Picks and Pans Review: The Last Days of Pompeii

updated 05/07/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/07/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Sunday, May 6, 8 p.m. ET)

This is TV trash the way it was meant to be: fun. We take you back to Pompeii in the year 79 A.D., just before Vesuvius boiled over. As in any disaster movie, you begin by meeting the victims and the survivors: Ned Beatty as a Ray Kroc of his day, an entrepreneur who made his fortune in fish sauce; Lesley-Anne Down as a born-again whore; Franco Nero as a cult leader; Laurence Olivier (is there nothing he won't act in?) as an aging pol; Linda Purl as a beautiful blind slave; Duncan Regehr, a Bruce Jenner look-alike, as a hunk of a coliseum warrior; plus Olivia Hussey and Ernest Borgnine. A few try to act as if this were Shakespeare; that's good for a laugh. Beatty, though, plays it camp, as if he were a crooked sewer commissioner from South Jersey; he's a kick to watch. Some of the show is nicely sexy; a bit too much is violent. There are moral lessons here too, along the old "The-fall-of-Rome-looks-a-lot-like-today" line. You soon come to believe that Pompeii deserved to burn, and burn it does. The entire miniseries was not available for viewing, but the beginning was, and so was the end. Talk about special effects! Pompeii turns into the devil's ashtray as Vesuvius belches and barfs fire, and the city crumbles. But there's still room for a happy ending. (Part airs Monday, Part Three Tuesday)

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