Tag Archives: blogathon

Announcing the 5th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon


Now I know normally my Remembering James Horner Blogathon is held each June, but with everything going on with the pandemic it clean slipped my mind this spring to get the blogathon set up. So, while it is a few months late, I’m pleased to announce the 5th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon will be held from August 21-August 23 2020.

I established this blogathon to honor the memory of composer James Horner, who tragically died in a plane crash in 2015. Participation is simple: Choose one of Horner’s film scores and talk about why you like it or what makes it special for you. It doesn’t have to be a detailed analysis (unless you want to go that direction), you don’t even have to talk about the entire score if you don’t want to.

For examples of blogathon entries from years past, I’ve included links to recaps of the past blogathons below.

The 4th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon-Recap!

3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Full Recap

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Recap!

Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Recap

If you’re not sure which film to choose, here is a link to James Horner’s filmography: James Horner Filmography

You can sign up for the blogathon by filling out the sign up page below. I need the name of your blog, your blog’s URL and the name of the film you’re going to cover. Each film can only be selected twice to avoid too many duplicates. Let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to reading your posts.

(note, there will be a slight delay between when you input your responses and when they show up in the spreadsheet).

Announcing the 4th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon


Unbelievably, it is time once again to announce the 4th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon which will be held from June 21-23 2019. I established this blogathon to honor the memory of composer James Horner, who tragically died in a plane crash in 2015. Participation is simple: Choose one of Horner’s film scores and talk about why you like it or what makes it special for you. It doesn’t have to be a detailed analysis (unless you want to go that direction), you don’t even have to talk about the entire score if you don’t want to.

For examples of blogathon entries from years past, I’ve included links to recaps of the past blogathons below.

3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Full Recap

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Recap!

Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Recap

If you’re not sure which film to choose, here is a link to James Horner’s filmography: James Horner Filmography

You can sign up for the blogathon by filling out the sign up page below. I need the name of your blog, your blog’s URL and the name of the film you’re going to cover. Each film can only be selected twice to avoid too many duplicates. Let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to reading your posts in June!

Remembering James Horner: Troy (2004)

trojan-horse troy the movie

Troy is a 2004 epic film that is a (greatly abbreviated) adaptation of the Illiad (which tells the story of the Trojan War). The film features a star-studded cast:

  • Brad Pitt: Achilles
  • Sean Bean: Odysseus
  • Brian Cox: Agamemnon
  • Peter O’Toole: King Priam
  • Eric Bana: Hector
  • Orlando Bloom: Paris
  • Diane Kruger: Helen

While not perfect, Troy is a good film with a remarkable score by James Horner. The music is even more remarkable when you consider that Horner put it together in the space of four weeks after Gabriel Yared’s score for the film was rejected.

For the score, Horner employed singer Tanja Carovska (who had also provided vocals for Yared’s rejected score) as well as using Eastern Mediterranean music and brass instruments to create a feeling of ancient Greece.

Troy Movie

Horner created several motifs throughout the score, a few of which I’d like to point out:

-The Greeks: The theme for the Greek army really emerges in full when they approach Troy in their thousand ships. It’s distinguished by a driving trumpet theme, highlighting the relentlessness of the Greek soldiers led by the egomaniacal Agamemnon. Most tellingly, it also re-emerges (briefly) just before the Trojan Horse is revealed onscreen for the first time, a musical hint that there are Greeks hidden inside.

The Greeks arrive at Troy

-Achilles: The theme for the legendary hero is also based on brass instruments, but it has a nobler tone than the theme assigned to the Greeks. Most notable appearance would have to be when Achilles storms the beach leading the Myrmidons. There’s also a reprise when Achilles heads off to find Briseis during the sacking of Troy.


Achilles on the beach (theme starts when Achilles jumps off the ship)

-Achilles and Briseis: The love motif for Achilles and Briseis (a Trojan princess turned priestess turned captive) forms the basis of the end credits song “Remember” as performed by Josh Groban. No matter what Achilles claims, I think throughout the story he remembers what his mother said, that if he goes to Troy he will never come home. So his love for Briseis is tempered by this knowledge, that’s why the theme is relatively sad for a love theme. A good example of hearing this theme is at the end right before Achilles dies and he tells Briseis to leave with Paris.

Troy “The Trojan Horse”

-The Trojan Horse: I’ve covered the music for the Trojan Horse in depth before, but I have to talk about it again because it really is my favorite musical moment in the film. Even if you’re not familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse, the sheer ominousness of the music tells you that there’s something fishy with this horse. But of course no one listens to Paris’ suggestion to just burn the horse where it stands (the one time he makes a good decision in the entire film) and the horse is brought into the city. The music is triumphant and tragic all at once, because the Trojans think they’ve won but in fact they’re doomed.

Horner’s score for Troy remains one of my favorites and I highly recommend it to any fans of James Horner’s music. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone for three years already, but as long as we keep listening to his music, he’ll never really be forgotten.

This is my contribution to the Remembering James Horner Blogathon, hope you enjoy it.

See also:

3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Day 1

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3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Full Recap

It’s finally time for the 3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon. Each day I’ll be posting a recap of what everyone’s submitted for the blogathon 🙂 I can’t wait to read all of your posts as well as add my own this weekend 🙂 Thanks again for taking part in this blogathon, have fun!

Reelweegiemidget Reviews looks at: The Hand (1981)

Plain, Simple Tom takes us to old California and examines: The Mask of Zorro (1998)

MovieRob looks at a golfing legend with: Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (2004)

My submission this year looks at James Horner’s score for: Troy (2004)

MovieRob looks at Disney’s underrated film: The Rocketeer (1991)

MovieRob looks at one of my favorites: Casper (1995)

Kim @ Tranquil Dreams looks at one of Horner’s final pieces: The 33 (2015)

Cinematic Catharsis looks at an early piece with: Krull (1983)


You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Recap!

It’s finally here, the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon is here! Even before I woke up this morning day 1 is off to a good start with two amazing entries already. As I see new entries come up, I will add them to this list below. Enjoy!!

Day 1

Plain, Simple Tom Reviews: The Land Before Time (1988)

Movierob: The Pelican Brief (1993)

Listening to Film: “Nautical but Nice”: James Horner and the Music for Wrath of Khan

Listening to Film: “The Underappreciated” (Star Trek III)

Reelweegiemidget: Willow (1988)

Day 2

Sean Munger: Postmodern patriotism: Howard’s “Apollo 13” as history and mythology

MovieRob: Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Day 3

MovieRob: The Karate Kid (2010)

The magic of James Horner: Casper (1995)

Christina Wehner: Sneakers (1992)

Listening to Film: The Rocketeer (1991)

Tranquil Dreams: The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

Old School Evil: The Land Before Time (1988)

Thank you to everyone who participated!

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Keep Watching the Skies Blogathon: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

*This post is part of the Keep Watching the Skies Blogathon hosted by The Cinematic Frontier

When I think of “classic” science fiction cinema, I inevitably think of two films: Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), though regarding the latter, it took me a long time to remember what the film was called. It kept turning out that every time the film was on Turner Classic Movies, I would end up catching it in the middle. So for a while it would be “that movie with Gort in it.” Of course now I know that The Day the Earth Stood Still is so MUCH more than that.


Released in 1951, The Day the Earth Stood Still is set during a time when the Cold War against the Soviet Union (and a fear of Communism in general) is gaining momentum. The score for this film was composed and conducted by the legendary Bernard Herrmann and featured extensive use of the theremin in the opening title. In fact, the score for this film is what inspired Danny Elfman to be interested in film composing.

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Main Title (1951)

A strange flying saucer enters Earth’s atmosphere and lands in Washington D.C., where it is quickly surrounded by the Army.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu Arrives (1951)

An alien, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), appears and announces he comes in peace. Unfortunately, when he reveals a strange device, one of the soldiers panics and shoots Klaatu in the shoulder, prompting the large robot Gort to emerge from the spacecraft. Surveying the situation, Gort begins to vaporize the weapons with a beam from his “eyes” when Klaatu commands him to stop.

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Gort (1951)

Klaatu is taken to the hospital, but it turns out he is more than capable of healing himself (leaving the poor doctor ready to retire after learning his patient is actually 78 and only in what he considers middle age for his species). Mr. Harley, the secretary to the President arrives, and asks Klaatu why he has come. The mission is simple: Klaatu has an urgent message that must be shared with ALL the governments of the world at the same time. Mr. Harley protests that this will be impossible, and when the authorities prove less than helpful, Klaatu decides to escape and spend some time among the populace, to see if he can learn why the human race is so suspicious.


Assuming the identity of “Mr. Carpenter”, Klaatu takes a room in a boarding house where he meets and befriends Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a widow, who lives with her young son Bobby. The next day, Klaatu lets Bobby show him around the city, where he is visibly disturbed to learn that so many people have been killed due to war. He is also impressed by the Lincoln Memorial (“Those are great words…”) Knowing that his message must still be shared, Klaatu asks Bobby who the smartest man in the world is. Bobby figures that it must be Professor Barnhardt, who happens to live in the city. Finding the professor out, Klaatu leaves a “calling card” by adding in a vital part of an equation (that an ordinary person would not know), knowing that he’ll be contacted as soon as the professor sees it.

Sure enough, the professor and Klaatu end up meeting and the alien shares a small part of his message: If the governments of the world do not listen to him, Earth is at risk of annihilation. This statement terrifies the professor:

“Such power exists?” he asks breathlessly

“I assure you” Klaatu answers “Such power exists.”

Professor Barnhardt promises to assemble as many world scientists at the spaceship as he can, but in the meantime, he thinks it would help if Klaatu were to give a “minor demonstration” of what might happen, but asks also that no one be killed as a result of this “demonstration.” Amused by the challenge, Klaatu sneaks back to the spaceship to prepare for the event, but doesn’t realize Bobby is following him and sees him communicating with Gort.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Power Loss (1951)

The “demonstration” turns out to be a total loss of power all over the world (be it motive, electrical, etc.) for precisely thirty minutes (excluding planes in the air or the power necessary to run hospitals). To create a musical sense of the chaos that was happening, Herrmann created a series of tonal clusters (a large series of notes grouped very closely together) and held them out for long periods of time, to create that feeling of static helplessness that almost everyone feels during this period (except for Professor Barnhardt, he revels in the chaos, knowing its source).

Just as the power outage begins, Helen confronts Klaatu about what Bobby told her and while they are trapped in a hospital together, Klaatu confesses everything and asks for her help. Helen promises to do what she can, but there’s a wrinkle, Helen’s boyfriend Tom already believes that “Mr. Carpenter” is the alien and is doing his best to turn Klaatu in to the authorites, believing that this will make him a “big hero.” A disgusted Helen breaks up with him, and the authorities begin to close in on Klaatu’s location.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu Barada Nikto (1951)

En route to the gathering of scientists, Klaatu tells Helen that should ANYTHING happen to him, she must go to Gort and tell him “Klaatu barada nikto.” This is because there is “no limit” to what Gort could do, “he could incinerate the Earth.” Before they can reach the spaceship, the Army cuts the pair off. Klaatu runs for it, but is gunned down in the street, prompting Helen to run for the spaceship. And back at that same spaceship, Gort has begun to awaken, sensing Klaatu’s death. When two Army sentries approach, Gort promptly vaporizes THEM (not just their weapons like before). Helen approaches, but is terrified by the huge robot. However, she manages to get the words out just before Gort can vaporize her and Gort responds by taking her to the ship before leaving to retrieve Klaatu’s body.

Back in the spaceship, Helen watches awestruck as Gort begins manipulating a series of dials that begin to heal and revive Klaatu’s body! The alien ultimately returns to life, but it’s not permanent. Even they, as advanced as they are, do not possess “the power of life and death”, as that is reserved for the “Almighty Spirit.”

(On a side note, Michael Rennie absolutely HATED that reference to the Almighty Spirit (it was added by the studio at the last minute, as they felt they were making these aliens out to be gods) as he felt it didn’t fit everything we’d learned about Klaatu and his culture up to that point)

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu’s Speech (1951)

Meanwhile, the crowd of scientists has gathered outside, but the Army is urging them to leave, as they have no idea where Gort is. Just as Professor Barnhardt agrees that they should disperse for their own safety, the spaceship opens up one last time, revealing Helen, Klaatu and Gort. Helen leaves the ship, while Klaatu stands at the entrance to finally deliver his message:

I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more… profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.

The film ends with Klaatu and Gort leaving in their spaceship, a giant question mark hanging over the fate of the human race: will we join this peaceful group of planets, or will we destroy ourselves?

Of course no answer is given, and that frustrated me for years, because I wanted to know how the story was going to end! Except there isn’t meant to be an ending, not like that anyways. The end of Klaatu’s speech was intended as a direct message to the world in 1951: if we don’t stop fighting each other, we’re going to destroy ourselves.

Though it is now over sixty years old, the film is considered a classic and its message is just as relevant today as it was when the film came out. If you haven’t seen this film before, I highly recommend it (and whatever you do, do NOT watch the remake with Keanu Reeves!!!)

Thanks to The Cinematic Frontier for running this great blogathon! -Becky

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The Music of Star Trek: The Best of Both Worlds (1990)

This post is part of The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central (me!!!)

You don’t often think of television episodes having great musical scores, but such is the case with “The Best of Both Worlds”, a two-parter that consists of the season 3 finale and the season 4 premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The events of these episodes form the basis of Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and had huge ramifications for the Star Trek universe. Given the massive size of this story, I am actually going to focus on Part 1 for this blogathon.


At the start, the Enterprise is dispatched to a Federation colony that had reported they were under attack. The Enterprise arrives only to find that the entire colony has been wiped off the face of the planet (leaving only a huge crater in the ground). Everyone immediately suspects the Borg, an alien species first encountered in the season 2 episode “Q Who?” The Borg could easily be considered the most dangerous foe ever encountered by the Federation. Unlike other alien species, that might give up after a show of resistance, the Borg never stop. They will come on relentlessly until they reach their goal of assimilating any and all cultures they come into contact with into their “collective.” That’s the other thing about the Borg, they  function as a group mind. There is no individuality, no freedom of expression, nothing. There isn’t even the concept of “I”. If the Borg were to ever reach Earth, it would be disastrous, so the Enterprise is dispatched to engage and stop them.


“We have engaged the Borg”

Now I mentioned that this two-parter has a great musical score and it really comes into play once the Enterprise locates the Borg ship (a massive cube structure). The music here has an almost cinematic quality to it (a rare thing in television these days). Composer Ron Jones gave an ominous theme to the Borg (mostly consisting of synthesized choral voices), to emphasize the fact that the Enterprise is up against a very dangerous opponent.

“We Have Engaged the Borg”

How dangerous? Well, after an initial attack leaves the Enterprise locked in a tractor beam (that they barely manage to break away from), the ship spends several hours hiding in a nearby nebula, as a ploy to distract the Borg from going after anyone else. See, the weird thing is, the Borg are demanding Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) be handed over to them, which is weird (even for them) because hitherto the Borg haven’t shown any interest in individual beings. And despite best efforts, the Borg have this way of getting whatever it is they want. Case in point: Picard’s kidnapping scene. The Borg chase the Enterprise out of the nebula and manage to knock their shields back down.


No sooner does this happen then several Borg begin beaming over to the bridge of the Enterprise. Note the music when this happens, it becomes very mechanical and rigid (and somewhat repetitive). This is symbolic of the unrelenting nature of the Borg. Despite the fact that they are cyborgs (part human/machine), they firmly reject the parts of themselves that were once human.

Picard is kidnapped by the Borg

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “resistance is futile” THIS is where that comes from. Actually, to hear the Borg tell it, anything other than immediate acquiesence to their demands is futile. Even DEATH is irrelevant (which is kind of a scary thought when you think about it). Picard is determined to resist his captors anyway, but he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter. This is the last we see of Picard until the end of the episode (more on that after while).

“Strength is irrelevant, resistance is futile”

The Enterprise has a really big problem on their hands (even bigger than Picard being kidnapped): the Borg cube has set a direct course for Earth (also known as Sector 001, the Terran System). Under no circumstances can that cube reach Earth, so while the Federation fleet gathers at Wolf 359 (which is a real star by the way), the Enterprise sets about delaying the Borg ship at any cost, not just to give the fleet more time to prepare, but also so they can try to rescue Captain Picard (before they’re forced to try and destroy the Borg ship).


Inside the Borg ship

Beaming aboard, the away team encounters no resistance at first (the Borg typically ignore lifeforms if they don’t think they’re a threat), but when Dr. Crusher hits on the idea to take out an increasing number of power stations (to force the ship to slow down and repair itself), the Borg take action. Borg begin attacking from every direction, and they have a distinct advantage. There’s one more detail about this species I forgot to mention: they have the ability to analyze and adapt themselves against any attack. What does that mean? Well, in Star Trek you generally attack with phasers, right? With the Borg’s adaptability, you MIGHT get off two or three shots before the Borg (collectively) learn how to shield themselves from the blast. In other words, if you can’t destroy them before they adapt, you’re screwed. The away team has reached the point where all the Borg are adapting, meaning they need to leave ASAP, but then Dr. Crusher sees someone familiar…it’s Captain Picard…or is it?

“Captain Borg” (Soundtrack only, reveal of Picard as Borg)

The “Captain Borg” cue (link above) is the reason why I chose this episode to share with you. The pivotal moment when Picard faces the camera to reveal the Borg implants on his face is haunting, shocking and remains one of the pivotal moments in all of Star Trek history!!! The part I really want you to hear begins at 0:54. First you hear the synthesized ominous Borg theme, followed by a twisted rendition of the Enterprise theme (in the full scene “Part 1 Cliffhanger”, this comes right after Worf yells “Captain!” and is approx. 1:15 in the soundtrack version). The message couldn’t be more clear: Captain Picard has been “corrupted” by the Borg (hence the mutated Enterprise theme). The crew is unable to rescue Picard at this time because he’s surrounded by a force field and they are subsequently forced to withdraw.


“I am Locutus of Borg”

“Part 1 Cliffhanger”

The shocked team returns to inform Commander Riker that Picard himself is now a Borg. At the same time, a report comes in that a new weapon capable of destroying the Borg cube is ready to fire. Doing so would kill Picard, but at the same time save the Earth before the Borg cube is able to resume the journey to the Solar System. Arguments are made as to why they should or should NOT use the weapon, but just as Riker makes up his mind, the Borg ship hails the Enterprise with a message….and so begins one of the most enduring, iconic scenes in all of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Borg Picard steps forward and addresses his own crew:

“I Am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is Futile. Your life, as it has been, is OVER. From this time forward, you will service US.”

Cue shocked faces from everyone on the bridge!!!!!!

The music here is practically exploding with tension, but it’s about to get worse. As the camera turns to zoom in on Riker’s face, the music rapidly builds to a fever pitch as he utters the command: “Mr. Worf, fire.”

And what happens next??? Oh, I can’t tell you that, the cliffhanger does a much better job (so make sure to watch “Part 1 Cliffhanger”, it had me screaming at the TV by the end).

It almost goes without saying that THIS was the episode that finally got Star Trek: The Next Generation over with the original Trekkies. Before this, Star Trek: TNG was still considered something of a red-headed step-child, it was alright, but it could never live up to the original series. And then THIS episode happened, and “all hell broke loose.” Fans everywhere were hooked, begging to know what would happen next. The funny thing is, even the writers didn’t know at this point, as they’d literally written themselves into a corner and had no idea how to get out of it.

Hope you enjoyed this look at my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (the full episode is readily available on Hulu and Netflix). Have a good weekend!

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The Music of Star Trek Blogathon: Recap

At last! After months of planning, The Music of Star Trek Blogathon is finally here!!!! I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with. One last note, don’t forget to include a line at the top of your post that says “This post is part of The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central” and include a link back to my blog page, that way anyone reading it knows that it is part of the blogathon 🙂

Day One

Thoughts All Sorts shares some thoughts on the music in Star Trek (2009): Some Musical Thoughts- Star Trek (2009)

MovieRob examines the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Encounter at Farpoint” : Star Trek: The Next Generation “Encounter at Farpoint” (1987)

My entry for this blogathon looks at one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time: The Music of Star Trek: The Best of Both Worlds (1990)

Plain, Simple Tom examines the now-iconic music in “Amok Time” : “Amok Time”

The Temp Track provides a ranking of every Star Trek film score there is: Scoring the Final Frontier: Celebrating 50 Years of Trek Tracks

The Temp Track also takes a look at the themes of Star Trek VI: Only Kirk Could Go To Qo’noS: Cold War Allegory and the Title Theme for Star Trek VI

Day Two

MovieRob: Star Trek Deep Space Nine “The Emissary” 

The Temp Track: The Temp Track: Star Trek (2009): The First Sixty Seconds

Day Three

MovieRob: Star Trek: Voyager “Caretaker”

MovieRob: Star Trek: Enterprise “Broken Bow”

Rhyme and Reason: Star Trek: Voyager Musical Highlights

Riley on Film: Theme from ‘Star Trek’ (1966-1969)

The Temp Track: Musical Spock

Meg nog List Blog: Star Trek Nemesis and Blue Skies

Quo Vadis (1951): Sword and Sandal Blogathon

This post is part of the Sword and Sandal blogathon hosted by Moon in Gemini


The 1950s were known for many things, but in Hollywood, they were primarily known as the decade of the Biblical epic. A number of great epics including Quo Vadis were made in this ten year span, films such as The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben Hur (1959), David and Bathsheba (1951), Solomon and Sheba (1959), etc. Quo Vadis is considered one of the greats of this era, and rightfully so.

Quo Vadis- Marcus and Lygia first meet

Based on the best selling novel Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero (1895) by Henryk Sienkiewicz, the film follows the Roman tribune Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) as he encounters a mysterious sect called “Christians” after falling in love with a captive woman named Lygia (who belongs to this mysterious cult). Marcus, who holds token respect for the Roman gods at the beginning of the story, initially cannot fathom this Christ that the Christians hold in great reverence. In his mind, he loves Lygia (Deborah Kerr), therefore Lygia should love him back and that should be the end of it. But even though Lygia DOES love Marcus in return, her faith in God is too strong to permit her to leave her faith for the love of one man.

Peter Ustinov Quo Vadis

Ustinov’s portrayal of Nero is quite chilling at times

All of this takes place during the reign of the Emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov), a spoiled, full-of-himself ruler, who believes he is a god on Earth (and is worshipped as such), capable of doing no wrong, a veritable genius (though his musical skills are mediocre at best). His wife, the Empress Poppaea, has eyes only for Marcus, and sees Lygia as a rival that should be eliminated. Attempting to keep the half-mad Emperor in line is Gaius Petronius, Nero’s “arbiter of elegance” (and also the uncle of Marcus). Petronius maintains his place in court by simultaneously mocking and then praising Nero to the heavens in such a witty fashion that Nero cannot bear to part with him.


Lygia is not happy with Marcus

Impatient to have Lygia, Marcus decides to have her kidnapped from her foster home (since she is technically a Roman hostage, being the daughter of a pagan king who fought against Rome and therefore belongs to Nero) and brought to the palace, to be given to Marcus at a feast, as a reward for being so successful in recent combat. Lygia manages to escape though, and goes into hiding with other Christians. Marcus tracks her to a secret gathering led by the apostle Paul and Peter himself, newly arrived in Rome. While he is intrigued by the Christian teachings, Marcus cannot (as yet) believe in them, but he understands enough to let Lygia go and promises not to follow her anymore.

Quo Vadis- Nero sings while Rome burns

At the same time though, the Christians are becoming an annoying thorn in Nero’s side, as is the city of Rome itself. The former bothers him because they deny his divinity, and the latter bothers him because of its overwhelming corruption. Petronius unwittingly gives Nero an idea when he mocks the emperor’s epic about “burning Troy” because the emperor had never seen a burning city himself. After moving the imperial court safely to Antium, Nero makes plans to have the city (barring the Palatine area where the wealthy live) set ablaze, while he returns to compose his greatest epic. When the arson backfires (thanks to the intervention of Marcus) and many people end up escaping with their lives, the emperor needs a scapegoat to divert attention from himself. Against the protests of Petronius, Nero writes an edict pronouncing the Christians are responsible for burning Rome and are henceforth enemies of the state. In despair, Petronius commits suicide several days later (but not before endorsing the Roman general Galba as a replacement ruler for Nero).

Quo Vadis- Marcus looks for Lygia


Peter is successfully smuggled out of Rome along with a young boy named Nazarius. But along the way, Christ comes to Peter (speaking through the boy) and when Peter asks “Quo Vadis Domine?/Where are you going Lord?, Christ answers “My people in Rome have need of thee, if thou deserts my people, I shall go and be crucified a second time.” By which Peter understood that he needed to go back to Rome, because it was time that he gave his life while preaching the Word.

The Empress Poppaea, seeing Marcus really is in love with Lygia after he rescues her from the fire, arranges to have him arrested and thrown in jail with the other Christians, among whom are Peter and Lygia’s foster parents. Over the course of several days, the Christians are systematically killed, some by lion, some by crucifixion while being burned alive. But Nero finds no joy in the spectacle, because, instead of screaming in terror, the Christians go singing to their deaths, proclaiming the world that is to come with their words. Nero decides to have Peter crucified upside down as an example, but still the Christians go singing as they die. Poppaea has one final spectacle planned: while Marcus stands bound at her side, Lygia will be tied to a post in the arena, while a wild bull is let loose. Only her giant protector, Ursus, will be able to stop the bull from killing Lygia. As the fight goes on, Marcus struggles to get free, and in a visible leap of faith, begins to pray for Christ to give Ursus strength to kill the bull, which happens!! In the chaos, Marcus breaks his bonds and jumps to the arena floor, telling the people of Rome the truth: that NERO burned Rome and it is Nero who should die, with General Galba set up in his place. Nero flees for his life, but ultimately commits suicide, urged on by Acte, a former wife (who still loves Nero despite everything and doesn’t want to see the crowds rip him apart).

For now, Rome is safe again, as General Galba rides triumphant into Rome, while Marcus, Lygia, Nazarius, and Ursus, ride away from the city, to places unknown.

The score for this film is one of my favorites and was composed by Miklos Rozsa. Rozsa is probably best known for his work on Ben-Hur (1959), and not many know that several themes heard in that film were created for Quo Vadis eight years earlier. Rozsa spent a great deal of time researching ancient music and instruments for this film, and assisted the props team in creating highly detailed replicas of ancient musical instruments that were seen all over the film.

The “Quo Vadis” of the title comes from the pivotal moment when Peter encounters Christ while fleeing Rome and asks him “Quo Vadis Domine?” Where are you going Lord? The story can be found in the Apocrypha of the Bible.

Biblical epics can be hard to get through because of their sheer length, but Quo Vadis is worth watching at least once if you’ve never seen it before. Made in an era long before CGI, the hand-built models and miniatures give scenes (especially the burning of Rome sequence) a sense of reality that you would be hard pressed to find today.

This is my entry for the Sword and Sandal blogathon, and I hope you enjoyed it!

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