El Cid - 2-Disc Limited Collector's EditionEnough has been said about the both the historical El Cid (the 11th century Spanish hero) and the epic 1961 film starring Charlton Heston that centered around his life to fill many books… or many special edition film releases. Luckily the Weinstein brothers have fans of the latter in mind with the first release under their special new Miriam Collection title.

Releasing the Charlton Heston/Sophia Loren vehicle to DVD for the first time, the Weinsteins have definitely left no stone unturned in bringing the classic to home theatres. The set includes six color production stills (looking like high-quality postcards), a reproduction of the 1961 El Cid Comic Book (surprisingly entertaining) and El Cid Souvenir Program (more stills and information), along with a two-disc set, all enclosed in a fairly solid (if slightly unconventional) collector’s box.

Though all these gimmicks are enjoyable, it’s clear that the film itself is the real treasure here. Running a little over three hours in length (including a 10 minute introduction and intermission), El Cid is sure to keep viewers from going anywhere too quickly, if nothing else. The film itself, called “One of the greatest epic films ever made” by Martin Scorsese, is something to behold: maybe not an outright masterpiece, but a darn sight close to one. The sheer number of extras required for the battle scenes (30,000 costumes in all, one of the featurettes informs us) is breathtaking in its grandness. Watching these fully armored warriors trotting down beaches by the thousands is a filmgoing experience that we may never experience again in this age of CGI.

Another spectacle to behold is the elegance and intrigue of Sophia Loren, who earned a whopping (at that time) $1 million for the role, causing an apparent spark of jealousy from her costar for the entire shoot of the film. (Little tidbits like these are abundant in the special features). Watching Loren and Heston’s almost theatrically strong performances is a reminder of a time when larger-than-life portrayals were the rule rather than the oddity.

Starting out with a battle-torn village and Heston’s peace-seeking soldier standing accused of treason after releasing several Muslim captives, and winding its way through a dramatic saga that ends with El Cid as an unprecedentedly admired warrior, this is a drama for the ages, and one of the biggest earning films of 1961, opening to rave reviews then, and still earning them now. Though the attention span of most viewers has shortened in the last four and a half decades, El Cid is a film that still manages to capture the eye of even the most distracted of viewers. There are a few slower scenes between Loren and Heston, but for the most part, this is an epic that stands a head above others in sheer epicness.

Zach’s Rating: B
Perfect For: Witnessing a truly epic film where literally every frame is enchanting
Stay Away if: An epic of yesteryear coupled with Charlton Heston’s swaggering persona don’t sound very fun
Watch For: The final battle scene, where the amount of real-life extras may outnumber the Orc armies in Lord of the Rings

To purchase El Cid (Special Miriam Collection Edition), visit Amazon
For more reviews by Zach Freeman, visit HubPages

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