Sunday, February 03, 2008

A classic movie is back

We spent a big chunk of time this weekend watching El Cid, that magnificent epic film of 1961 with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, which has been digitally remastered and released to DVD for the first time.

Tony has been hot to get this one for years, and it was released Jan. 29. I remember it well -- especially the final scene of the dead El Cid leading the charge into battle along the seacoast, with the light glittered on his armor and his white horse, and the music soaring into heaven.

Oh but I cried. I would have been around 13 or so, and a great-uncle who I'd idealized as a truly good person had recently died of a heart attack at only 55 or so, and it just resonated then with this already emotional adolescent!

Like every other woman who had a hormone left in her body, I fell madly in love with Charlton Heston all over again -- I mean, Ben Hur was simply magnificent two years earlier, and then El Cid! Swoon

(yeah, I got over him a long time ago, and he sure wasn't the hunkahottie off screen that he was on, from everything I've since read....he wasn't very good to his leading ladies, and in fact, despite their on-screen romance, Heston and Loren hated each other!)

But they don't make 'em like this movie anymore. The photography is breathtaking. There were no CG effects here either -- every person in both Spanish and Muslim armies was flesh and blood, and there are a lot of them. Costumes are painstakingly accurate and stunning.

El Cid is based on a true story, although there is also much legend around him. It is noble and selfless; it demonstrates the highest loyalty (misplaced though it seems to be) to king and country; and of course he has a passionate love affair with his wife, even though he is away in battle throughout much of their marriage.

The score simply soars, complex and emotional and evocative, unlike so many we hear today (with notable exceptions, of course, such as Lord of the Rings...)

If you remember any of those epics, try this one. It's got literary substance and for sheer grandeur, it's hard to beat.

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