Quo Vadis

This $18 million blockbuster—reportedly the most expensive movie ever made in Poland—premiered in 2001 at the Vatican for 6,000 spectators, including Pope John Paul II, though it's much racier and gorier than anything Cecil B. De Mille did in the 50s, with bare-breasted dancers, severed body parts when the Christians are thrown to the lions (occasioning some lively editing), and plenty more. The fifth or sixth adaptation of Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel—the first was in 1902—it's not the longest, despite a running time of 170 minutes. It stacks up pretty well alongside the MGM version directed by Mervyn LeRoy in 1951, though Peter Ustinov's Nero beats Michal Bajor's. The director, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, is one of the most prestigious in Polish cinema, best known for such 60s features as Mother Joan of the Angels and Pharaoh. In Polish with subtitles.

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