by John Farr
John Farr discusses Charlton Heston’s historical epic, directed by Anthony Mann.
El Cid (1961)
What It’s About:
Disgraced 11th-century Spanish knight Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (Charlton Heston), dubbed El Cid for his progressive sense of justice, earns the king’s favor when he vanquishes a hostile challenger in a duel to the death. Now the royal defender, El Cid pursues Chimene (Sophia Loren), a gorgeous noblewoman with an ax to grind, and goes on to unite all the warring factions in his home country against Moorish invaders.
Why I Love It:
King of psychological westerns and hard-boiled noir films, Anthony Mann turned his attention in 1961 to mounting a widescreen historical epic worthy of Cecil B. DeMille. The effort paid off handsomely: the set pieces are stunning, the orchestration of men, horses, and armies dynamic and thrilling to behold. At the heart of this real-life story of love and adventure is the interplay between Heston, always commanding in large-scale heroic roles, and the luxuriant Loren, playing his nemesis and future wife. Shot on location by DP Robert Krasker, “El Cid” has a grandeur equal in every way to its legendary namesake.
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