Directed by Anthony Mann. Starring Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Raf Vallone, Genevieve Page. (1961, NR, 184 min.)
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Sept. 10, 1993
For this re-release of the 1961 epic El Cid, the film has been restored to its original condition. One of the most spectacular mega-productions ever made, the story tells the legend of the 11th-century hero who sought to unite Spain's warring religious factions. Now, new prints have been struck from the original masters. Also, the original magnetic soundtracks were unearthed and re-recorded in Dolby Stereo. This increases the standard running time of the movie as composer Miklos Rosza's original soundtracks include the music from the overture, the intermission, the opening of the second half of the film, and the closing music that appeared after the end credits in a fashion typical of the grand-scale productions of the era. Producer Samuel Bronston was one of the maestros of the movie spectacular, also responsible for Nicholas Ray's King of Kings and 55 Days in Peking and teamed again with Anthony Mann for The Fall of the Roman Empire. Mann was one of the maverick dynamos of the American cinema. Best known as an action director of typically male-associated dramas (T-Men, Strategic Air Command, The Glenn Miller Story, The Furies), he is best remembered for his Westerns (Winchester 73, Man from Laramie, Man of the West, Cimarron). Mann's Westerns were exquisite because they created tight human dramas set against the expansive West. The landscape was the main character in his work, and few directors ever used CinemaScope better. In El Cid, Mann took the very medieval pageantry -- the castles, the banners, the knights, the Moors -- and used them as a landscape, narrow-focusing his cameras on some human dramas (most pitched a bit too hysterically). This historical struggle between the Moors and the Christians for Spain, in Mann's hands becomes a metaphor for freedom-fighting, damn the contradictions. A surprisingly effective adventure, El Cid begins well enough but if you stick with the story 'til the end, in CinemaScope, it becomes breathtaking.