Quo Vadis – 1951 – English
History film directed in 1951 by Mervyn LeRoy and Anthony Mann, and starring Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov, Leo Genn, Patricia Laffan, Finlay Currie, Abraham Sofaer, Buddy Baer, Marina Berti, Felix Aylmer, Nora Swinburne, Ralph Truman, Norman Wooland, Peter Miles, Nicholas Hannen, Geoffrey Dunn, John Ruddock, Elspeth March, Strelsa Brown, Alfredo Varelli, Adrienne Corri, Sophia Loren, Bud Spencer, Elizabeth Taylor…
Synopsis: Returning to Rome after three years in the field, General Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) meets Lygia (Deborah Kerr) and falls in love with her, though as a Christian, she wants nothing to do with a warrior. Though she grew up Roman, the adopted daughter of a retired General, Lygia is technically a hostage of Rome. Marcus gets Emperor Nero (Sir Peter Ustinov) to give her to him for services rendered, but finds himself succumbing gradually to her Christian faith.
Review: I first saw this film as a re-run in 1964–on the big screen. Much is lost, I think, when viewing it on television. Peter Ustinov’s portrayal of the emperor Nero raises the bar for anyone else who is ever cast as an unbalanced and corrupt Roman emperor. Certainly, we don’t see this style or quality of acting in newer films such as “Gladiator.” I focus on the “Nero” character more than others because Ustinov was truly able to get inside the role, and appeared to stay very focused. Robert Taylor was fine in the movie, but his role could have been handled by nearly any leading man of the time. Ditto for Deborah Kerr. The remaining cast was very, very good. The set designs and costumes were sheer artistry and the score was effective and complimentary. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in spectacles and studying fine acting techniques (i.e., Ustinov’s).