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Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
El Cid (Umbrella Ent) (1961)

El Cid (Umbrella Ent) (1961)

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Released 6-Jul-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1961
Running Time 180:19
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Anthony Mann
Studio
Distributor
Samuel Bronson Produ
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Charlton Heston
Sophia Loren
Raf Vallone
GeneviŤve Page
John Fraser
Gary Raymond
Hurd Hatfield
Massimo Serato
Frank Thring
Michael Hordern
Andrew Cruickshank
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Miklůs Růzsa


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

"El Cid is one of the greatest epic films ever made. Anthony Mann's sense of composition, his use of space, and his graceful camera movements bring to life an ancient tapestry where the transformation of an ordinary man into a legend becomes almost a mystical experience."
Martin Scorsese

†††† 11th Century Spain is divided between waring states, Christian and Moorish, caught in a cycle of violence and bloodshed. Across the straits in North Africa a greater Moorish force awaits its time to invade. Travelling to his wedding to the beautiful Chimene (Sophia Loren), Rodrigo de Bivar (Charlton Heston) intercepts and captures a group of Moorish raiders who have just burned a Christian village. Sickened by the continuing cycle of violence, he releases the Moorish leaders on their oath not to attack the Christians again earning him the name El Cid. However in the Christian kingdom of Castile Rodrigo is branded a traitor for his act of mercy by the kingís champion Count Gormaz (Andrew Cruickshank), who is also Chimeneís father. Family honour and pride demand satisfaction and in a fight Rodrigo kills Gormaz; Chimene vows vengeance and the marriage is off! When a rival Christian king claims the disputed city of Caloharra, Rodrigo takes the place of Gormaz and engages in single combat. He wins of course Ė else there would be no movie!

†††† Now the kingís champion, Rodrigo leads a successful campaign against the Moors and asks the king for Chimene as his wife which is granted, much to her dismay. Their wedding night proves less than exciting.

†††† When King Ferdinand dies, the throne is disputed by his two sons, Prince Alfonso (John Fraser) who supported by their sister Princess Urraca (Genevieve Page), and Prince Sancho (Gary Raymond). Sancho, as the elder, takes the crown and sends Alfonso into captivity. Alfonso is rescued by Rodrigo, but civil war between the brothers looms until Urraca organises Sanchoís murder, and so Alfonso becomes king. Rodrigo, believing that Alfonso was complicit in the murder, publically humiliates the new king into swearing his innocence. As a result Rodrigo is exiled but there is compensation, for Chimene now forgives Rodrigo and follows him into exile where they finally become lovers. Yet Rodrigo and Chimene are not allowed their peaceful exile, for such is Rodrigoís reputation that Christian soldiers flock to his banner. When the Moorish invasion forces sail, Rodrigo realises the strategic key to Spain is Valencia. He captures the town and then must hold it against the invading Moors until King Alfonso puts aside his old hostility and comes to his assistance.

†††† El Cid is one of the greatest epic films ever made. There is a cast of thousands in the crowd and battle scenes, colour and pageantry, magnificent Spanish sets, beautiful costumes and Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, both larger than life stars. Heston has simply never been better (and this includes Ben-Hur) as the unflinching man of honour and integrity, who yet remains compassionate. And although the reports from the production were that Heston and Loren didnít get on, they are both so consummate professionals that their scenes together are terrific. The battle scenes, filmed in the days before CGI by the legendary stunt man and second unit director Yakima Canutt, have thousands of men upon the screen. In addition, there are two truly fabulous one on one combats. The first is the swordfight between Rodrigo and Gormaz around stone stairs and columns worthy of Errol Flynnís fight with Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood, one of the best sword fight duels ever put on screen. This one, in El Cid, is almost as good. But even better is the single combat for Caloharra; armoured men on big horses clashing with lances, maces, and single and two handed swords in a scene of brutal single combat seldom equalled on the screen for its intensity.

†††† Then add the magnificent, atmospheric score by Miklos Rozsa, equally at home in the bombastic combats, the courtly scenes and the more intimate moments. The scene where Rodrigo, going into exile, meets Chimene and gives water to a leper by a roadside cross is a moving experience with the widescreen landscape and the music. Indeed, much of the widescreen cinematography by Robert Krasker is wonderfully framed making full use of the widescreen format. Pause the film anywhere in the sequence between 21:44-50; as Chimene comes down the sweeping stone staircase in front of the ochre wall she remains perfectly framed between the two light stone columns. Superb.

†††† El Cid is grand adventure, filmmaking at its absolute peak from director Anthony Mann and producer Samuel Bronston. It cost approximately $US6 million and made 5 times that amount at the US Box Office alone, delivering a massive commercial success to Bronston. El Cid has not aged; it is still a moving, exciting, colourful and spectacular film, essential viewing for anyone even remotely interested in classic cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† El Cid is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

†††† This film is now almost 50 years old, but was restored and re-released in theatres in 1993 and this is the print of the film we have here which includes the Overture, Intermission and Exit music.

†††† This DVD print looks stunning. It is very sharp allowing full visuals of the wonderful sets and costumes as well as Hestonís craggy face and Lorenís luminous beauty. Blacks and shadow detail are fine, brightness and contrast consistent, skin tones natural. The colours can only be described as lush and beautifully rendered on the DVD. There is occasional mild grain and minor aliasing on bricks but otherwise but I did not notice any film or film to video artefacts. A great, clean print doing full justice to the widescreen visuals.

†††† There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† The only audio choice is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps. While it lacks the panning effects of modern films this is still a wonderful enveloping track. Dialogue was clear and easy to understand, swords clanged in a satisfactory manner, arrows flew and the pomp and pageantry of the Castile court is nicely captured. The surrounds are constantly in use for the wonderful score plus effects and the sub added depth when required such as thunder and the mass drums of the Moorish invasion force.

†††† The score by Miklos Rozsa is one of the most beautiful of classic movie scores and it comes across loud and clearly defined in this audio.

†††† Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

†††† There is no menu with this DVD. While there are 21 chapter stops they cannot be accessed except by stepping through the film with the remote. The trailer plays automatically after the conclusion of the film.

Trailer(3:25)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The best available version of El Cid is the fabulous Region 1 two disc Miriam Collection. On disc 1 is the first part of the film, a commentary with Bill Bronston (son of producer Samuel Bronson) and Neal M. Rosendorf (historian and biographer of Samuel Bronson), vintage radio interviews with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, still galleries and filmographies. On disc 2 the film and commentary continues plus the following excellent features (I do own this edition!):

††††

†††† If your system supports Region 1 DVDs, this is the edition of choice. If not, our Region 4 at least is a good presentation of this epic film, far better than the previous Region 4 span and scan abomination.

Summary

†††† While El Cid did not receive the Oscar awards of Ben-Hur (El Cid was nominated for three Oscars including Art Direction and Music, but won none) this may be more to do with the subject matter as El Cid is consistently a far more entertaining film than Ben-Hur. El Cid features Charlton Heston at his very best, magnificent huge sets, beautiful costumes, men in armour on big horses shaking the very ground without CGI, romance, betrayal, honour and a wonderful bombastic score by Miklos Rozsa all of which makes El Cid simply one of the greatest epic films ever made.

†††† The film is presented on a DVD with excellent video and audio but minimal extras. If your system will support Region 1 DVD, the 2 disc US edition is the standout winner. However, we should be very thankful that the previous Region 4 pan and scan abomination has now been supplanted by a version of the film in the correct widescreen ratio. I have seen El Cid for under $15 in chain stores Ė a steal! For lovers of good cinema there can be no excuses; if you donít have El Cid you quite simply must get it.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, October 04, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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