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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Quo Vadis”

(Warner Brothers/MGM. 1951/2009. 1 disc. 2 hours, 54 minutes. Color. Not rated. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy.) Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Genn, Peter Ustinov. Music by Miklos Rozsa.

The spiritual (no pun intended) predecessor to the Biblical epics of the 1950s, and nominated for 8 Academy Awards, Quo Vadis tells the story of the love between a Roman soldier (Taylor) and a Christian slave (Kerr) living under the oppressive thumb of maniacal despot Nero (Ustinov). “Quo vadis?” is Latin for “Where are you going?” According to a Christian legend, asked of Jesus Christ by Saint Peter as he was fleeing Rome. The cast performs admirably, but Ustinov and Genn shine. Nero seems merely quirky at the beginning, but Ustinov slowly teases out Nero’s madness and brings him to a full boil by the end. Genn’s silver-tongued Petronus is fascinating, mentally nimble and a raucous wit. A lush soundtrack by Rozsa is suitably epic, and hints at the grandeur of his later work.

The sheer visual scope of the film is quite impressive, especially given the relative technologies available and the daunting number of people involved. Quo was fairly topical for its time, with many parallels between the subject matter and the events of World War II, some obvious (religious persecution of the Christians), and others a bit more subtle (Nero as a failed artist-turned-dictator who wants to cleanse the world with fire). The film is given a very classy presentation, and the remastering for Blu-Ray is beautiful, featuring vivid colors and a very sharp picture, though the 4:3 aspect ratio of the original work leads to unavoidable black bars on the sides of HDTV screens. Some of the seams become apparent at this higher resolution, but it doesn’t diminish the technical mastery at work. A commentary track by critic/historian F.X. Feeney, theatrical trailers and a very interesting documentary round out the package. A well-preserved piece of cinematic history.

Jared Counts

Jared Counts

Digital Technology Manager

A UH alum, Jared Counts was hired part-time at KUHF Radio in early 2003, bouncing between departments until being hired full-time as a web developer in February 2007. He currently manages the front- and back-end of this website (including the WordPress plugin that runs this staff directory), as well as...

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