Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) has served an extensive campaign as a Roman soldier, but now he has returned home to take a respite from the tolls of battle. He is drawn to the fairer sex right off, of course, with a beautiful woman named Lygia (Deborah Kerr), but there is more to her than he expects. She is a devout believer in the teachings of Jesus Christ, which Marcus doesn’t hold true himself, but he still finds her attractive. At the same time, she is drawn to him, but his lifestyle choices conflict with her beliefs, which causes some problems. Meanwhile, Emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov) is driven to insane levels of decadence and with a taste for the blood of Christians, he sets loose a most wicked plan. As Marcus finds himself torn between sides, what will become of his doomed romance and of Lygia herself?
Quo Vadis isn’t held in the same regard as the upper tier period epics, but it deserves a fair share of the spotlight. If nothing else, attention is warranted for the film’s lush period production values. The costumes, set pieces, and general atmosphere are superb, creating a world we can be pulled inside of. A lot of movies are good, but lack that realism within the environment, but Quo Vadis has that in spades. As with any good epic, the grand spectacle scenes also deliver. The sheer scale and attention to detail within those set pieces is a wonder to behold. On the down side, some of the performances lack and the film’s script fails to capture the magic of the book. Even so, there is so much to enjoy in Quo Vadis, it is hard to complain. And with this Blu-ray edition, there is no reason not to seek it out, whether a first timer or an established fan.
Video: How does it look?
Quo Vadis is presented in full frame, as intended. This is a perfect example of how much older films, even full frame ones, can benefit from high definition. The print has been restored, which yields a clean and sharp visual source. Some flaws remain, but the image is quite impressive and retains a film-like presence. I was dazzled by the colors here, the Technicolor hues really come to life, but never seem unnatural. The colors are vivid and bold, with depth that is simply remarkable. The overall detail is strong, but some softness does creep in at times. But when you compare this to even the previous DVD release, this visual presentation stands out as a huge step up.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original mono soundtrack is here, but that’s all, no lossless option is provided. While that is a let down for some, this mono track sounds more than passable. As expected, range is limited, but this still sounds clean and clear. Some age related issues crop up, but nothing too serious. The dialogue is fine, music is thin but reasonable, and overall, this is a decent soundtrack. This disc also includes Italian, French, Spanish, and German language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish. Wow.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The same extras from the DVD return, starting off with film historian F.X. Feeney’s audio comments. This is a decent track that was obviously well researched. Feeney reads from the stars’ memoirs, provides historical accuracy information, and relays a lot of second hand knowledge of the production. The downside is that he runs out of gas about two thirds of the way through, but given the film’s length, that is reasonable. In the Beginning is an over forty minute documentary that explores both the production and the cultural influence of the subject matter. This is a solid piece, much better than the usual fluff stuff we find on most discs. Not the best I’ve seen, but worthwhile. This disc also includes two of the film’s theatrical trailers.