The Last Days of Pompeii is a spectacle picture, full of action and holds a good tempo throughout.
What is presented is a behind-the-scenes of Roman politics and commerce, both of which are shown as smeared with corruption and intrigue. [An opening caption claims the characters and plot have no relation to those in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel of the same name. Original story is credited to James Ashmore Creelman and Melville Baker, adapted by Ruth Rose and Boris Ingster.]
Basil Rathbone comes very close to stealing the picture with his playing of Pontius Pilate. Jesus crosses the path of Marcus (Preston Foster) one time gladiator who is in Judea on a little business deal (horse stealing) which he carries out as the silent partner of Pilate.
Foster has the central role. He carries through from the boyish blacksmith of the opening sequence to the rich man who in the end sees his beloved son face probable death in the arena (just before the volcano erupts). On the way he is a gladiator, slave trader, horse-stealer and general tough guy, but more the victim of a fierce semi-barbaric environment than of any personal cruelty trait.