blacks are just a hair elevated. Digital artefacts are mostly absent, but some faint halos are present in a few shots. Despite some minor inconsistencies, this is a very respectful and relatively sharp transfer that I really enjoyed over the inferior Kino Lorber Region A/1 Blu-ray release awhile back. The only slightly disappointing with this film is that I wish they could release it in the right aspect ratio, which you see with the end credits and hopefully sometime in the near future like The Criterion Collection will bring out a Special Edition Blu-ray in the right aspect ratio?

Blu-ray Audio Quality – The film is presented with a 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio track along with English subtitles. Free from any age-related hiccups, this is a surprisingly engaging mix that does a good job of bringing the film's musical numbers to life. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, though speech is a little on the flat side. Vocals, on the other hand, feature a nice, full quality. The musical numbers all come through with pleasing fidelity and separation, offering strong range. Likewise, there is some decent directionality with voices and effects in the two channel presentation as well. With that said, the transition to the songs can be a little jarring, as the sound quality jumps up a bit during the musical scenes. Thankfully, there are no pops, crackles, or hisses to report. Considering its age, the mix is quite effective and the songs sound great, giving every playful lyric with ample amounts of presence.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras: Sadly 101 Films has not even been able to include a Theatrical Trailer.

Finally, `A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' is a playful and entertaining musical comedy from director Richard Lester. The cast is fantastic, pulling off a funny mix of slapstick farce and silly wordplay. On the technical front, the video transfer is very solid and the audio mix is strong. While not exactly a comedy classic, this is an enjoyable film that has aged surprisingly well and well worth a look. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
13 people found this helpful
BFReviewed in the United States on March 30, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
A classic, FUNNY(!) Broadway Play. Features Zero Mostel and all star cast!
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Yes! Even my 20 year old kids liked it! If you're not familiar with Broadway, way back in the 1960's, this was a famous Broadway musical comedy. I believe Zero Mostel who stars in this movie was also in the original Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof" and "The Producers". It's a funny musical comedy about ancient Rome. The all star cast (including Buster Keaton for your historians!) were all famous back in the 1960's and 1970's and they show their talent!! Try this movie, one of the most clever Broadway shows (or movies) ever written! Laughs practically guaranteed!
One person found this helpful
Kindle CustomerReviewed in the United States on November 19, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
A terrifically funny movie!
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Great writing and acting. One of my favorite funny movies. Lots of twists and turns in the plot. The sets and the horses and the props and the costumes are great too. I'm a poor reviewer, but I can say that I highly recommend it.
It had a few scenes with music and dancing, and while I don't normally like this, in this film I enjoyed all but one of them.
Since it is set in ancient Rome rather than a contemporary setting when the movie was made, it is "timeless."
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