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Robert Taylor plays Marcus Vinicius, commander of Rome's 14th Legion and in love with Lygia (Deborah Kerr), a member of the Christian sect accused of undermining Roman values. Peter Ustinov, wrapped in purple-robed petulance, is the all-powerful Nero. The destinies of these three and of the Empire play out in a tale whose visual highlights include the parade of triumphant legions, the burning of Rome and the martyrdom of Christmas before cheering, bread-and-circus throngs.
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I highly recommend this to any film buff who enjoys the spledor and epic vastness of this movie and it doesn't one bit of CGI in it as that wasn't invented yet!
There are really only 3 things I wish were different on the movie:
1. Mainly, Marcus Vinicius's conversion is rather humanistic. He prays to Christ near the end for help, and recognizes that Christians know how to die bravely and that Christianity brings peace and stability to the world through its message of love for one's enemies, but there is no indication of a special personal yielding to God. The audiocommentary talked about John Huston's (who was going to be the director, and who actually had no use for religion) idea of Marcus's conversion, which I think I'd have liked better: As he's trying to rescue Lygia from the fire in Rome, he makes a promise to God to become a Christian if He spares Lygia and gains understanding of the faith after he's rescued her.
2. Finlay Currie as the Apostle Peter definitely has the passion and holy aura, especially with his long white beard, but he did seem unrealistic because of his Scottish accent. At the same time, it's not supposed to be entirely authentic, and part of the appeal of a movie that takes place long ago is that you feel like you're entering another world, which is enjoyable whether it's realistic or not.
3. Marcus's uncle Petronius (who really was in Nero's court and lost favor) commits suicide and justifies himself by noting the Christians say death leads to a better life, and I think there should have been some kind of a condemnation of his suicide subtly presented in the movie. Movies send moral messages, and I wish Petronius had not been shown so favorably all the way through, because then his suicide would not elicit a sympathetic reaction from the viewer. I was hoping there could be an obvious contrast between his choice of suicide and the Christians' choice of martyrdom that would show martyrdom, the more painful kind of death, as being preferable because God is honored by that and not by suicide. Even a line or two of dialogue about that from one of the main characters (like Marcus, Petronius's nephew) after they'd hear of Petronius's death would have been satisfactory.
However, to most viewers, having a strongly Christian statement is not as important as it is to me, and I found absolutely nothing offensive about Quo Vadis; I just wish it had gone farther in its affirmation of Christianity. Aside from that minor disappointment, I enjoyed the movie very much and enjoyed the special features equally well, and even though Nero is deranged, you can't help but enjoy him because Peter Ustinov is such a comedic actor! I thought the acting on the movie was really exemplary.
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I do not remember ever seeing this movie so clearly presented. What a nice quality DVD.