Learn more Download now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 May 2017
Made in 1951 I bought this blu ray having had my interest piqued for it in the book Dolce Vita Confidential. Watching on ten foot projection screen and being a big fan of Ben Hur it was one of those big movies I never got round to seeing. Little did I know how it resonates with the politics of today.

The Roman Empire is portrayed as being led by a leader completely off his trolly. His only authority is his Office. Surrounded by sycophants played to perfection by Peter Ustinov we witness a Trump-like dislocation from the reality of rule.

Another fascinating side of this movie is the radical effect on the stunning ideas of love and forgiveness and one God and his messanger Jesus Christ. Here we meet Peter who knew the man before his death and travels around spreading his words. Must admit that when he attracts a crowd and talks the lines about the meek, the pure of heart etc I could understand how radical it was not just inside the all powerful rule on earth of the Roman empire but even today. In Quo Vadis paradise is promised through death.

A very colourful movie with an emphasis on gold. Not widescreen it's square frame focuses our attention on the opulence of Rome and the clarity of nature, of people. I read that no other film had so many costumes made for it and that the hand carved chariots made for it were used in many subsequent productions. Made and filmed in Rome. Some of the backgrounds are clearly painted, a fault of the high resolution blu ray which is a stunning technical quality especially for close-ups. 174mins on one disc only.

So many vivid characters and doting voluptuous women. And lots of blood and gore but not in the splashing pools of modern cinema. Just a fab story determined to take you away to another world in the far off past. A stark contrast to the horrors of world war but also reminding viewers of its worst power. Those fire bombs designed to kill human beings: Dresden, Hiroshima, London and many other places where civilians were the targets. Madness.
3 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 February 2016
QUO VADIS [1951 / 2009] [Blu-ray] The Most Colossal Ever! This Is The Big One! Splendour, Savagery and Spectacular! Three Years in the Making! Thousands in the Cast! Filmed in Rome!

Rome burns. Nero fiddles. Christianity rises. And moviegoers turned out in throngs for that years-in-the-making film colossus boasting eight Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture. Robert Taylor plays the Legion commander whose love for a Christian slave girl [Deborah Kerr] and crosses the divide between Empire and a sect with a higher loyalty. Presiding over all is Nero [Peter Ustinov]. He is Caesar, madman, murderer and an imperial ruler of the spectacular, and spectacularly doomed, glory that was Rome. Narrated by Walter Pidgeon.

FILM FACT: Awards and Nomination: Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Leo Genn. Nominated: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Peter Ustinov. Nominated: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration in Color for William A. Horning, Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno and Hugh Hunt. Nominated: Best Cinematography in Color. Nominated: Best Costume Design in Color. Nominated: Best Film Editing. Nominated: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. Nominated: Best Picture. Golden Globe® Awards: Win: Best Supporting Actor for Peter Ustinov. Win: Best Cinematography for Robert Surtees and William V. Skall. Nominated: Best Motion Picture in a Drama. The musical score by Miklós Rózsa is notable for its attention to historical authenticity. Miklós Rózsa incorporated a number of fragments of ancient Greek melodies into his own choral-orchestral score.

Cast: Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Genn, Peter Ustinov, Patricia Laffan, Finlay Currie, Abraham Sofaer, Marina Berti, Buddy Baer, Felix Aylmer, Nora Swinburne, Ralph Truman, Norman Wooland, Peter Miles, Geoffrey Dunn, Nicholas Hannen, D.A. Clarke – Smith, Rosalie Crutchley, John Ruddock, Arthur Walge, Elspeth March, Strelsa Brown, Alfredo Varelli, Roberto Ottaviano, William Tubbs, Pietro Tordi, Clelia Matania, Adrienne Corri (uncredited), Al Ferguson (uncredited), Dino Galvani (uncredited), Gianni Gazzoti (uncredited), Robin Hughes (Christ voice) (uncredited), Philip Kieffer (uncredited), Sophia Loren (uncredited), Richard McNamara (uncredited), Dario Michaelis (uncredited), Vincent Neptune (uncredited), Louis Payne (uncredited), George Restivo (uncredited), Giuseppe Rodi (uncredited), Joseph Sebaroli (uncredited), Bud Spencer (uncredited), Elizabeth Taylor (uncredited), William Taylor (uncredited), Michael Tor (uncredited), Giuseppe Tosi (uncredited), Carlo Tricoli (uncredited), Renato Valente (uncredited), Benjamin Wilkes (uncredited), Maria Zanoli (uncredited) and Walter Pidgeon (Narrator voice) (uncredited)

Director: Mervyn LeRoy and Anthony Mann (uncredited)

Producer: Sam Zimbalist

Screenplay: John Lee Mahin, S. N. Behrman, Sonya Levien, Henryk Sienkiewicz (novel) and Hugh Gray (uncredited)

Composer: Miklós Rózsa

Cinematography: Robert Surtees and William V. Skall

Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, French: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, German: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Italian: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish [Castilian]: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Spanish [Latin American]: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish [Castilian], Dutch, Chinese [Traditional], Korean, Spanish [Latin American], Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Portuguese [Brazilian], Swedish and Chinese

Running Time: 174 minutes

Region: All Regions

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘QUO VADIS’ [1951] is a super-spectacle in all its meaning. ‘QUO VADIS’ is the 1951 historical epic about the reign of Emperor Nero and the conflict between Christianity and the Roman Empire. The captiousness about the story line, some of the players' wooden performances in contrast to the scenery-chewing of Peter Ustinov as Nero, is part and parcel of any super-spectacular.

‘QUO VADIS’ is often credited with launching the historical epic craze that swept Hollywood in the 1950s, along with DeMille's ‘Samson and Delilah’ from 2 years earlier. Its larger than life spectacle, cast of thousands, and gaudy Technicolor splendour was intended as an alternative to the growing threat of television and in 1953 CinemaScope would add the widescreen aspect ratio to Hollywood's arsenal of weapons in the ongoing battle.

‘QUO VADIS’ is based on the classic 1895 novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz and had a long history on film. The feature length 1913 Italian version was the first true historical epic ever made for the big screen. It was so popular around the world that when it premiered in America in 1914 it became the first movie ever to play in a legitimate Broadway Theater at a then unheard of price of $1.00 a ticket. This was a full year before DW Griffith's ‘The Birth of a Nation’ would launch the Hollywood epic.

Following the opening credits, voice-over narration by actor Walter Pidgeon introduces the setting of the story, with action that opens on the Appian Way in 64 A.D., outside Rome, a "corrupt state on the cusp of destruction." The narration also describes "a miracle" that happened thirty years previously, following the death of Christ. The film's original novel title is spoken in the scene in which "Peter" has a vision of Christ and utters the words Quo vadis, Domine?; which comes from the Gospel of St John XVI.5 and is traditionally translated from Latin as "Whither goest Thou, Lord?" Within the film, there is a brief flashback sequence in which Peter describes his first meeting with Christ and subsequent time as an apostle. The picture closes with voice-over narration reciting a passage from St. John XIV.6 "I am the way, the truth, the life."

The film takes place in 64-68 A.D. and is a mixture of true historical characters and events and fictional ones. Throughout the movie we get to see Emperor Nero, his extravagant lifestyle, how he sang and played his musical instrument, how he persecuted Christians (true historical fact) and how he burned the city of Rome (not a verified historical fact but a rumour at the time) and later blamed the Christians. Peter Ustinov does a great job at playing the Nero character. In the film, we also see apostle Peter [Finlay Currie].

‘QUO VADIS’ is the story of a Roman military commander called Marcus Vinicius [Robert Taylor] a fictional character who returns from war and falls in love with a Christian woman called Lygia [Deborah Kerr]. Lygia is the adopted daughter of a retired Roman general and technically a hostage of Rome. Marcus manages to convince Nero to give him Lygia. Even though she hates the idea at the beginning, she eventually falls in love with Marcus. After the Great Fire of Rome, Nero goes after all the Christians and Marcus Vinicius tries to save Lygia and her family. Marcus Vinicius, Lygia and her family are then captured and imprisoned and condemned to be killed in the arena. In the prison, Apostle Peter marries them.

In the arena, Lygia is tied to a wooden stake and her bodyguard must try to kill a wild bull otherwise she will be gored to death. Marcus is forced to watch this but Lygia's bodyguard manages to kill the bull. Marcus then frees Lygia with the help of his troops and a revolt breaks out against Nero who is suspected of starting the fire in Rome. The Roman people quickly figure out that Nero was the “incendiary” responsible for the burning of their beloved city. However, Nero decides with the help of his slutty Empress Poppaea [Patricia Laffan] that in order to deflect the blame from him, a victim needs to be scapegoated. From there, he decides that the Christians, who refuse to engage in worshiping the emperor as a god, make the best victims. Nero then decrees that it was the Christians who burned Rome and as such, they are to be all rounded up and fed to the lions in the colosseum as public entertainment.

As the crowd and council demand that Lygia and Ursus are spared, Vinicius announces to the public that Galba will soon take over as emperor of Rome. Nero flees the arena to his palace, which is surrounded by throngs of irate Roman citizens. Accusing Poppaea of encouraging him to make martyrs of the Christians and thus cause his downfall, he chokes his wife to death then locks himself in his room. Slave Acte is waiting there and hands her master a dagger, telling him to kill himself like an emperor. A coward to the end, Nero begs her to help him plunge the knife into his breast. In the following days, as Galba's troops march into Rome, Vinicius admits that all dynasties are destined to fail and observes that hope resides in one faith that will unite the world. Soon after on the road out of Rome, Nazarius shows Lygia, Vinicius and Ursus the blessed spot where God spoke through him to Peter, which is marked by Peter's upright cane covered with blooming vines.

The film was a massive big production at the time to the tune of $7.6 million. For example, 32,000 costumes were used! And even though it was produced in 1951, it was all in colour. The images and the views of Rome and of Nero's palace throughout the film are quite impressive. ‘QUO VADIS’ was the biggest money maker of 1951 and M-G-M's biggest hit since ‘Gone with the Wind’ a dozen years earlier. And as stated above with the FILM FACT that it was nominated for 8 Academy Awards® including Best Picture and two for Supporting Actor, Leo Genn as Petronius, and Peter Ustinov for his flamboyant turn as Nero and both men were deserving of the Academy Awards® and for opposite reasons. ‘QUO VADIS’ is a quintessential historical epic that holds up remarkably well more than 60 years after it was made.

‘QUO VADIS’ is a magnificent major motion picture. It has beautiful scenery, wonderful costumes and fantastic cinematography, and is as accurate a capture of ancient Rome as was possible with 1951 technology. The set designs are sheer artistry. ‘QUO VADIS’ is a stunning spectacle with an excellent script, fine performances and holds up very well today. The best part of this movie is Peter Ustinov’s performance as the mad Emperor Nero. Peter Ustinov is totally focused on the role so much so that he captures the screen in the scenes that he is in. Peter Ustinov’s performance is the absolute best portrayal of Nero yet given by an actor in a movie. Ustinov plays the role instead of converting the character into a reflection of himself. Peter Ustinov should have won the Academy Award® for his performance. Peter Ustinov did, however, win the Golden Globe® Award.

Blu-ray Video Quality – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents us ‘QUO VADIS’ with a beautifully restored 1080p encoded image and an equally impressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image is bright, clean, and bursting with the luxuriant, vibrant hues with the three-strip Technicolor. It also exhibits a lovely film-like feel, thanks to a grain structure that lends the picture texture and depth, but never distracts or diminishes clarity. Though not every speck and nick has been removed, those that remain are almost imperceptible, except during the opening title sequence and especially Nero's purple robe, Lygia's flaming red hair, and the glistening gold goblets and breast plates all grab attention, but not at the expense of the image as a whole and the colours burst forth, and when they are showcased, such as when Nero and Poppaea peer through tinted glasses to spy on their guests during a lavish party, the effect is breath-taking. Inky blacks lend depth to nocturnal scenes, but shadow detail is never obscured, and the perfect lighting enhances contrast, so the image always looks vital. This is a superb effort from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that once again proves how fabulous classic films can look in 1080p. ‘QUO VADIS’ really transports you to another time; to ancient Rome, to vintage Hollywood. And it makes us appreciate this glorious Blu-ray technology not only for what it can do for the present and future, but also for the past.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents us ‘QUO VADIS’ with a 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, that was rumoured to be presented in Dolby TrueHD, but sadly we have to experience just plain old original monaural audio is offered on this Blu-ray disc. Technically M-G-M has done a good job restoring and refurbishing this sonic relic, removing all age-related pops and crackles. A faint touch of hiss remains, but it's only noticeable during moments of extreme quiet, and even then you really have to listen closely to pick it up. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, but occasionally sounds a bit hollow, while effects such as the roars of lions and crackles of flames benefit from fine presence and realistic detail. Miklos Rozsa's majestic score, however, doesn't fare as well, and it's here that the source limitations become evident. The lows are more stable, they never elicit the warmth and robust fullness necessary for a film of this sort and they never really give us the warmth and robust fullness necessary for a film of this sort. Deficiencies are most evident during the overture and exit music, which has been rightly reinserted into the print for the first time in 56 years, as well as during moments of high drama, such as the burning of Rome. Still, for such a motion picture of 1951, ‘QUO VADIS’ sounds as good as it probably can expect, and better than most productions of that period.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Audio Commentary: Commentary by F.X. Feeney [Critic/Film Historian]: Here F.X. Feeney discusses about the New Ultra-Resolution Digital Transfer of the film ‘QUO VADIS,’ which was one of M-G-M’s most glorious grand-scale productions that launched the age of the 1950s epic blockbusters. As the films starts with the ‘QUO VADIS’ title F.X. Feeney introduces himself and also informs us that films English translation is “Where are you going” and is here to guide you through 1950s Hollywood. F.X. Feeney informs us that the film was conceived by Polish Henryk Sienkiewicz novel “Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero” that was originally published in 1895 and was one of the best-selling novel of its time, which sold in excess 50,000,000 copies worldwide. We are also informed that while director Mervyn LeRoy was preparing to start filming and was very nervous of the project, but with his professional outlook, the film was a massive box office success. But one thing we find out is that Mervyn LeRoy loves to set up scenes, especially when we first glimpse Nero [Peter Ustinov]. We also get some in-depth information about the actor Robert Taylor, who was originally named Spangler Arlington Brugh Taylor on 5th August, 1911. But it was in his 16th year with M-G-M when he made ‘QUO VADIS,’ in Rome, he was ensconced in a large apartment that had eight rooms, five servants, and a chef to the former King of Italy, two cars and one with a chauffeur and to make it all work for Robert Taylor he had to get up every day at 5:00pm and had to go to bed at 10:00pm. But we also here that Robert Taylor got on with Deborah Kerr, who was always good humoured with her male actor. F.X. Feeney also touches upon all of the essential elements of ‘QUO VADIS,’ and F.X. Feeney discusses the film's religious and political themes, analyses the characters, tosses in production titbits, and compares actual Roman history to the events portrayed on film, where ‘QUO VADIS' gets it right most of the time. F.X. Feeney also quotes from the memoirs of Peter Ustinov, Mervyn LeRoy, and John Huston, who was the first director attached to the project, and the excerpts he reads add marvellous colour and flavour to the track. We hear more fascinating facts from F.X. Feeney, where he informs us that at the height of the shooting the film, they had 30,000 extras over three week period, they also had over 8,000 people just for the production of the film, then there were also over a 100 speaking parts and 1,200 costumes were made for the film and they joked that 20,000 aspirins were consumed every day, still I am not surprised, the logistic of making this film must have been a nightmare. There were all told 500 skilled carpenters working on 1,500 sets and there was at least a minimum of four Technicolor cameras working most of the time, as they had to make sure certain scenes were captured at the same time. When we see the scene when the Christians are at their nigh time secret rendezvous, F.X. Feeney informs us that the actor Finlay Currie [20 January 1878 – 9 May 1968] was 72 years of age when he appeared in this film and of sadly passed away in 1968. When we see Nero again admiring the massive model of his planned New Rome, that is supposed to a historical fact, but at the same time doing the unthinkable of pursuing the Great Fire of Rome, which was an urban fire that started on the night between 18 and 19 July in the year 64 AD and it caused widespread devastation, before being brought under control after six days. When we get to the part where Robert Taylor rushes the burning city of Rome, we are informed that according to M-G-M records, that 4,000 gallons of fuel oil was used, 2,000 gallons of gasoline (petro) was used, 3,000 gallons of special alcohol mixture was used to make the flames to jump a certain way, 50 of 20 gallon takes of butane (organic compound with the formula C4H10) were used at any given moment and there was also 2 miles of pipes were used to control the fire. Also from the M-G-M records we are told that Robert Taylor had 36 costume changes, Deborah Kerr’s blue dress had 4,000 beads sown into the dress and her banqueting gown was made by a dozen Italian housewives in a small Italian town. Throughout the filming of ‘QUO VADIS’ 23,000 costumes were made and used, where they used 52,400 yards of material, there were also 15,000 handmade sandals that took 3 months to make by Italian artisans, there were also 4,000 soldier breast plates made, 2,000 battle shields and helmets were made, 2,000 frying pans were used, 12,800 period jewels were made, which were copied from museum pieces, which as you can see were mind blowing statics. The filming was originally going to be started in July 1949, but with lots of technical and logistic delays, filming was started on the 2nd May, 1950 and was finally finished in November 1950. There were 6,000 feet of film shot and there were six first aid stations dotted around the massive Cinecittà film studio set. They also had 16 assistant directors on had to control the massive crowd scenes. Of course F.X. Feeney gives away much more information on the filming of ‘QUO VADIS,’ because I have only scratched the surface on this epic film. But of course with a film lasting 174 minutes, F.X. Feeney does sometimes loses some steam toward the end and who wouldn't after 174 minutes, But despite this his spirited enthusiasm delivery maintains interest throughout the film. It is now up to you if you feel you can sit down and watch the film again with the audio commentary with F.X. Feeney, as you will get to hear some really fascinating facts on the making of ‘QUO VADIS,’ happy viewing!

Special Feature: In the Beginning: ‘QUO VADIS' and the Genesis of the Biblical Epic [2008] [480i] [1.78:1] [43:54] This fascinating documentary really fleshes out the ‘QUO VADIS' story, and deftly combines film scholar interviews with a variety of clips, stills, and archival footage. This special feature looks at Hollywood's fascination with ancient Rome, and the parallels filmmakers often drew between Rome and the modern USA; the popularity of the original Nobel Peace Prize-winning best-selling novel and the two Italian silent films it spawned, which are ‘QUO VADIS?' [1913] and ‘QUO VADIS?' [1925] and clips of both are included. We also get to view two other silent film clips that include ‘The Birth Of A Nation’ [1915] and ‘Intolerance’ [1916]. We also get a lengthy production history of M-G-M's ‘QUO VADIS' dating back to the mid-1930s; and the underrated direction of Mervyn LeRoy; the music of Miklós Rózsa; and the film's clever marketing tie-ins. This is a very thoughtful, well-produced examination of a very important historical film of Rome, this documentary will appeal to both fans of ‘QUO VADIS' and those interested in the art and influence of motion pictures. Contributors include Dr. Maria Wyke [University College London]; David Franzoni [Writer/Producer]; F.X. Feeney [Critic/Filmmaker]; Dr. Drew Casper [USC School of Cinematic Arts]; Sir Christopher Frayling [Royal College of Art, London], Patricia King Hanson [American Film Institute]; Richard Schickel [Film Critic/Historian; Dr. Richard B. Jewell [USC School of Cinematic Arts]; Harrison Ellenshaw; Rudy Behlmer [Motion Picture Historian]; Dore Schary (archive footage); Gary Smith [Author] and Miklós Rózsa [Composer].

Theatrical Trailer [1951] [480i] [1.33:1] [5:10] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘QUO VADIS.’ For some unknown reason that for 22 seconds it is totally silent. But despite this, it is a brilliant presentation.

Teaser Trailer [1951] [480i] [1.33:1] [1:00] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘QUO VADIS.’ You also get a teaser focus on the film's epic proportions, and both use the hyperbolic LIFE Magazine quote that ‘QUO VADIS' is "the most genuinely colossal movie you are likely to see for the rest of your lives." Despite a very short presentation, it still makes you want to view this film.

Finally, ‘QUO VADIS' is a totally lavish spectacular film which has no shame in being outrageously lavish, as the various scenes of Christians in the amphitheatre testify; make time in your schedule to settle down with it. ‘QUO VADIS' is the absolute best Roman epic ever made. The decor, costumes, and art direction certainly have not been matched by anything that followed, including ‘Spartacus,’ ‘Ben Hur’ and ‘Gladiator.’ ‘QUO VADIS' is an excellent colossal film that is certainly well worth your time. ‘QUO VADIS' originated and defined the modern Hollywood epic, and this marvellous Blu-ray release from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer puts the film back on its rightful pedestal. Spectacle and pageantry abound in this bold historical drama that also features thoughtful ideas and wonderful performances by a solid international cast. The breath-taking 1080p image quality brings it all to life, and a fine array of supplements enhances the experience. Fans of this Classic Hollywood genre of this film will definitely want to purchase this one, and everyone else should strongly consider taking a good, long look at ‘QUO VADIS' as they will never ever be able to produce a similar film on this scale, as it would be far too expensive, despite this, this film will stop any withdrawal symptoms, and will breathe life back into these Hollywood spectacles that were so prevalent in the 1950s era. The only thing I find mysterious, why was it not filmed in CinemScope, as it was filmed when all those other spectacular 1950s historical epic films came out at the same time. Also why couldn’t they have re-mastered the audio track in 5.1 Dolby Digital? Despite this, I am still very happy to have this in my Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
3 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 14 February 2016
An excellent blu ray transfer. Colours are rich and striking. The film boasts great sets and locations, thousands of extras and a easy to follow story. Robert Taylor stars as Marcus Vinicius the brash, self confident, handsome general who is captivated by a gentle, kind young christian woman. The story plays out against the backdrop of a corrupt, decadent pagan empire clashing with the new religion of Christianity set to replace it. The excessive pagan ceremonies, shamelessness parties and worship of their emperor is contrasted with the simplicity and heart felt nature of Christianity.
Peter Ustinov's plays Nero and is clearly having a blast playing the part as the vain, boyish, crazed leader. A brilliant performance.
The sets and locations all look stunning, as do the costumes and production design.

The Fire and destruction of Rome was one of my favourite scenes and also includes the most important character development for Marcus Vinicius as he saves hundreds of people from death. The final scenes featuring the matyrdoom of the Christians and the downfall of Nero were brilliantly directed and kept my attention right through until the end.
2 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon 10 March 2012
One of the epic genre's most reliable warhorses, with at least nine screen adaptations from the first one-reel silent version in 1901 to the 2001 Polish minseries-cum-movie, Henry Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis in many ways set the template for all the epics about the Roman Empire's persecution of Christians that would follow, from The Sign of the Cross to The Robe. As might be expected from the novel's 1895 vintage, it's more myth than history, but its twin narratives of lovers initially separated by religious differences and later by Nero's need for a scapegoat after the burning of Rome and of the court intrigues as the mad emperor plans his greatest artistic masterpiece offers something for everyone with its mixture of spectacle, cruelty, piety and perversity to get across its message that selfless love is better than selfish ambition.

MGM's initially troubled 1951 version may have got off to a false start a couple of years earlier when Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, Walter Huston and John Huston stumbled at the first hurdle when Peck developed an eye infection three days before they were supposed to leave for Rome even though an estimated million dollars had already been spent, but Mervyn Le Roy's recast completed film is still the definitive one. It might have been a couple of years too early for the wide screen, but it's perfectly placed in time between old school morality - no difficult questions asked here - and more sophisticated and lavish filmmaking than had ever been seen before. While the film has its fair share of model shots and matte paintings, the latter even managing to give the illusion of movement thanks to Peter Ellenshaw's ingenuity, its pre-CGI vintage guarantees it a genuine cast of thousands (a young Sophia Loren lost in the crowd of extras in the triumph scene among them) and massive sets with all the artistry Cinecitta's Italian technicians could give it thanks to MGM's almost blank cheque production.

The end result isn't a patch on the level of intelligence and maturity that Roman epics like Ben-Hur and Spartacus would bring to the genre less than a decade later, but it's an impressively staged and mostly entertaining big show that, like the novel, provides something for everyone. For the old school there's Robert Taylor's brash and vain conquering general's romance with Deborah Kerr's Christian hostage who constantly befuddles all his arrogant certainties, which dutifully ticks all the clichéd boxes of the genre as he finally Sees The Light and becomes a better person. Taylor's old-fashioned movie star turn is never as wince-inducing as, say, Frederic March's Marcus Superbus in The Sign of the Cross, but he's still effortlessly outmatched by Kerr's sincerity in a thankless role as the good girl with the hots for him while Finlay Currie's sermonising as Peter - complete with reverential tableaux courtesy of Da Vinci - seems more dreary professional than passionate. Much more interesting is the relationship between the cynical poet and courtier Petronius (Leo Genn) and Peter Ustinov's scene-stealing homicidal spoiled brat Nero, as the born survivor uses his wits not to improve matters for the people but to improve his own chances with a kind of bemused detachment before realising the horrifying consequences of all his flattery. Petronius and the slave who loves him (Marina Berti) even get the film's best love theme in Miklos Rozsa's impressive score. All this and Anthony Mann's fire of Rome scene making a decent stab at making the burning of Atlanta look like a backyard bonfire and all the Christians, lions and crucifixions you could want in the arena giving it that essential mixture of piety and exploitation that lets the audience enjoy the carnage and decadence of the bread and circuses as much as their Roman forebears without losing their sense of moral superiority. Nero would have approved - though he would have wanted to change the ending...

It's a handsome looking film and Warner Home Video's restoration mostly does it proud. The film's popularity over the past six decades had taken quite a toll on the original negative, with TV and video prints bleached out and undetailed, but a lot of work has gone into restoring the color and definition to make it look almost as good as it did when it came out. There are a few minor niggles here and there where a patch of green in the wrong place makes its presence felt for a couple of frames (a common problem with early Technicolor) and it's irritating that the DVD is spread over two DVDs with the scene break in the middle of a sequence, but otherwise there's little to complain about (not a problem with the single-disc Bluray, though the picture quality is not a huge upgrade from the DVD). Along with the striking teaser trailer built around a still of the triumph scene that appeared in Life Magazine and the full five-and-a-half minute trailer there's an audio commentary by F.X. Feeney and a 43-minute documentary. Unfortunately there's a real lack of behind the scenes footage, no-one involved in the making of the film participates, and none of the talking heads have researched the film in detail (Richard Schickel in particular feels like he just offered a few soundbites while being interviewed about another film, though Christopher Frayling is typically good value), but it is a decent overview of the genre and its unpopularity with critics and appeal to audiences.
One person found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 17 June 2012
I saw this in the Cinema on a later release and was fascinated by it. As reviewers on the DVD extras say, it was in many ways the biggest and best of the blockbusters with clever performances by the mainly British actors although Robert Taylor's accent does jar in contrast to those. The resources and techniques used before CGI are stunning and the cast of 10,000s extras puts it way beyond what would be attempted today. Everyone praises Peter Ustinov, and rightly so, but Leo Genn in the sardonic role is better, I think. The quality of the restoration for this DVD issue is startling and shows what could be done with Technicolour 60 years ago. More enjoyable than later Epics, including Ben Hur, because it retains some humour.
2 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 26 May 2017
Love this film, so well cast. A huge Peter Ustinov fan, he was a very good actor
2 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 9 September 2012
This was just about the first of the blockbusters epics to hit the screens. Because of its production date, 1951, it is not widescreen and fortunately no attempt has been made during the restoration process to doctor the aspect ratio. Most people who are looking at these reviews know the story and simply want to know about the quality of the Blu-ray and whether it will play on UK machines. I am happy to report that it will most definitely play on UK players and that the video and audio quality are both superb.
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 15 March 2018
Bought for a 50's-mad film buff friend's birthday who was very pleased.
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 22 November 2012
As exciting as when I watched it as a child. This remastered version is stunning to watch. I thought Robert Taylor made a perfect hero with his impressive acting showing his honesty about being a Roman Centurion making him unable to understand the Christian message. His dilemma did not prevent him rescuing the Christian woman he loved, risking his life for her but never being able to believe in Christ.
|0Comment|Report abuse
on 19 April 2018
Splendid presentation of the persecution of early Christians
|0Comment|Report abuse

Need customer service? Click here

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)