A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)


The ‘ruins’ of the sets from Samuel Bronston’s ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ were still lying about at Las Matas near Madrid, enabling Richard Lester to make this strange Roman musical sit-com. It seems dated today, but is nevertheless the last film featuring Buster Keaton, who was dying of cancer at the time, but keen to revisit Spain, where he’d been in the thirties.

In one scene, Phil Silvers and his wife are off to visit her mother, and the emblematic town walls of Ávila can clearly be seen in the background looking very post-Roman.

The Roman aqueduct of Segovia also makes a brief appearance during the song ‘Everybody Ought to Have a Maid’; a song that surely inspired Neil Young.

At the end of the chaotic chariot pursuits, as the Roman Captain rounds everyone up to take them back to Rome, a glimpse of Toledo and its Alcázar castle can be seen in the background, a view that Richard Lester would use again in his Musketeers Trilogy.

Originally a musical, most of the songs were cut from the film version thankfully, and those that weren’t should have been.