Quo Vadis? - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Quo Vadis? Reviews

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Super Reviewer
February 17, 2014
Apparently, the term "quo vadis" translates to "boring" in both Latin and English.
Super Reviewer
April 25, 2010
Enjoyable biblical epic, gargantuan in scope and eye poppingly colorful. Professionally acted by Taylor and Deborah Kerr this is stolen by the florid Peter Ustinov and Leo Genn who gives the film's best performance. Unlike many of these types of films this one while quite long at least keeps moving at a decent clip. And of course it all has that high gloss classic era MGM sheen that just can't be replicated today no matter how many computers are used.
Super Reviewer
½ May 7, 2007
Despite the swords and sandals, the core of this film is a stodgy and stiff-backed romantic melodrama combined with a preachy christian message. Peter Ustinov's Nero is fun, portraying him as an affable maniac but Robert Taylor is acting like he's reading off cue cards and as a whole, it's an overlong and crushing bore.
Super Reviewer
½ January 2, 2012
"When all this sets with the final sun, remember the look of Acte."To my understanding, "Quo Vadis" was the first big-budget Bible drama. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy (The Wizard of Oz) and boasts eight Academy nominations and two Golden Globes. It may pale to "Ben-Hur" but it has some very moving scenes--like when the Christians are led singing into the coliseum and Peter's testimony in the catacombs--and redeeming vaules such as "Do not be unequally yoked" "Love your enemies" and "Be ye faithful unto death and I shall give thee a crown of life."Robert Taylor in the leading role is somewhat irritating athough it is appropriate since Marcus Vinicius is a pompous, narrow-minded, self-absorbed centurion. His main drawback as an actor is while everyone else has a British accent, he has an American accent.The real stars are Peter Ustinov and Patricia Laffan as the evil emporer and empress. While the lions eat the Christians, they sit back and take their lunch as if they were watching a comedy--a sight not soon forgotten. The appearance of Eunice (Marina Berti) is somewhat pointless but she is helpful in providing some comic relief (such as kissing the bust of her master) in a relatively serious tale. Leo Genn, Finlay Currie, Deborah Kerr, Rosalie Crutchley etc.) deliver splendid performances that elevate the core values of the film."Ben-Hur" will always be the greatest sword-and-sandal epic but if it hadn't been for precedents like "Quo Vadis" and "The Robe" it might never have been made. Well worth your money and your time.
Super Reviewer
February 14, 2014
Another fabulous Roman epic that is really carried by the great Sir Peter Ustinov as Nero. What a tremendous performance.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
April 1, 2012
Before there was "Spartacus" and "Ben-Hur", there was... this film, whatever it is. The span between the late '50s and almost all of the '60s was pretty much that big old empire epic era of cinema, and everything before that was just barely salvaged from the sands of time, so much so that this film is among the most remembered epics of the early '50s, and yet its still rather obscure among many, probably because not a whole lot of people seem to remember the novel this is based on. They say that it was by some guy named Henryk Sienkiewicz, but I have the feeling that he ripped the idea off of an unfinished project by Shakespeare, because it was pretty much his thing to write stories about fake powerful figures from way back when or simply powerful figures that no one had heard of, which of course begs the question, were those fake historical figures really figures that were so obscure that we just forgot about them? I don't know about y'all, but Hamlet seems suspiciously probable, outside of the fact that he was talking to ghosts. Maybe there was some powerful figure somewhere in time that could talk to ghosts, and if there is, then I'm glad no one brings that up, because you know everyone was going to try and figure out some way to force that somewhere in every film adaptation of an old empire story. Hey, all these films are pretty much the same, and yet we watch them anyways, and I'll tell you why: Because they're awesome, or at least to me, the guy who liked "Alexander" and absolutely loved "Troy". So, as you can tell, I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff, so of course I like this film, yet I'm not particularly crazy about it, and for a few good reasons.

What immediately taints this film, even more so over time, is the fact that it's such a product of its time, having that kind of '50s cheese and melodrama that not only makes the film rather histrionic and conventional at points, but even contradictory to the tone of the era portrayed. It's a rare occurance, but the film will fall so deeply into its overly 1950s tone to where this recreation of early A.D. comes off as inorganic and totally false. Still, an occasional anachronistic tone is the least that you have to worry about when it comes to Mervyn LeRoy's atmosphere, because the real problem with it is that it lacks flare. There's limited oomph and consistency in the tone of the film, rendering it often unengaging and sometimes even tonally repetitive. It's not a dull film, but it is rather dry tonally, which makes almost all of the handful of tropes that most every '50s and '60s epic was guilty of falling into here and there standout and land an additional blow to the compellingness of the film. Still, in the end, the film remains consistently enjoyable - nay - just plain entertaining. It may not always kick you, but it's hard to not be with it until the end, partially thanks to the production designs that keep you coming back for more for every moment you slip from the film.

Speaking of repetition, praise for the production designs on films of this type has gotten to be pretty reduntant, yet worthy, because these films were always so very well-produced, and even this, one of the first big-production epics, was no exception. The tone may not always be faithful to the time, but the film is kept from being consistent in its tonal anachronisms by boasting authentic and sweeping production value. The art direction and production designs restore this lost world with dazzle and scope, and it's all complimented by handsome cinematography that captures both the broadest of sequences and the most intimate of sequences with subtle attractiveness. Of course, this film, surprisingly, isn't as bam-bam-bam as other epics of its type, but is, instead, more drama driven, and clocking in at 171 minutes, it better be a worthy enough story to transcend conventions. Well, sure enough, while Mervyn LeRoy's limp atmosphere setting brings some conventions to the forefront, the film hits with its writing for the most part, particularly when it come to, of all places, dialogue. Sure, the dialogue gets rather cheesy and melodramatic here and there, but on the whole, its consistently snappy and charming, marrying the graceful vocabulary of the lost era the film is set in with a down-to-earth wit that may be used improperly to supplement the anachronistic tone on occasion, but mostly, in fact, supplements the believability of this world, and the performers, or at least the ones that aren't the cheesy Deborah Kerr in the cast, certainly help. I found myself particularly impressed by Peter Ustinov, who's charismatic and layered dance between vain but charming power and dangerous, power-mad monster may not be written to be used to its fullest, but remains one of the compelling aspects about the film, which isn't to say that everyone else (Again, with exception of Kerr) doesn't bring enough charisma to the screen to keep you going through all of the disengaging moments.

In closing, you find yourself looking back through conventions and often disengaging atmospheric missteps, but power on nevertheless and come out the other end rather satisfied by the fine production and handsome photography that compliment the more sweeping moments, while mostly sharp dialogue that finds itself delivered well by a deal of fine charismas within the cast liven up the more intimate moments, thus leaving "Quo Vadis" to stand as a generally entertaining, if not rather compelling portrait on the flaws, prejudice and corruptability of great men during a time that was fragile in the way of humanity.

3/5 - Good
January 31, 2014

The 1950's and early 1960's was the period of the Biblical epic. The majority of those released have been regarded as some of the greatest films produced in that particular time, especially Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments. After Cecil B. DeMille's success of Samson and Delilah (which I intend to watch in the future), Mervyn LeRoy, known for films like Little Caesar, I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, and No Time for Sergeants, created the Biblical epic that made Hollywood crazy about the genre, Quo Vadis. The film is not based on a story in The Bible, rather it's based on a book by the same name, but Christianity plays a huge role in this movie, and it also uses Roman history to tell its story, plus the film features two of the disciples from The Bible, Peter and Paul. While the film isn't perfect, Quo Vadis is a solid and well-made epic that's definitely worth your time.

During the reign of Nero (Peter Ustinov) in the Roman Empire, Roman soldier Marcius Vinicius (Robert Taylor) develops a crush on the Christian slave woman Lygia (Deborah Kerr), so much that he wants to marry her, though he's put off by her faith in Christ. Things get more complicated when Nero, in a plot to make Rome his own image, as he believes he's an immortal god, burns down Rome, blames the Christians for it, and goes into persecution territory, feeding some to the lions and crucifying others. Marcus and Lygia have to put on the faith in order to get through the difficult times.

Quo Vadis also stars Leo Genn as Nero's aide Petronius, Patricia Laffan as the Empress, Finlay Currie as the apostle Peter, and Abraham Sofear as the apostle Paul.

The title Quo Vadis is Latin for, "Where are you going?", which refers to a pivotal scene in the film where Peter is walking away from Rome to avoid persecution where The Lord speaks to him, where Peter responds, "Quo Vadis?", to where Jesus replies, "I am going to be crucified again." This scene and others are heavy highlights on this well-made epic.

To start off, the cinematography in wonderful. Shooting it in Technicolor was a very smart decision, as it makes the film that more epic to watch. The film was shot on soundstages in Rome, and while the sets have shown their age, I appreciated how elaborate LeRoy was in making them show its epic feel. There's also some excellent action sequences in this film, such as the burning of Rome and the scenes in the arena where the Christians are fed to the lions and where Deborah Kerr is threatened to be rampaged by an angry bull. These sequences are definitely epic in its own way.

So why didn't I give this film a perfect score and get it over with? Well, a problem I had with Quo Vadis was mostly its script. There are some parts in it where is really weak, especially in some of the more romantic moments of the film, which features some cringe-inducing dialogue. A subplot between Petronius and a Spanish slave was extremely dull and honestly had no part of the film, except their final scene, which I won't give away as it was the one scene with the two that was actually good. While some of the dialogue was atrocious, in other places, the dialogue was excellent, such as Peter's speech in the arena and the speech he gives at an early church service, plus Nero's speeches.

The acting was pretty solid in this epic. Richard Taylor was fine as Marcus. The American accent can be goofy in places, as he's the only one that uses an American accent in this film, but Taylor does good at being convincing as a soldier, especially in the burning of Rome scene. Deborah Kerr is decent at best; she does fine at what her character is, a Christian with strong religious faith, but her romantic scenes with Taylor are lacking in passion, with extremely poor dialogue. Leo Genn is good as Pettronius, though his romantic scenes with his lover are even more dull than Taylor and Kerr's. Though his "final insult" to Nero towards the end of the film is one of the most brilliant scenes in the whole movie. Finlay Currie is excellent as Peter, and does what the character should do. He provides three of the strongest scenes in the movie, the sermon, his speech in the arena, and his encounter with Christ outside of Rome. Abraham Sofaer is convincing as the apostle Paul. But the scene-stealer here is definitely Peter Ustinov as Nero. When are first introduced to him, we see him as a depressed and spoiled ruler. But as the film progresses, he becomes the ruthless, psychotic, and purely evil ruler that we have all read about in the history books. Peter Ustinov plays Nero brilliantly, and it's one of his strongest roles. I love his reaction to the final insult mentioned earlier. So awesome!

No epic is essential without a film score, and Quo Vadis is no exception. The score here is provided by Miklós Rózsa, who would later score the religious epic Ben-Hur. Like in Ben-Hur, Rozsa's score is wonderfully created. What he succeeds the most is the use of popular instruments in the day to make it sound more authentic. His idea pays off well, and the score is definitely a highlight in the film. You can see why Rozsa got the job of scoring Ben-Hur after watching this movie. Rosza is one of the more underrated composers in the business, and this and Ben-Hur were some of the most epic scores back in its time.

The script is definitely weak in places, as it hurts some of the romantic moments in the film, but in the end, Quo Vadis is a solid religious epic, with excellent cinematography, good direction from Mervyn LeRoy, and some good performances, with Peter Ustinov being the most memorable. If this film was never made, I don't think more superior Biblical epics, like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, would have been made.
March 26, 2008
Another one of those Christianity overcoming the Roman Empire flicks, made just as America was becoming the new Rome, only without the awesomeness. The bad acting from Robert Taylor, and his early lines about the joy of slaves girls and killing, make it funny sometimes.
November 19, 2010
About as accurate as hollywood typically isnt but they sure do capture the idea that Nero was a crazy ... crazy dude. Read the book.
March 30, 2010
Don't say you love epic movie if you never see this version of Quo Vadis. It's the movie that started all Hollywood's epic movies, even before The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. The techniques and the colors may not look much compared to the modern epic, but one can't and shouldn't forget the root, right?

The thing that I love the most about "old school" epic movies, there wasn't any computer to help anyone to reached that epic scale, so even the production process itself was EPIC.

I will not put any summary on this review. Many already done it before me and most of them are great in summarizing this epic into few paragraphs.

Recommended to: any epic movie lover (surprise, surprise), history movie buff, tragedy enjoyer, religious watcher, love story addict, conspiracy theorist, failed artist (just watch Nero's part), and ALL movie lover in general.
March 28, 2010
A top notch general in Rome's army comes home to a post-Christ turmoil. Vinicius is a Roman loyalist. But he falls in love with a Christian girl who rejects his advances, as he only sees women as property. To drive that point home further, he does some political maneuvering to get Lygia into his home as a slave. Christians help her escape and she admits her love of Vinicius, but he can't respect or try to understand this Jesus fellow she keeps going on about.

When playing these roles, Robert Taylor orates as if he's on a coliseum stage. He comes off really stiff, a step above Joe Friday or Gerard Butler. Deborah Kerr is beautiful, but her character doesn't have enough to do. She should have been written with a greater sense of independence or female equality.

But this relationship is only part of the story. The most interesting sub-plot of this epic comes while watching Peter Ustinov play Rome's last emperor. A bat-shit insane man-child. He fancies himself a god and the supreme artist. He is quite fantastic. I would actually prefer Peter had gotten the Oscar instead of Karl Malden.

As biblical epics go, this was really great. The technicolor direction, the burning of Rome, the feeding of the Christians to lions. It was all exciting enough to make you lose track of the 3 hours that you're spending. There are over 100 speaking roles, 100 lions and 30,000 extras. It was a great spectacle.
February 24, 2008
I can't help but watch this movie with an ironic modern eye--chuckling at all the Hollywood excess that was meant to be serious art at the time. Corny as hell, with lines that make you groan ("Is it true the new empress was once a harlot?" "You must know that a woman's past is of no consequence when she mates with a god!"). But that's why it's more fun to watch than other religious Roman epics. Whatever it is, it's never boring.
½ March 22, 2016
"Quo Vadis" es un espectáculo colosal como solo se podía realizar en la época dorada de Hollywood. Producida por los estudios MGM y dirigida por Mervyn LeRoy ("Little Caesar"), este épico inicio toda una saga de grandes producciones de corte religioso en la década de los 50 y sigue siendo una de las más impresionantes. La adaptación de la famosa novela de Henryk Sienkiewicz, cuenta la historia de Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor), un soldado romano, que al enamorarse de Lygia (Deborah Kerr) conoce la fe cristiana. Pese a la gran cantidad de extras, los escenarios deslumbrantes y al manejo preciso del director, el show se lo roba Peter Ustinov, quien interpreta de manera amanerada, perversa y deliciosa al emperador romano Nerón.
½ November 4, 2015
the most colossal ever, POS
January 11, 2015
A very enjoyable movie to watch excellent cast,locations,beautiful horses.
½ December 15, 2014
Aside from the religious preachiness in the movie, this film is the next best thing to "Ben-Hur." The acting was very well executed, particularly Peter Ustinov as Emperor Nero, and the special effects and costumes were superb. Very entertaining and I highly recommend it!
July 29, 2014
Robert Taylor stars in this Oscar nominated movie, as the Roman commander who falls in love with slave Deborah Kerr and wants to save her, from the dastardly Peter Ustinov as the very evil Nero, who hates Christianity.
Also starring Leo Genn as Petronius.
But this film remains an epic classic made in Technicolor.
Super Reviewer
February 17, 2014
Apparently, the term "quo vadis" translates to "boring" in both Latin and English.
January 19, 2013
good sword n sandal epic that takes certain liberties with history
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