The Last Days of Pompeii, three versions

Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (English version)
R: Luigi Maggi. B: Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton (novel). K: Roberto Omegna, Giovanni Vitrotti. D: Umberto Mozzato, Lydia De Roberti, Luigi Maggi, Ernesto Vaser, Mirra Principi. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio, Torino. It 1908

“The first film version was the British short film The Last Days of Pompeii (1900), directed by Walter R. Booth. Eight years later followed Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei / The Last Days of Pompeii (Arturo Ambrosio, Luigi Maggi, 1908). In 1913 followed two more Italian silent film versions, Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei / The Last Days of Pompeii (Mario Caserini, 1913), and Jone ovvero gli ultimi giorni di Pompei / Jone or the Last Days of Pompeii (Giovanni Enrico Vidali, Ubaldo Maria Del Colle, 1913).
The first sound version was the Hollywood production The Last Days of Pompeii (Ernest B. Schoedsack, Merian C. Cooper, 1935), with Preston Foster and Basil Rathbone. It carried a disclaimer that, although the movie used the novel’s description of Pompei, it did not use its plot or characters. The film was a moderate success on its initial release, but made an overall loss of $237,000.”
Paul van Yperen

Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei
R: Mario Caserini, Eleuterio Rodolfi. D: Fernanda Negri Pouget, Eugenia Tettoni Fior, Ubaldo Stefani. P: Ambrosio. It 1913
Engl. subtitles

“(…) the feature-length Ancient World cinematic epic was born in 1908 when The Last Days of Pompeii was produced in Italy. It was Italy which took the lead in crafting these early epics, directors drawing on the native tradition of staging grand opera but, by shooting on location, constructing massive sets and deploying thousands of extras, establishing the visual parameters of the new cinematic genre. The choice of the early nineteenth century British novel by Bulwer-Lytton, already adapted three times for the stage in England, as the basis of the first great epic underlines the continuity with the existing literary and theatrical tradition. Two new film versions of Lytton’s novel were produced in Italy in 1913 and they were joined in the cinemas by adaption of Sienkiewicz‘s ‘Quo vadis’ (1912), Gustave Flaubert‘s ‘Salammbo’ (filmed as Salambo, 1914), and Cardinal Wiseman‘s ‘Fabiola’, 1916.”
Jeffrey Richards: Hollywood’s Ancient Worlds. A&C Black 2008, p. 25

“The story, involving dovetailing romantic jealousies and Egyptian treachery, is neatly complicated and occasionally exhausting, and the characterizations are weak; but the film is a feast for the eyes. Scene after scene matters. Until Vesuvius blows its stack, signaling an ‘Ozymandias’-message, the intricate compositions and exceptional fluidity of gesture and motion ensure an irresistibly cinematic result. White birds flutter and take flight; a man, from his balcony, overlooks the sea, both appearing in the frame; a blind slave girl, we are told by a title, is walking home when she unexpectedly enters the frame and walks in our direction. We become ‘home’ for her, a representation of what is unknown for her in her life. When she veers to frame-right to drink from an accustomed fountain, we see also what is known to her in her sightless life. In the same shot, therefore, we take in her groping in the dark of blindness and also in the light of habit and experience. This is terrific stuff.”
Dennis Grunes

Jone ovvero gli ultimi giorni di Pompei
R: Ubaldo Maria Del Colle, Giovanni Enrico Vidali. B: Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (novel). K: Raimondo Scotti. Ba: Domenico Gaido. D: Cristina Ruspoli, Luigi Mele, Giovanni Enrico Vidali, Suzanne De Labroy, Giovanni Ciusa, Michele Ciusa. P: Pasquali e C., Vay e Hubert. It 1913
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino

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