El Cid-Limited Collector's Edition

Movies
3 out of 5 stars
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Photograph: The Weinstein Company

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Prescient symbolism alert! In Anthony Mann’s 1961 epic, Charlton Heston plays Don Rodrigo Díaz de Bivar, a.k.a. El Cid, an 11th-century Spaniard who defends his country against the hordes of the black-clad Moor Ben Yussuf (Herbert Lom). In case we don’t get the message, El Cid becomes increasingly associated with Christ-like imagery as the movie progresses. It’s a testament to the combined skills of Mann (one of the great masters of noir and Westerns) and coscreenwriter Philip Yordan that El Cid isn’t as retrograde as it could have been: Religious crap is largely avoided, and Don Rodrigo displays a welcome sense of Realpolitik by forming an alliance with other Moors. And, of course, Mann’s sense of shot composition remains unparalleled—that big-ass flat-screen TV you invested in was made for just this type of spectacle.

The extras in this box set are as lavish as El Cid itself, including reproductions of the original souvenir program, comic-book adaptation and lobby cards. Producer Samuel Bronston gets a lot more love than Mann though: He’s the object of a 52-minute featurette (Mann’s is 17 minutes), while his son Bill and his biographer Neal M. Rosendorf provide a ridiculously fawning commentary. Bronston, Mann, Yordan and Loren would reunite in 1964 for the vastly superior Fall of the Roman Empire. Check that one out instead of El Cid if you want to see why the 1960s remain the golden age of Hollywood opulence.

—Elisabeth Vincentelli

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