In Pompeii a marauding band of thieves and murderers are attacking and killing wealthy Romans. Since crosses written on walls are found the Christians are blamed. The Consul of Pompeii, Ascanius (Guillermo Marin), has charged his Praetorian Guard Gallinus (Mimmo Palmara) with finding the culprits.
Glaucus (Steve Reeves) and his fellow Centurions are returning from Palestine when an out of control chariot driven by the Consul’s daughter Ione (Christine Kaufmann) races by. Glaucus chases after the chariot rescuing Ione. Then in the city Glaucus saves a thief named Antoninus (Angel Aranda) from being whipped by Gallinus garnering a friend in Antoninus and an enemy in Gallinus. Consul Ascanius’ mistress Julia (Anne-Marie Baumann) happens by and also comes to Antoninus’ aide and orders Gallinus to leave the young man alone. Glaucus continues on to his father’s house. When he gets there he finds the house has been looted and his father murdered by the marauding thieves. Glaucus vows to find them and punish them.
Antoninus steals a money pouch from a drunken soldier. Inside he finds a ring that belonged to Glaucus’ father and a black mask worn by the thieves that have been terrorizing the city. He goes looking for Glaucus. He finds Glaucus’ fellow Centurion Marcus (Mario Morales). Antoninus points out the man who had the ring and mask. Marcus follows him to the temple of Isis and the High Priest of Isis, Arbaces (Fernando Rey). Marcus is found dead with a cross carved in his chest. Once again the Christians are blamed.
When Gallinus finds out where the Christians are secretly meeting he has them rounded up and tortured. Since they didn’t commit the murders or thefts they cannot confess to them and they are all condemned to death. Glaucus has come to believe that the Christians are innocent and goes to Herculaneum to talk to Consul Ascanius who is there on vacation. He is attacked on the road by the marauders but survives.
In the meantime Antoninus sees the marauder who had Glaucus’ father’s ring again and follows him to the temple. He races to Herculaneum to tell Ascanius and the recuperating Glaucus. He tells them that the High Priest is involved and the stolen treasures are hidden in the statue of Isis. The Christians are innocent. After Antoninus and Glaucus leave Ascanius is killed by his mistress Julia who is the leader of the marauders. Glaucus is blamed and sentenced to death along with the Christians.
“The Last Days of Pompeii” was released in 1959 and was directed by Mario Bonnard and an uncredited Sergio Leone. Bonnard, the original director, fell ill on the first day of shooting, so Leone and the scriptwriters finished the film. It is a sword and sandal film and is a collaboration between Italy, Spain and West Germany. It is loosely, and I mean loosely, based on the 1834 novel by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
Christine Kaufmann was only 13 years old when the film was made whereas her love interest Steve Reeves was 30. This is probably why there is no real romance between the two. Despite the almost pedophilia of the casting, Reeves was good as the enraged Centurion.
As far as your mainstream sword and sandal movies are concerned this one is top notch. If you are looking for a Roman disaster movie it’s decent. Most disaster movie fans found the day to day life in Pompeii a little boring. I myself never found torturing Christians as ho hum. The scene with the lion in the arena, however, was rather bland. The Christians stood around while the lion just roared. It wasn’t until Glaucus entered the arena that any action happened. The destruction of Pompeii is pretty good. It looked more like an earthquake than a volcano eruption but there were some fireworks and sparklers mixed in to remind you.