A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1966)
In first century Rome, a wily slave (Zero Mostel) attempts to procure a virgin (Annette Andre) from the brothel next door for his young master (Michael Crawford). The fact that she has been sold to Rome's most famous soldier (Leon Greene) won't stop him since his master has promised him his freedom if he accomplishes the task. Based on the hit Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim, the director Richard Lester has put the emphasis on the comedy rather than the music. The majority of Sondheim's score has been gutted which is anathema to Broadway purists (and unfortunate as it's a delightful score) but for fans of frantic farce, Lester has provided some inspired gags, both verbal and visual. Mostel's brand of comedy is usually too big for the screen (I'm not a fan of his work in THE PRODUCERS) but here it matches the material perfectly and he's marvelous. Fortunately two other farceurs, Phil Silvers as a procurer and Jack Gilford as a slave, are in top notch form and provide just as many laughs. Buster Keaton is around too and sadly, he's not given enough to do but he shows that his comedy chops haven't dimmed one bit. Ken Thorne won an Oscar for adapting Sondheim's score and the cinematography is by future director Nicholas Roeg. With Michael Hordern, Pamela Brown, Roy Kinnear, Patricia Jessel, Inga Neilsen and John Bluthal.