Tale of the Martyrs
Release Date: December 25, 1951
Starring: Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr,
Peter Ustinov, Leo Genn,
Audience: Older children to adults
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 171 minutes
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Executive Producer: OVIEGUIDE **
Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Writer: John Lee Mahin, S.N. Berhman,
Address Comments To:Not applicable.
It’s the story of the Christian martyrs in Rome contrasting gross pagan excess with Christian love and compassion. It deserves a Plus Four Acceptability for its profound Christian message but slight caution should be applied to young children because even tastefully done images of martyrdom can cause young children anxiety.
Just imagine a major studio today opening a movie with this voice over:
“This is the Apian Way, the most famous road that leads to Rome, as all roads lead to Rome. On this road, marched your conquering legions. Imperial Rome is the center of the empire the undisputed master of the world, but with this power inevitably comes corruption. No man is sure of his life. The individual is at the mercy of the state and murder replaces justice. Rulers of conquered nations surrender their helpless subjects to bondage. High and low alike become Roman slaves, Roman hostages. There is no escape from the whip and the sword. That any force on earth can shake the foundations of this pyramid of power and corruption, of human misery and slavery seems inconceivable, but thirty years before this day, a miracle occurred. On a Roman cross in Judea, a man died to make men free. . . to spread the gospel of love and redemption. Soon that humble cross is to replace the proud eagles that now top the victorious Roman standards. This is the story of that immortal conflict.”
On that road, General Marcus Viniculus (Robert Taylor) returns to Rome after conquests in Britain. Emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov) has him camp his troops outside the city and wait for a spectacular entry to provide the proper conquering hero victory procession for the entertainment of the Roman citizens.
Marcus is instructed to wait in the home of retired General Plautius, whose whole household is Christian, including Lygia (Deborah Kerr), a hostage the general adopted as his own daughter. Marcus mistakes Lygia as a slave. His bold advances show a very low regard for women. Marcus is frustrated and puzzled that Lygia is not thrilled by such an important general as himself showing interest in her. Her Christian values don’t fit his pagan concept of male/female relations.
Marcus’ victories are celebrated with a massive spectacle. Because all hostages are at the mercy of the Emperor’s wishes, Nero rewards Marcus with the gift he desired, Lygia.
Feminists who consider Christian’s attitudes about marriage to be a form of bondage should see this movie. The Romans treated women like sex objects for sale, while Christians considered women partners in having and raising a family. Nero had his wife and his mother murdered.
Peter Ustinov’s Nero is a truly disturbing character. Like Hitler he justified the senseless killing of thousands in pursuit of his own warped sense of greatness. His decision to burn Rome, so he could rebuild it as he wished, was horrific enough. He then blamed it on Christians and made a spectacle of feeding them to lions and burning them on crosses before a Coliseum full of spectators.
As Nero becomes more and more crazed, Marcus begins to see the purity of Lygia’s Christian faith and values. Also, the words of Paul and Peter ring out with moral and spiritual clarity. He decides to take a stand, but Nero sentences him and Lygia to death in the Coliseum. Only a miracle can save them.
QUO VADIS ends with Marcus in conversation:
Marcus: “Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome. . . what follows?”
Another Roman: “A more permanent world, with a more permanent faith, I hope.”
Marcus: “One is not possible without the other.”
As the characters leave the scene, a voice-over says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
QUO VADIS is one of the great cinema epics. It paved the way for later biblical movies like THE ROBE, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and BEN-HUR, which built on its success.
The movie was released just six years after Hitler died in his Berlin bunker. The message of the movie is that Christianity is the ultimate cure for tyranny. Christianity is the foundation on which freedom rests. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship can’t be sustained in cultures that don’t respect the right of individuals to accept or deny faith in God.
QUO VADIS was made at a time when the United States was the world’s beacon of civilization. Europe lay in ruins and only Americans had the intimidating atomic bomb, but, rather than behave like conquerors, Americans were busy helping rebuild even the enemies they had vanquished. QUO VADIS explains why. It’s a must-see movie.
QUO VADIS is one of the great cinema epics. It paved the way for later biblical epics like THE ROBE, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and BEN-HUR. Released six years after Hitler died in his bunker, the movie shows that Christianity is the ultimate cure for tyranny. Liberty can’t be sustained in cultures that don’t respect the right of individuals to accept or deny faith in God. After World War II, rather than behave like conquerors, America helped rebuild even the enemies it vanquished. QUO VADIS shows why. It’s a must-see movie.