Tuesday, January 15, 2008

El Cid arrives on DVD January 29th!

When the Weinstein Brothers first formed Miramax, they were the premier name in indie films with releases such as The Thin Blue Line, Sex, Lies and Videotape and--one of my all time favorites--The Crying Game. Miramax got bought out by Disney and Bob and Harvey Weinstein formed their own production company, the aptly named The Weinstein Co. They also formed an alliance with Genius Products to distribute DVDs. Ironically, the debut release in The Miriam Collection (a premiere label named for the Weinstein's mother) from the wonder boys of indie cinema is the big budget sweeping epic El Cid.

Originally shot in 70 mm, the DVD version of the acclaimed 1961 historical adventure has been digitally remastered--both picture and sound--and is available as a Deluxe or Limited Collectors Edition two DVD disc set which includes:

  • Reproduction of Original 1961 Souvenir Program (Collector’s Edition Only)
  • Reproduction of Original 1961 El Cid Comic Book (Collector’s Edition Only)
  • Six Color Production Stills (Collector’s Edition Only)
  • Written Introduction by Director Martin Scorsese
  • Feature Commentary With Bill Bronston, son of producer Sam Bronston, and historian/author Neal M. Rosendorf, Ph.D., assistant professor of US International History at Long Island University
  • 1961 Promotional Radio Interviews with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren
  • Introduction Interview with Charlton Heston
  • Samuel Bronston: The Epic Journey of a Dreamer
  • Behind The Camera: Anthony Mann and El Cid
  • Hollywood Conquers Spain: The Making of An Epic
  • Maestro of the Movies: Miklos Rozsa and El Cid
  • The Importance of Film Preservation and Restoration: A Conversation With Gerry Byrne
  • Trailer Gallery
  • Filmographies
  • Still Gallery

Now I'm not a big fan of epic movies--didn't like Titanic or Gladiator or even Forrest Gump. And I'm definitely not big on Charlton Heston's other epic roles in Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments. But I have to admit that every cent of the $6 million that was spent (over forty years ago which would equate to approximately $40 million today. A bargain as far as epic film budgets go!) is there on screen--from the gorgeous cinematography, the swelling musical score, the period costumes, the locations, the sets. Every detail is authentically reproduced. Unlike another Heston period piece, The Agony and the Ecstasy, which looked small and cheesy and somewhat pathetic, El Cid looks every bit as lush and elaborate as an intricately woven tapestry.

The film is long. Three hours. You've got 3.5 minutes of overture music and another 2 minutes or so of opening credits. Two hours into the film, you've got an intermission and then finally an hour later, the story of the heroic Spanish knight, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, who succeeds in driving the Moors from Spain becoming a legend, finally wraps up. It's a lot of movie. But the making of featurette included on the DVD will make you want to re-watch the film with all the details of what was involved in bringing this extravagant epic to the screen.

Especially interesting was the fact that the two co-stars, Heston and Loren, hated each other. Now this was useful in the beginning of the movie when their characters did, in fact, hate each other. But as the commentators noted, it became difficult later on in filming when Heston couldn't even bear to look at the lovely Sophia who played Chimene, the love of El Cid's life. It was theorized that the animosity may have been due to the fact that Loren was paid a million dollars (the second actress to receive that salary after Elizabeth Taylor for Cleopatra) for the film and Heston was not. I also noticed that Loren doesn't age throughout the film, while Heston's character most definitely does. This was also noted in the commentary and was also a bone of contention for Heston.

El Cid will be released on January 29th. According to film critic Leonard Maltin, "'El Cid is high on any film buff's list of most-wanted movies on DVD. It is considered one of the most majestic and intelligent of the epic films of that period, as directed by Anthony Mann, with one of Charlton Heston's best performances."

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