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Set in Rome during the early days of Christianity, QUO VADIS ($30) is old Hollywood style entertainment on a grand scale, and a film that features a tremendously talented cast, which includes Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Genn (Oscar Nominee), Finlay Currie and Peter Ustinov (Oscar Nominee). Sure QUO VADIS may have been filmed in Rome, but the tremendous sets, thousands of extras, the Oscar Nominated Technicolor cinematography by Robert Surtees and the superior MGM production values cements the film’s place as a great Hollywood religious epic.

In QUO VADIS, Taylor portrays heroic Roman military commander, Marcus Vinicius, who returns to a corrupt Rome, which has fallen under the reign of the mad Emperor Nero (Ustinov). While close to the seat of power, Marcus falls in love with a devout Christian named Lygia (Deborah Kerr). After burning Rome to suit his whim, the cowardly Nero places blame for the conflagration squarely on the shoulders of the Christians, which places Marcus in opposition to his Emperor. As Christians are fed to the lions, Marcus finds faith and Nero’s reign begins hurtling towards its end. The cast of QUO VADIS also features Patricia Laffan, Abraham Sofaer, Marina Berti, Buddy Baer, Felix Aylmer, Nora Swinburne, Ralph Truman, Norman Wooland and Peter Miles.

Warner Home Video has made QUO VADIS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation greatly improves upon the standard definition DVD release, which had been minted from an Ultra-Resolution Digital Transfer, but hi-def does enhance some of the flaws that were present. Despite the work done on the Ultra-Resolution transfer, registration issues still crop up in a few places, which causes color fringing in various shots. For the most part, image sharpness and detail appear genuinely excellent in close-ups. Medium and long shots, while not as detailed, still come across quite well in high definition. Shots with optical effects are a little soft and some of the effects are more obvious as a result of being able to scrutinize them at a higher resolution. Colors are more vibrant here than they were in SD, and many sequences are rendered at a level of saturation of Technicolor intensity. Like the DVD release, some of the hues appear a bit off, particularly the Technicolor reds, which appear more orange than crimson. Blacks are solid, white are usually stable. Shadow detail is respectable. Blemishes are few and grain appears quite mild.

QUO VADIS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a surprisingly capable Dolby Digital monaural 192kbps soundtrack, which is identical to what was contained on the DVD. Most traces of background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process. Sure, fidelity is limited by the recording technology available at the time, but the sound is effective. Miklós Rózsa’s Oscar Nominated score sounds quite good with amplification applied, and remains free from noticeable distortions. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and always maintains full intelligibility. French, Spanish, German and Italian Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been duplicated from the DVD release. The primary supplement is a running Audio Commentary with critic / film historian F.X. Feeney. A forty-five minute retrospective Documentary entitled In The Beginning: Quo Vadis And The Genesis Of The Biblical Epic is also provided. The documentary features interviews with numerous film critics and historians who look back on the significance of QUO VADIS.

QUO VADIS is a great old time Hollywood religious epic that makes the transition to high definition quite well. Like the DVD release, the presentation isn’t perfect, but it should please movie buffs. Recommended.



Quo Vadis [Blu-ray] (1951)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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