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This musical version of Don Quixote is framed by an incident allegedly from the life of its author, Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quixote is the mad, aging nobleman who embarrasses his respectable family by his adventures. Backed by his faithful sidekick Sancho Panza, he duels windmills and defends his perfect lady Dulcinea (who is actually a downtrodden whore named Aldonza). Written by
Even Sophia Loren queried why the film was shot in grubby soundstages in Rome instead of the glorious locations of Andalucia where the film is supposedly set. See more »
Miguel (pronounced Mee-GELL) is mispronounced by various characters as "Mee-GWELL". See more »
Don Quixote de La Mancha:
To right the unrightable wrong / To love, pure and chaste from afar / To try, when your arms are too weary / To reach the unreachable star.
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During the opening credits, we see the animated sails of a windmill, which, with each turn, begin to reveal, and finally become, a sketch of the face of Don Quixote. The camera moves in for an extreme closeup of the facial features, which, as the camera gets close, reveal themselves to be a giant prop in an outdoor stage presentation during a festival. As the opening credits end, the sketch of that prop dissolves into the real item. See more »
Bringing big Broadway musicals to the screen has always posed tremendous problems for film makers. The results have by and large been unsatisfactory, with few exceptions. The late 60's brought us "Camelot", (67),"Hello Dolly" (69) and "Fiddler on the Roof" (71), all films adhering to the unquestioned rule that bigger is better, be it casts, sets and orchestrations. All three were overblown bores. Arthur Hiller's concept for "Man of La Mancha" is clearly the antithesis of what had become expected of the musical on film. He decided to use the film media not as a device for augmentation in a broad sense, but rather to focus in on the characters and bring them as close to the audience as possible using naturally many close-ups. They are the crux of the film; not massive sets, huge choruses or dazzling choreography. "Man of la Mancha" boasts two fine songs; the rest are pretty mediocre, which justifies Hiller's keeping the music as a device to serve the characters and not the other way around. From the very start with the credits appearing, the audience is geared up for one of those massively orchestrated rousing overtures. Yet, what we are offered is an underscored, almost chamber music style overture setting the tone for the entire film. The message as with chamber music is clear; the focus is on the content, not the trappings.
The critics by and large hated the film. Maltin in particular is uncharacteristically savage in his criticism. They simply were not prepared to accept an unorthodox approach to a huge Broadway success. While "Dolly", "Camelot" and "Fiddler" tend to be almost impossible viewing today, "Man of La Mancha" remains astonishingly fresh, very much vindicating Hiller's concept of this much maligned and misunderstood movie.
Being so focused on character, the films success would lie with its principal players. O'Toole gives a bravura performance, one of his finest, while Loren too, is perfect in her role. Sure the soundtrack is not one to listen to in the way one would a Broadway musical. But both O'Toole's and Loren's shaky vocals are in perfect sync with the fragility of their characters and hence very human and very moving. If more Broadway musicals had been brought to the screen with such a clear concept as was "La Mancha", the movie musical may have enjoyed far greater success.
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