Cast of Thousands

The locations, the thousands and thousands of extras, the boredom. Anthony Mann’s 1961 epic El Cid (which finally came out on DVD this month) doesn’t lack for widescreen shots of mounted warriors posed against rock-strewn plains topped by turreted castles. But the plot, stretching over some unspecified length of the life of medieval Spanish hero “the Cid” (Charlton Heston) leaves out most of the good parts. Why does Cid side with the king’s reprobate younger brother then turn against him? Locked in a dungeon, Cid’s wife (Sophia Loren) and children decide they must escape; cut to them riding free on the range, with no info on how they broke out. Meanwhile, a Hollywood stereotype evil Moor from Africa keeps claiming he’s going to overrun Spain, but years and years (actually, almost three hours) before he finally attacks. Oddly, the film does offer a message of moderation in the mayhem. Cid spares his enemies (although killing a number of his countrymen) and unites the good Moors of Spain in the name of greater national interest against the bad Moors of Africa. The final showdown at the seaside redoub of Valencia does feature one whale of a tracking shot past legion upon legion of Spanish extras in battle garb. Oddly, it looks like the CGI-ed siege in 300, but you know it hasn’t been faked, so it is thrilling. Mann takes full advantage here of the 70-mm Technirama process for an extreme horizontal vista of men at war.

20 comments to Cast of Thousands

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>