Cinema used to completely different from what it is right now. What used to impress audiences was the scale of a movie. If there were 500 men on horses and a line of sight that went on for miles, it was a good movie. If you could pick out 15 big-name celebrities, it was a good movie. If it was about the big themes in life, or had huge sets, or had bad acting, or went on for about 2 hours too long (the Grapes of Wrath syndrome), then it was a good movie. We’re talking The Greatest Story Ever Told and Ben Hur here. But there was another movie definitive of that era – El Cid.

Thanks to the Weinstein Brothers, and as the flagship DVD of their new line of films, the Miriam Collection, El Cid – The Limited Collector’s Edition is now available on DVD for the first time ever. Pick up this special 2-disc set for a roaring look at the days when cinema was huge.

El Cid is the story of El Cid, a knight who lived in Spain and helped defend the country against the Moors. He was a real historical figure, but he’s played by Charlton Heston with Sophia Loren playing his love interest. People fight, people die, there are huge sets and fire and boring dialogue and wholly unconvincing writing, acting and dialogue. If Michael Bay had directed movies in the early 60’s, El Cid would have been his Camelot.

The special features in this limited collector’s edition are simply beyond belief. First off, it comes in a nice box, an actual box. It comes with two discs, optional commentary about the film by both the son and biographer of the producer, Samuel Bronston. There are also vintage radio interviews with Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston, still galleries from the film, and filmographies. The second disc contains a gallery of trailers, a featurette on the making of El Cid, and deeper looks into Samuel Bronston – the producer, Anthony Mann – the cinematographer, Miklos Rozsa – the musician behind the score. It also contains a look into preserving and restoring old films. And that’s simply what comes on the discs. There is an introduction from Martin Scorsese, a reproduction of the original 1961 souvenir program, a reproduction of the original 1961 El Cid comic book, and six color production stills.

I’m not into old cinema. I like Hitchcock, but his films were up close, almost claustrophobic. These grand epics are complete relics. There is nothing to compare them to in the modern film world. Even Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, which is probably the closest you could come these days, are worlds removed from Ben Hur or The Greatest Show On Earth. But if you like Cecil B. DeMille, then you’d love El Cid. Even John Ford, the greatest director of Westerns and someone who could capture the grandeur of the frontier was much more of a character director than simply someone who impressed by numbers.

El Cid – The Limited Collector’s Edition is something to get for the fans of the grander days of cinema in your life.

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