Quo Vadis (1913 film)

Quo Vadis is an Italian film directed by Enrico Guazzoni for Cines in 1913, based on the 1896 novel of the same name written by Henryk Sienkiewicz. It was one of the first blockbusters in the history of cinema,[3] with 5,000 extras, lavish sets, and a lengthy running time of two hours, setting the standard for "superspectacles" for decades to come.

Quo Vadis
Poster for Quo Vadis (1913 silent film).jpg
Film poster
Directed byEnrico Guazzoni
Written byEnrico Guazzoni
Based onQuo Vadis
by Henryk Sienkiewicz
StarringAmleto Novelli
Gustavo Serena
Carlo Cattaneo
Amelia Cattaneo
Lea Giunchi
Bruto Castellani
Augusto Mastripietri
Cesare Moltini
Olga Brandini
Ignazio Lupi
Giovanni Gizzi
Lia Orlandini
Matilde Guillaume
Ida Carloni Talli
CinematographyEugenio Bava
Alessandro Bona
Distributed byGeorge Kleine (U.S.)
Release date
  • March 1913 (1913-03)
Running time
120 minutes
Poster showing Lygia bound to the bull

A worldwide success, it premiered in Germany at the opening night of the Ufa-Pavillon am Nollendorfplatz (Berlin's first purpose-built, free-standing cinema), on 19 March 1913. In an unusual departure from normal cinematic practice, the crowd scenes were reinforced with "special mobs" of live costumed actors in the auditorium.[4][6]

Quo Vadis was the first film to be projected in the Astor Theatre, a first-class theater on Broadway, where it was screened for nine months from April to December 1913. The film's first screening in London was for King George V, in the Royal Albert Hall, who complimented the performers.


The story is set during the latter years of the reign of the emperor Nero. Marcus Vinicius, one of Nero's military officers, falls in love with a young Christian hostage named Lygia. But their love is hindered by Nero, who has his soldiers burn Rome and pins the blame on the Christians. Nero launches a cruel persecution of the religious sect, who are sentenced to death in the Circus. Among the victims is Lygia. She is tied to the back of a bull in imitation of Europa. But her life is saved by her bodyguard Ursus, who wrestles the bull to death.


Tinted still from an American advertisement

Other versionsEdit

Removal from U.S. distributionEdit

When the 1924 version was issued, to prevent theatres from showing the 1913 film in competition, the Unione Cinematographica Italiana purchased all rights to the performance of 1913 film in the United States and Australia, including the existing inventory of film prints, stills, posters, and glass slides, from George Kleine, who had obtained the U.S. rights back in 1913.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Patrick Lucanio (1994). With fire and sword: Italian spectacles on American screens, 1958–1968. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810828162.
  2. ^ Riccardo Redi (2009). La Cines: storia di una casa di produzione italian. Persiani Editore, 2009. ISBN 9788896013045.
  3. ^ Hall, Sheldon; Neale, Steve (2010). Epics, Spectacles and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History. Wayne State University Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-8143-3008-1.
  4. ^ "Berlin crazy on film shows". New York Times. (Free PDF). 23 March 1913. p. 4c?.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ Lichtbild-Bühne, Nr. 26, 16 May 1914 (in German) at filmportal.de
  6. ^ This practice seems to have begun with The Miracle, the world's first full-colour feature-length film which opened in London in December 1912 and in New York in April 1913. The US rights were owned by Al. Woods, an international theatre impresario who was also involved in the building of the Nollendorf Theatre in Berlin. The Miracle, with similar crowds of live costumed actors in the auditorium, opened in another Berlin cinema originally leased by Woods, the Ufa-Palast am Zoo, in May 1914.[5]
  7. ^ "Protect Exhibitors on Showing First National's Quo Vadis". The Moving Picture World. New York City: Chalmers Publishing Co. 72 (5): 494. 31 January 1925. Retrieved 14 August 2021.


  • The Peplum in the days of silent cinema, 1, ch. of "Cinema Peplum" Dominic Cammarota, "Future essays" n. 14, and. Fanucci, '87, p. 15th
  • The Dictionary of film Mereghetti-2002-cards, ed. Baldini & Castoldi, 2001, p. 1711.

External linksEdit