Quo Vadis

1951

Biography / Drama / History / Romance

11
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 11645

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Elizabeth Taylor as Christian Prisoner in Arena
Sophia Loren as Lygia's Slave
Deborah Kerr as Lygia
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.39 GB
1280*932
English
NR
23.976 fps
2hr 51 min
P/S 11 / 48
2.73 GB
1472*1072
English
NR
23.976 fps
2hr 51 min
P/S 18 / 59

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by jpdoherty 7 / 10

"Nothing do I see that is not perfection"

At Last one of the great classic Hollywood blockbuster epics of the early fifties has finally found its rightful DVD home with this exceptional two disc release from Warner Home Video.

Produced by Sam Zimbalist for MGM in 1951 and expertly directed by Mervin LeRoy "Quo Vadis" was Hollywood's first wallop in the fight against the onslaught of Television. Available at first, and for many years only on VHS tape, it then began to appear on a plethora of foreign DVDs but with varying quality it must be said. One such unfortunate issue, which originated in Korea, was released without any opening credits whatsoever! I kid you not! That said - we now thankfully have it in our possession and a superb issue it is! With perfect pristine colour resolution, Robert Surtees' Acadamy Award nominated colour Cinematography comes across with well defined and plush imagery. The various cast members are attired in the most gorgeously coloured costumes. Particularly dazzling is the golden uniform worn by the picture's star Robert Taylor as he proudly bears himself aboard his golden chariot during his triumphal parade through Rome.

Also here is Miklos Rozsa's outstanding Acadamy Award nominated score! His main Roman motif, bold and strong, dominates the scenes in the Forum and in the Arena. In gentler mode is his beautiful love theme for the scenes with the star-crossed lovers Marcus and Lygia. Then there's the frenetic bacchanal-like Hymn of the Vestal Virgins followed immediately by the robust and heroic Triumphal March. Also heard on this issue - and for the first time since the original roadshow release 56 years ago - is the composer's Overture and Exit music. The great Rozsa would barely eclipse his "Vadis" music eight years later with his Oscar winning score for "Ben Hur".

The assembled cast are uniformly excellent except, perhaps, the syrupy and simpering characterization of Deborah Kerr as Lygia. But Robert Taylor is fine in what is probably his best known role as Nero's legion commander Marcus Vinicus. Outstanding is Leo Genn as Petronious - the sardonic and sarcastic confidante of the tyrannical Emperor Nero. And of course there is the wonderful Peter Ustinov chewing up every bit of scenery there is as the crazed and loony Nero. Both Ustinov and Genn were nominated for Acadamy Awards. The picture is also buoyed by some colourful and elaborate set pieces such as the Vestal Virgins singing and wildly dancing in homage to the goddess Vesta, the spectacular triumphal parade of the Roman legions taking the salute from Nero as it passes the great palace, the exciting chariot chase, the brilliantly staged burning of Rome and the harrowing scenes in the Arena as the lions are released on the hapless hymn-singing Christians.

These scenes all come across extremely well on this excellent DVD which comes with a trailer, a splendid 45 minute featurette "Quo Vadis And The Genesis of the Biblical Epic" and a commentary by one F.X. Feeney who persists in calling the leading lady's character Leega instead of Lygia and neglects to tell us that the opening narration is spoken by MGM favourite Walter Pidgeon (uncredited). However this is only a minor quibble and does nothing to diminish the greatness of this issue. Bravo Warner Home Video!!

Reviewed by theowinthrop 8 / 10

How we missed having the city of "Neropolis"

Henryk Sienkiewicz was one of Poland's great historical novelists, and one of the first recipients of the Nobel Prize for literature (1905). It has only been in the last decade or so that translations of other novels by him have appeared in English, but his major work, QUO VADIS?, has been known since it appeared over a century ago. It was a study of the early days of the Christians in Rome, and their first persecution by the Emperor Nero (54 - 68 A.D.) It concentrates on the burning of Rome and the persecution of the Christians (including the death by crucifixion of St. Peter). So the background is identical to Cecil B. DeMille's THE SIGN OF THE CROSS. Inevitably comparisons between the two films, their plots, and the performances of the two Neros (Charles Laughton and Peter Ustinov) result.

But the two stories are not the same. Sienkiewicz threw in far more of the history of the Rome of that period than the author of the play THE SIGN OF THE CROSS did. And because of his deeply felt commitment to his faith, Sienkiewicz showed the destruction of Nero's rotten regime and the first triumph of Christianity. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS does not do that - my comment there was that DeMille never made such a pessimistic and tragic film in his career, with all the good people being destroyed and Nero (at that time) triumphant. This does not happen in QUO VADIS, where the corruption and incompetence of the regime finally loses the support of the people (and ... ironically worse ... the army!).

There is also the addition of the leading poet-courtier of the day, Petronius Arbiter. A man of wit and taste, Petronius was one of several figures of literary note in Nero's court, and one of several to meet tragedy by being near that egomaniac. The others were led by Nero's original chief minister Seneca, the stoic philosopher and dramatist. Seneca's nephew Lucan was also a leading figure in the court. Both men were eventually turned into foes of the regime, especially as Seneca fell from his ministerial position after the murder of Nero's mother Agrippina. Petronius managed to avoid the political conflict that involved the other two, but the Emperor's irrational jealousy helped link the three. Lucan wrote a savage epic poem against the Imperial family (PHARSALIA) which signaled his rejection of the regime. Lucan joined a conspiracy against Nero led by a Senator named Piso. It was discovered, and Lucan and Seneca implicated. Both were forced to commit suicide (by opening their veins). Tigellinus, Nero's leading adviser, insinuated that Petronius was involved too (he wasn't). Petronius also committed suicide the same way, but wrote a witty and accurate denunciation to Nero which was given to the Emperor after the writer's death.

Petronius' major surviving work, THE SATYRICON, was a wonderful look at the rot at the center of the regime of Nero. It (by the way) was turned into a film by Fellini in the late 1960s.

Leo Genn brought Petronius and his delicate wit and taste out in the film, and merited the Oscar nomination he got for this - his best remembered role (aside from Dr. "Kick" in THE SNAKE PIT). Ustinov brings a degree of frailty to Nero - an uncertainty as to the acceptance of his public persona. He flails about between seeking the approval of the artists like Petronius and those who manipulate the tyrant in him (Poppeia and Tigellinus). Despite his vicious evil one sympathizes with him - he is a sick man. And his reconstruction program (he burns down old Rome to create "Neropolis") is on par to that of another tyrant of more recent vintage, who planned to build a world capital called "Germania" over Berlin's bones. He too left many bones, but it is hard to consider him at all sympathetic.

As spectacle and history QUO VADIS? is quite rewarding. It may telescope the events of 64 - 68 A.D. (when Nero committed suicide with assistance), and avoid the three brief Emperors who ruled after Nero within the year (Galba, Otho, and Vitellius) before Vespasian came back from the war in Israel to take the throne for a decade - but it does show how Nero's regime collapsed. DeMille never tackled it. But despite those two omissions the film does do the period pretty well.

Robert Taylor is more effective as a military commander / hero than Fredric March had been in SIGN OF THE CROSS. Deborah Kerr is more believable as an early Christian convert. And Finley Currie is wonderful as Simon Peter - who realizes that he must die for the Lord that he once denied. His end is based on a legend that Peter was crucified upside down, supposedly at his request that he did not deserve to be crucified in the same way as the Lord he briefly failed. Altogether a superior religious - historic epic.

Reviewed by Gooper 10 / 10

The Big One!

It is a great pleasure to see so many comments here that are enthusiastic about 'Quo Vadis'. I just saw it again last night after about 15 years, and I marvelled at what a high quality spectacle it is - better than ever, in fact.

In his autobiography, 'Take One', Mervyn LeRoy has some great stories about 'Quo Vadis'. Such as: while filming one of the really big crowd scenes, a voice pipes up from the extras: 'Hey Moy-vin!', and it's Jack Benny. And in a scene right out of one of his pictures, when 'Quo Vadis' is screened in San Francisco, and LeRoy is present, the theatre happens to be right near the corner where the big-time director once sold papers as a kid. He revisits the corner after the screening and sheds a few tears. LeRoy was an extra in C.B. DeMille's first 'Ten Commandments', so the desire to deliver something DeMillian was realized at last, and with smashing success.

We all agree on Peter Ustinov's ingenious performance, so all I need to add is that in his own autobiography, 'Dear Me', Sir Peter's recollections of the filming are as wonderful as his performance.

Whatever his capabilities as an actor, I always thought that Bob Taylor's performance was pretty darn good, and appropriate, too: what high-ranking Roman officer wouldn't be pompous? In any case, the story is much larger than Marcus' character, and the story comes to dominate the picture.

It is indeed a pity that the excellent Rozsa score wasn't handled by the Warners sound department, where it would have been been presented to full effect Much of its impact is squandered by its being kept in the background. I don't think Merv LeRoy had so much to do with this decision, as his alma mater was Warners (try watching 'Anthony Adverse'!) It seems that it was probably MGM policy. With sensitivity, a DVD version could perhaps offer the picture with a 'sweetened' soundtrack.

The quality of the camera work by solid professionals Bob Surtees (later MGM's UltraPanavision 70 specialist) and Wm V. Skall (his work on 'The Silver Chalice' was outstanding) really cannot be overstated.

Along with the delights of Sir Peter's performance, I still get choked up when noble Buddy Baer takes on that bull, and when Marina Berti's character displays so much love and devotion to Leo Genn's. Genn is right up there with James Mason in quality, and indeed, Mason may have taken a few pointers from Genn's performance for his own acting in subsequent epics. Patricia Laffan is decadently sexy without being campy.

Trivia: scenes for the burning of Rome were sensibly used in MGM's 'The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao' and 'Atlantis, The Lost Continent' to great effect.

It is a credit to Merv LeRoy for allowing great actors like Peter Ustinov and Leo Genn to 'do their thing'.

'Quo Vadis' is a classic: a stunning spectacle, intelligent, good script, fine performances by practically everybody, and it remains long in the memory, and holds up well indeed.

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