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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Wed., Oct. 2, 2013

From our archives, 100 years ago

“Quo Vadis,” an epic of ancient Rome, was the biggest “photo-drama” (movie) sensation in Spokane.

Every seat was sold for the initial showings at the Spokane Theatre. Several hundred people were turned away.

Here’s how the drama critic of The Spokesman-Review described this unprecedented Italian movie spectacle:

“Sumptuous Roman banquet halls, baths, residences, palaces and courts are shown in extravagant realism,” he wrote. “Massive pillars, colonnades, immense arches, lavish mosaics, luxurious hangings, heavy leopard skins on the tiled floors, dancing fountains, leafy groves and crumbling ruins all play a prominent part in the unweaving of the picture story. … Special features include a marvelous representation of the burning of Rome, a vivid portrayal of the chariot races and gladiatorial contests in the Circus Maximus and a ghastly spectacle as a score of gaunt lions, lashed to fury, flash out of the pit into the arena and attack the Christians.”

He noted that the movie was made in Rome, giving it a “fidelity only possible when the scenes are re-enacted on the very spot where they were supposed to have transpired originally.”

This 2 hour, 20 minute spectacle was later considered one of the first true “feature” films. It provided this new, raw art form with classical European respectability.

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