El Cid Reviews
And it is glorious! I disagree with Marty, but do feel that yeah, it is quite a film. Not the best epic ever, but sure, it's up there. The story is a heavily romanticized look at the life of 11th Century Spanish knight Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar/El Cid, who was instrumental in defending Spain from Moorish invaders, with his efforts helping lead to Spanish unification. The man has gone done in history as pretty much being the national hero of Spain, kind of like what Joan of Arc is for France, though in this case, the man isn't an official saint.
The film is typical of that era, in that the hero of the story is shown in generally the best light as much as possible. Like I said, this is a very romanticized film. He's a compassionate warrior and the film details how he gets caught up in various political and military machinations, going from accused traitor to king's champion, and later from exiled hero to lauded martyr. I know my dad likes this movie, as he's talked fondly of it before, and when he told me about it as a kid, the thing that stuck with me is the story/legend of the final battle he participated in. I don't want to spoil it, but let's just say that the story is really cool, if kind of bizarre, even if it may not be true.
It's a colorful film about a colorful man, and it has all the hallmarks of a classic sweeping epic. Yeah, it's long, and it could be tightened up in places, but that's a common problem of most, if not all epics. It might be hard to sit through at times, but hey, we get excellent cinematography, gorgeous sets, costumes, thrilling spectacle, and the satisfaction of seeing stuff done without CGI. I really wish they would still make movies like this, just because you get a real sense of accomplishment when you have to bust your butt and not just rely on computers to do the heavy lifting. Oh yeah, and the score by Miklos Rozsa is just fantastic, and maybe the best thing about this movie.
Heston adds another memorable character to his resume here, and he is of course, solid. We also get a sultry scheming Sophia Loren, and some strong support from Herbert Lom, Raf Vallone, and Genevieve Page among others.
All in all, a sweeping and entertaining spectacle on a grand scale. It does drag at times, but when the film is cooking, it's just a blast to watch, especially the tremendous finale.
That is not to say that films such as Ben-Hur and Spartacus do not compare, because that just is not true but there is as something timeless about the approach of this film. The quality and the obvious approach of story over gloss helps this break the bonds of its contemporaries.
The performances are spot on, well for the most part, and the cinematography and what may well be Miklos Rosza's finest score, are first rate and along with the sound design and writing, propel this into the realm of classics, though it would seem, somewhat, a lost one.
This is a perfect example of marketing in Hollywood. This was produced by Samuel Bronson, who worked with MGM on more than one occasion, most notably, within this subject matter anyway, The King Of Kings and he also produced his own epics.
This, was one of them, the other most notable was The Fall Of The Roman Empire. As a result the distribution has never been as polished as MGM's catalogue, such a Ben-Hur and therefore this has not been pushed towards a wide audience for along while. The Miriam Collection, now available on DVD, have finally released this film as was intended, fully restored and with a pristine picture and sound to die for.
I HIGHLY recommend this film and the DVD as this is in real danger of become a lost epic, whist it should be heralded as one of Hollywood's greatest...
The film gets by on an, at worst, workmanlike presence, alone, feeling too safe and secure to collapse upon itself, and a sudden and dramatic rise in quality in the final act solidifies the film's safety. The degree of appreciation is also helped by the film's style value, for the cinematography, while not terribly spectacular, has its moments of handsomeness and much sweep, which works to great effect during the mostly strong action sequences. Much of the same can be said about the general production, which is elaborate and sweeping with a certain attractiveness in sweeping complexity. However, that attractiveness remains hurt by the fact that these production designs are rarely, if ever not same-old-same-old, looking and feeling like just about every other ancient-set epic of its era. ...Hold on, let me check this paragraph up to this point again to make sure that I'm talking about the production designs and not the film itself. Seriously though, the film's safeness and decent style give it enough charm to keep me from rejecting it all together, and the final act helps greatly, yet the film ultimately fails to keep me from total boredom, not in terms of dullness, but in terms of general intrigue. The film is not at all bad, yet it stands as just so startlingly bland and unexpectedly mediocre, falling distances behind the level of quality of many of the countless fellow epics of its type and era, almost entirely because it's too much like them in just about every other way.
While the general concept has the occasional twist and turn, particularly during that final act, the final product is generic beyond comprehension, collapsing into trope after trope set by the genre this film falls much too deeply under, with the obvious exception being that other epics of this type and era aren't typically unispired in their direction. The genericism doesn't help in the least, yet on general grounds, the film is thoroughly uninspired in its execution, carrying an overly consistent tone that brings down most every layer and turn in this film to a single level, rendering countless significant pieces of exposition to fall limp, for director Anthony Mann feels so very uninspired, or at least not until the final act, which, even then, leaves the film to begin going uneven in its storytelling, yet it's at least consistent in keeping up the film's streak of non-subtleties. As if it's not bad enough that Mann all but entirely strips the film of its intrigue until the still rather rocky final act, he also bugs you half to death with drastic lapses in subtleties, especially when it comes to the unrelenting and head-pounding religious overtones and histrionics. At this time, you couldn't swing a symbolic knife without hitting a histrionic drama, yet all of the overbearing melodrama behind this film washes over in grating waves that taint the waters of effective drama, partially because of the lack of should-be distracting intrigue and partially because of the uninteresting performances, the most uninteresting of which being the ones that should be the most inspired. Those disturbingly overbearing to the point of being unattractive lips and eyes aren't the only things on Sophia Loren that seem fake, as her expressiveness and presence are completely absent amidst her non-layered performance, and it doesn't help that she pulls that classic bad-acting starlette move of delivering most all of her lines with unpalatable pretense and embarassing theatrics, yet unlike most classic bad-acting starlettes of her type, she's not drowned out by a strong lead actor. As much as I appreciate Charlton Heston as a classic talent who made plenty good moves, I am of the highly controversial opinion that he was a bit of a hit-or-miss actor, and in this film, while he's not a pain to watch like he was in "The Planet of the Apes", he turns in a dull performance centered around a single note, and hardly a note at that, as he feels so chilled and shockingly charismaless in his uncompelling and disconnectingly inhuman presence, and with love interest Sophia Loren turning in an even worse performance and startling limpness in Anthony Mann's direction, the chemstry between El Cid and Doña Jimena, and by extension, the central point of structure to this mammoth film almost immediately falls dead, thus slaying the film's last chance of transcending mediocrity. Again, the film is not bad, supported by its eventual sudden jolt in quality and the constant fact that it just never really has the guts to just go ahead and die, as a whole, yet there are plenty of bad spots and immensely more uninspired spots, and with the film running for over three uncompelling hours down a same line we had seen time and again by 1961, alone, while there's nothing that ultimately renders the film totally dismissable, there's still more than enough to render it a mediocre bore that's simply not worth the sit.
Bottom line, while the film's, albeit conventional, yet still rather handsome style and production, as well as a certain charm to its workmanlike atmosphere that keeps it going until its admittedly upstanding final act and keeps it from collapsing under its own sprawling weight, I hate to tell you this, Martin Scoresese, but the film stills falls limp, crawling down a wildly formulaic and rather overlong, tonally uneventful line riddled with oppressing themes and undisguised, unrelenting histrionics, exacerbated by sparkless, non-layered and inhumanly lifeless chemistry and performances between leads Sophia Loren and, yes, even Charlton Heston, ultimately leaving "El Cid" a passable, yet thoroughly unrewarding bore of a misstep within the sea of classic epics that it aspries too much for its audience to evoke, yet simply finds itself lost among.
2/5 - Medicore
A parte intimista do filme também não deixa a desejar, com Charlton Heston em uma de suas interpretações "larger than life" de maior sucesso - o que é algo positivo, já que sua grande presença significa que o protagonista nunca se perde em meio ao escopo gigante da produção. Sophia Loren fica com o papel mais ingrato, sendo vitima da típica caracterização feminina da época. O romance do casal Rodrigo (o El Cid) e Gimenez (Loren) ajuda a dar maior peso dramático à narrativa (e era notável que os atores se odiavam durante as filmagens), mas o filme ganha vida mesmo durante as cenas de batalha. Orquestradas e enquadradas com maestria por Anthony Mann, as impressionantes tracking shots em meio a milhares de figurantes cavalgando à beira-mar nos levam a refletir o motivo de El Cid não ser tão lembrado quanto deveria.