1 May 2009 | jpdoherty
"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!!