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GLADIATRESS

SYNOPSIS:
Roman soldiers capture a Celtic princess Dwyfuc (Doon Mackichan), hoping to extract intelligence from her that will facilitate their invasion of Britain. The Celtic tribe needs a hero to go to the rescue, and local misfit Worthaboutapig (Sally Phillips) is the candidate. Off she sets with the help of a pet goose and, if she's lucky, her intimidating sister, Smirgut The Fierce (Fiona Allen).

Review by Brad Green:
The Roman emperors were the ultimate critics. Where today we find productions that shake off bad reviews and survive at the box office, if Caesar gave a performance the thumbs down it was a quick exit: straight from the centre of the colosseum to the Otherworld.

On the other hand, here we have an attempt at entertainment so dire it needs neither critics nor emperors to put it out of its misery. There were no media screenings for this film, which posits it in a select bracket at the ugly end of the spectrum. Still, one likes to be objective, and just because distributors have so little faith in a film they're scared to show it to the critics doesn't mean it forfeits the right to impartial appraisal.

In order to determine which way to stick my thumb, I attended a public screening -- though "public" is rather stretching the truth. There were exactly two other patrons in the theatre, and one of those seemed dazed and confused; he came in late, sat down right next to me despite the room being practically empty, and left after five minutes. I suspect he was actually looking for the lavatory. Thank goodness he didn't do the deed in his cinema seat, though as a critical statement it would have been apposite.

The film has every hallmark of classic British spoofs in historical settings, with one exception: wit. When a local soothsayer examines the entrails of a freshly slaughtered beast and declares she sees "blood and gore and guts", I was waiting for a Blackadder-esq character to chime in with a thinly veiled barb at the New Age charlatans of today. But no, the joke, such as it was, had already ended. The filmmakers have clearly watched plenty of Blackadder and Monty Python without the faintest understanding of why they work. Instead, this film makes the Carry On series look like the brainchild of Oscar Wilde.

A technique of the ancient playwrights gets a nod, when a deus ex machina arrives to rescue our flat-chested heroine from the Otherworld; to which the writers had dispatched her for a supernatural breast upgrade. Undoubtedly the film itself is rapidly heading for another world, but I don't think it's going to reap a similar benefit. I can't imagine it getting any bigger laughs on video.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

GLADIATRESS (M)
(UK)

CAST: Fiona Allen, Pam Ferris, Oliver Ford Davies, David Hayman

PRODUCER: Graham Broadbent, Bruce Davey, Damian Jones

DIRECTOR: Brian Grant

SCRIPT: Nick Whitby

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Witold Stok

EDITOR: Fiona Colbeck

MUSIC: James Seymour Brett

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Crispian Sallis

RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 19, 2004







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