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Grim, Ponderous, Moving, Magnificent
I'm a girl and have a girl's taste in movies. If I'm going to watch a movie with a lot of sword fights, oppressed peasants, and corrupt kings, I want it to be a swashbuckler, preferably one starring Errol Flynn. Swashbucklers bring a lot of humor to otherwise unbearable dramatic situations.
"El Cid" presents unbearable dramatic situations, and it is not a laugh riot. I saw the three-hour plus, uncut version and never felt tempted to laugh once. This is the Middle Ages without Monty Python, without the levity of an Errol Flynn - Olivia De Haviland romance or comic relief of a Little John.
Boy oh boy was this grim. And long. You could have almost filmed the entire film with three colors: white, black, and red. Lots of red.
But "El Cid" did to me what it wanted to do. I really believed in Rodrigo and Jimena as star-crossed, larger-than-life lovers. I really believed that the little girl who leads them from her well to her farm house lived a thousand years ago. I really believed that something like the mouth of hell itself was opening up as Ben Yusef invaded. I really believed in Rodrigo's relentless nobility and heroism. Neither Charlton Heston's strangely artificial looking hair nor the obvious non-Arab status of a couple of the "Moors" (Douglas Wilmer, who later played Sherlock Holmes, was one especially unconvincing Arab) interfered with my willing suspension of disbelief. I cried. Several times.
There's a lot to cry about. In almost every scene, someone is either crying, usually Sophia Loren, or gritting his teeth, often Charlton Heston, but others grit their teeth a lot, also. Actually Loren doesn't so much cry, but, rather, huge, luminous tears quiver, poised, on her lower eyelid. In her final scenes, the teardrop dancing on her right eyelid is so huge, black and luminous it begins to look like a second pupil.
If the sound of horse hoof-beats does something for you, you will love this movie. There are many horses. Many, many, many. And they are always thundering off to somewhere, more often than not, over cobblestones. Lots of horse hoof-beats on this soundtrack.
Some viewers found the plot hard to understand; they, perhaps, saw the cut version. Having seen the uncut version, I found the plot entirely comprehensible.
"El Cid" is like a ballad. There is one grim face-off after another, escalating in gravity, in which the hero proves that he is growing into his own heroism, through every choice he makes. Each choice is harder than the last one, until his final choice, which is truly impossible, but which he fulfills anyway. If you like medieval ballads, you may love this movie. It has the same grim beauty and power and inexorability, the same insistence on throwing whatever is divine in naked human character up against the impossible demands of earthly life.
For such a long movie, there is scant dialogue. With few words, people prove their true character through their actions, just as characters in ancient epics did.
One viewer complained that this movie bore no relation to the "real" El Cid legend. If that is true, the movie is all the more remarkable. The filmmakers managed to create, from scratch, a convincing and moving medieval narrative.
I was debating how to vote on this one as it is one of my favorite
movies of all time, and only if I felt something was missing would I
not give it a 10.
Well I couldn't think of a single thing missing or that could've been done better in this movie, so this is the first 10/10 or 5/5 I have given. Seriouslly, its that good.
I am very particular about my movies. There has to be good story, characters, action, cinematography and attention to detail and authenticity.
El Cid has all this and more. The characters are compelling and real, both noble and craven. The story is based on a real person and real location and events, although I am sure some liberties have been taken to dramatize things during this Spanish/moorish conflict. Costumes seem authentic, and there is plenty of action for all so long as you don't mind the long periods of drama between them. And frankly, I give this movie a capitol D for drama!
This is the kind of classic epic that moves you emotionally and draws you in, you feel for the characters and are awed by the events. If you like historical/medieval drama, watch El Cid. It is a classic.
Aroused by a fanatical Moorish warlord, emir-king attack a Castilian
village, where they are captured by Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar
Vigorously brave and compassionate, the noble Rodrigo hates bloodshed and vows to see his country at peace, frees the prisoners on their solemn pledge never again to attack Castile
For this act of courage and mercy, one of the Emirs, Moutamin, calls Rodrigo "El Cid," and pledges eternal friendship to the Cid of Vivar And so, in freeing the Moors, Rodrigo, accidentally, stumbled onto a battle, not to his luscious bride, but to a battle that will change his whole life
In the court of King Ferdinand, Rodrigo's act of clemency is misinterpreted, and he's accused of treason by his rival Don Ordonez for refusing to turn over to him the captures Moors
Unfortunately, Rodrigo's aged father, Don Diego, is slapped by the Champion of the king, Count Gormaz, father of his beloved Chimene Rodrigo begs Gormaz an apology; it is refused A duel begins and the champion is badly wounded Before he dies, however, he asks Chimene to avenge his death
Chimene's wish is fulfilled when King Ramiro of Aragon challenges King Ferdinand for the possession of the city of Calahorra by the outcome of a single combat El Cid convinces the king to permit him to fight Don Martin Thus, according to the custom of trial by combat, God would judge Rodrigo's guilt or innocence
"El Cid" is an intense film, lavish and spectacular, bigger than any in terms of cast and impressive as any in visual terms Miklós Rózsa gave a new dimension to the emotion that Anthony Mann was trying to express
Mann gives us a human story with a love story balanced with the most strongly image of a hero the world has ever seen He presented a man of honor who thinks always of his wife, his country, and his king first Even in death, his thoughts are for others and not himself
El Cid insults kings and noblemen in the name of justice and integrity and does what he knows to be right He battles the king's living sword in respect of his father He accepts the challenge of a champion of a king to prove himself innocent of treason and other things He shows a prince how any man can kill and only a king can give life He fights 13 knights, at the same time, to free a prisoner Yet he is in addition to all of this an extremely principled leader He accepts exile for life from the country he loves, and yet he is the only man in Spain who 'could humble a king and would give a leper to drink from his own pouch '
The joust sequence called "The fight for Calahorra," is perhaps the most rousing, exciting, one-to-one combat ever filmed The battle scenes at Valencia are taken on an epic scale But the value of Anthony Mann's movie is the characterization in which Charlton Heston played El Cid's life For this reason alone, the film is of greater value than most any other motion picture experience
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
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
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
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.
I watched this on the big screen when I was very very young, but this epic
film left an indellible impression on me. I have to consider this to be
of the best films I ever watched.
Heston and Loren made a beautiful pair in this epic. The transformation of Loren's hatred to love for Heston was a highlight of the show.
A few scenes that stood out in my mind was: 1. The jousting scene 2. The scene where Heston catapulted buns into the besieged city and won the heart of the people. 3. The epic fighting scene at the beach where arrows rained upon the shielded soldiers ...and who can forget the famous riding scene at the very end with the already dead Rodrigo tied to the mount riding out of the city that one last time. Combined with the underlying score, that was one of the most moving scenes of all times. Years later, when I happened upon the show on TV again, I still could not help but felt a little misty in my eyes when I watched that last scene.
It does, of course, make for very expensive home viewing, to whit; one
widescreen television (28 inch minimum); one set of surround-sound speakers;
one good quality DVD player. But after that though, just sit down and sit
Because every penny that's been invested in a Home Cinema set-up will earn its keep -- just as every dime that went into the making of this movie likewise pays back many times over.
Mann didn't invent the epic. But with 'El Cid', he took it to heights it had rarely reached before. And has never attained since. An astonishing achievement for its era, the passage of time has done little to diminish its scale or its power -- indeed it seems, in a curious way, to have gained in stature, in dignity, and in sheer, blissful watchability.
Heston was never better than this. Nor was Loren. And as for those closing seconds, whilst intimations of legend take wing upon the thunderous organ coda of Miklos Rosza's finest score. . . Words really do fail, now as then.
10 out of 10 -- but remember: this is cinema at its best; watch this at home on a set-up that's anything less than that spelt out at the beginning of this review, and you're not doing yourself, or the film, any favours.
After all, every masterpiece deserves a decent frame.
Although generally regarded as "good but not great", I consider "El Cid" to
be the best film ever made.
The film always flies past for me, no matter how many times I've seen it and is virtually perfect. Each character is memorable and well-acted (with the possible exception of Sophia Loren's Chimene) - stand outs are Heston, Genevieve Page as Uraca, John Fraser as Alphonso, Gary Raymond as Sancho and Raf Vallone as Ordonez, but the all the supporting roles are performed with conviction.
Amongst the many other plus points are the exciting action scenes, in particular the combat for Caloharra, which, although the viewer is never in any doubt that Rodrigo will be victorious, is superbly performed and totally convincing. Also, Miklos Rosza's impressive score ranks amongst his very best.
"El Cid" has never been given the praise it deserves, often being over-shadowed by (the admittedly excellent) "Ben Hur". Perhaps this is down to personal taste as most critics and viewers would disagree, but I think "El Cid" is just marginally superior.
Having recently seen it for the umpteenth time (lost count) I can only say that Charlton Heston was the right choice, (Who else?) and Sophia Loren was totally beyond compare. So many of the "minor" characters were so good, Douglas Wilmer's Moutamin, brilliant and Genevieve Page, a wonderful Urraca, there was a subtle performance for you, just a trifle not quite appropriate, in her very obvious affection for the younger brother - a trifle suspicious, but she played it perfectly. Charlton Heston, obviously dominated the film, as was right. But, one question is left, who played Bavieca (The Horse Dear,) he lived about 2-1/2 years after the death of his beloved master and no one else could ride him, he is buried at Valencia, but where ?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think this is a particularly interesting and entertaining film. Sophia Loren is one of my favourite actresses and Charlton Heston never fails to deliver when he is cast in epic films, El Cid, Ben Hur, Moses.etc. One really moving incident in 'El Cid' never ceases to disturb me and it is after El Cid (Charlton Heston)is exiled and rejected by his future wife, Chimene (Sophia Loren). Travelling through Spain he approaches a well one day where a leper nearby is crying for water. El Cid offers him first drink at the scoop. The leper thanks him and calls him 'El Cid'. When Rodrigo (Charlton Heston)asks the leper how he knew it was him the leper replies that it could only be El Cid who would offer a drink of water to a leper. At that moment, Chimene (Sophia Loren) turns up, leading a pack-horse and accepts that her life can only be complete with El Cid and they ride off into the sunset together. I always feel a lump in my throat and feel my eyes go hot and prickly during this scene!
I saw this movie when I was only 17, and it was an inspiration to me.
It made me love Spain, its people and its history, and learn Spanish. I
wasn't so much into Charlton Heston as I was into any movies that had
Yul Brynner in them, but I thought the portrayal of Don Rodrigo de
Bevar was done well by Heston, and I adored Sophia Loren. The story of
El Cid's battles against the scimitar-brandishing Moorish Lord, which
for some reason I was under the impression Herbert Lom had played, was
quite well done--but what did I know? I was only 17. What I also had no
clue about was that within my own lifetime, my country, and indeed the
world, would be fighting radical Islam which Spain had been conquered
by and subjected to for 400 years! Who do you think "the black-turbaned
Moorish" were? We need to revive that classic and watch it through 2006
eyes. There's a lesson in there. Who will be America's Cid?
I have not been able to find this movie on DVD, but will read other comments here and see if I can come up with a place to purchase a good one. It's a classic. The scenery is lovely (although it was probably filmed on backlots and in Italy!) the music is beautiful, costuming was very well done, and the movie was just enrapturing. My favorite line is still a battle cry today among the Spanish: "For God, for Country, and for the King!" Por Dios, por la patria, y el Rey!
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