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Quo Vadis (DVD Review)

2 Nov, 2008 By: Craig Modderno

Quo Vadis

Street 11/11/08
$20.97 two-DVD set
Not rated.
Stars Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Gunn, Peter Ustinov.

It might be more enjoyable to watch the excellent original documentary Quo Vadis and the Genesis of the Biblical Epic before seeing the lengthy film.

Aided by several articulate and intelligent movie historians, the documentary tells in part how 1951’s Quo Vadis was designed to lure people away from the impending enemy of the film industry — television.

One of the main interesting bits of information the documentary reveals is that John Huston was going to direct Gregory Peck and Elizabeth Taylor as the two leads until his Moby Dick star fell ill.

Instead Mervyn LeRoy directed Robert Taylor and sexy newcomer Deborah Kerr in the biblical epic that pre-dated MGM’s classic biblical multi-Academy Award winner Ben Hur, starring Charlton Heston, by eight years.

One of the documentary experts candidly implies that the recent box office success of 300 inspired this glossy two-disc presentation, which includes the original musical overture.

Film critic F.X. Feeney offers insightful commentary for Quo Vadis, which is the third version of the Roman Empire story of power and religious faith to come to the big screen. Quo Vadis was filmed in Rome, showcasing a cast of thousands (literally) and impressive special effects decades before CGI was a cinematic partner in Hollywood.

What stands the test of time beyond the dramatic score and the film’s scope is Peter Ustinov’s performance as the legendary Nero. Ustinov captures the method behind the emperor’s madness, his inability to handle the adulation of his trusting people and conveys a distance and lack of concern for the citizens he represents.

Thank heaven the days of those kind of politicians are long gone.

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