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Franklin J. Schaffner
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Epic film of the legendary Spanish hero, Rodrigo Diaz ("El Cid" to his followers), who, without compromising his strict sense of honour, still succeeds in taking the initiative and driving the Moors from Spain. Written by
Stewart M. Clamen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In 1961 Anthony Mann's epic tale of the Spanish hero "El Cid" burst across the wide screens of theatres. This was the kind of film that 70mm was made for. Charlton Heston is Rodrigo de Bivar, and Sophia Loren is his legendary love, Chimene. Their course of love will not be a smooth one. When he kills her father as a matter of honor, she vows vengeance and sets in motion the series of events which will forever change their lives. The Christian Spaniards are ruled by local kingdoms each vying for rule of the nation. When one king challenges El Cid's monarch, Heston volunteers to fight to the death to determine the fate of the city of Calahorra, and at the same time vindicate himself of the treason he was accused of by Loren's father. This fight for Calahorra is one of the most memorable action sequences ever committed to film. It opens with Miklos Rozsa's heraldic fanfare as the two knights take their places on the jousting field. The two kings watch from either side. The ensuing duel is brutal with a predictable, but decisive outcome. The lovers are eventually married, but only to be separated again as El Cid is called to protect Spain from the marauding Moors swarming across the Mediterranean from Africa. The Spanish Moors join with the Cid to take the city of Valencia where the enemy will attack. It is here that one of the great battle scenes takes place, actually filmed in the shadow of the walled city of Peniscola on the coast of Spain. The two armies charge eachother in a cacaphony of horses, shouts and Rozsa's rousing musical score. The sky is darkened by the thousands of flying arrows streaking across to the enemy. This is the kind of movie that they just don't make anymore. What a pity! The final sequence shows the eerie onslaught of the Spanish army lead by the fallen El Cid strapped to his steed and causing the Moors to flee in terror at his seeming resurrection. Rozsa's organ music swells as El Cid rides into the sunset along the deserted beach and into immortality. In the mid 90's after many years of not being available, "El Cid" was shown again in its 70mm splendor. It was then released on video. The superb Criterion laserdisc version contains the full Technirama letterboxed image and a restored mult-channel soundtrack in Dolby Digital. An excellent supplementary section has interviews with Charlton Heston and others. Heston says that "El Cid" would have been an even more enduring classic if William Wyler ("Ben-Hur") had directed it. However, Anthony Mann has nothing to be ashamed of. Aside from some wooden acting and some scenery chewing here and there, the richness of the story and the elaborate production design, paired with the fine performance of Heston and Miklos Rozsa's impassioned score, surely place "El Cid" in the Hall of Fame of great film epics.
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