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4.4 out of 5 stars48
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 22 November 2010
I'm surprised I haven't encountered this film before now. It has certainly been around long enough - since 1972. I found it to be excellent, with great performances from Peter O'Toole, Sophia Loren and, indeed, all the cast. I was surprised just how good Peter O'Toole's singing voice was, but then I discovered that it was dubbed throughout by a professional singer, Simon Gilbert! It's very well done, though, and I could not see or hear the joins. The way the story is told is very clever as it's actually a story within a story within a story, part of it delusional. The film is limited in what it can include of the Cervantes classic, but that's hardly surprising. I just checked my book and it's over 750 pages long. It would be expecting a bit much to get all that into a two hour film. Also, the film divides its time between portrayals of both Cervantes and Don Quixote, and it certainly succeeds in capturing the essence of both individuals. This film is thought-provoking, dramatic, colourful and amusing, as well as containing some really wonderful music. Parts of it bring tears to the eyes (and that doesn't happen with me very often). Thoroughly recommended. I must buy the soundtrack.
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Seems that Miguel de Cervantes (Peter O'Toole) was caught performing a politically unhealthy play during the time of the Spanish inquisition. So he gets tossed in a dungeon to await trial. There he is put on trial by the others also awaiting their trial. They threaten to burn his manuscript. He explains his story by putting on a play that involves the people listening. It is the story of Alonso Quijana who in a fever becomes a great knight (Don Quixote de la Mancha); he seeks adventure and the "impossible dream."

It is the nature of plays that when preformed one tries to get the best stage actors. In film they strive for the best know movie actors. This movie has accomplished the feat. Each actor brings the character that he/she is playing alive and just as in the movie when they transit from telling the story to being the story, we go from watching the movie to being the story. The music will stay with you long after the movie has finished.
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on 16 July 2013
The film is of course a pure creation and it is built on three layers, all of them fictitious, more or less, but always a little or a lot according to what you know or think of Cervantes and Don Quixote. First Cervantes, then Alonso Quijano and finally Don Quixote. The first one is the author. The second one is the real identity of the character. The third one is his imaginary identity in his knight errant fantasy and delusion.

The film centers on Cervantes, a playwright and actor who performs in the market place. His plays are satirical and hence attack directly or indirectly the all-powerful church in Spain. It is true Cervantes was excommunicated by the inquisition, but here he is arrested, imprisoned in an underground dungeon and finally summoned for his trial and we will never know the end of it, though we know he was not executed, far from it.

Then the film puts him on trial in the vast dungeon where he is imprisoned by the people in the dungeon, under the authority of the one who was appointed governor of this underground society by the inhabitants of this netherland. To defend himself he gets the right to perform his Don Quixote story, whose manuscript got nearly burnt. He uses his props and masks and all the people in the dungeon take part. It is thus a description of the life in such a prison and of a play that is acted in good faith and with fun by the prisoners as an entertainment. Think or dream of an entertainment in such a miserable environment where you do not see the light of day and where anyone can be summoned for trial, which means questioning (I guess this is a nice word for torturing) and then sentencing and executing.

If the play is performed in the prison, the camera takes us in real outside décor and setting and we get the Don Quixote story in the real imaginary world of Cervantes. And we get everything, the giant windmills, the horse Rocinante, the whore Dulcinea, and many other niceties of that kind draped in some fantasy or delusion by Don Quixote. That world is cruel, cruel with women first of all, cruel with people who are not "normal" then, those who seem to be slightly "crazy" or "corrugated" if not plainly "deranged suckers." Violence is the basic condiment of this life and for women it is rape, which is not rape really in those days, just using the woman the way she is supposed to exist for. Willing or not is not a question in those days and love is nothing but sex at the request of the man and no is not a possible answer from the woman. Like it or not, that's your function. The film is not fuzzy about it.

And yet that makes Don Quixote really crazy who lives in a world of chivalry that has been long gone in the sixteenth century, a world of chivalric and courteous love that has never really existed, except as a dream in the minds of some medieval poets, a world of honor, glory and enchanters, hence of some kind of magic that has never had the slightest beginning of an existence or reality.

But we evade these two worlds into the real world of the fictional character Alonso Quijano who is dying. He is on his death bed totally unaware of his fantastic adventures when his servant Sancho and the inn maid from the local inn come to visit him and try to revive his delusion to lead him to a pleasurable death. And little by little his memory comes back and he dies singing the song about reaching the unreachable star, as if dying was the surest way to do so, but it sure is a pleasant way to die for Don Quixote, or is it Alonso Quijano?

The last and fascinating aspect of the film I want to mention is the music and the songs. They are absolutely mesmerizing and they are worth a fortune of pleasure. We can understand why Jacques Brel recorded the score in its French adaptation. There is no difference between, that Don Quixote and so many of the characters in Jacques Brel's songs, Jacky, Jef and innumerable other Caporal Casse Pompon. It is a true testament about real true voracious life fantasized by a truly insane person who believes a world that was a dream in the Middle Ages is possible in today's global village. The film here works on that dimension so well that there is no hope of any salvation in this universe, nor in any other post mortem cosmos except dying singing about a dreamlike Never-never-land with a Captain Hook and a Tinkerbell in the childish mind of Peter Pan. "I could pretend I'm flying away."

Well done but not quite for younger children.

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on 8 August 2008
This is a musical from 1972.
It is therefore amazing how much I like this film.
It has a good enjoyable story and it made me think.

Sophia Loren, even as a scruffy barmaid looks gorgeous, and Peter O'toole is ... Peter O'Toole. There are some smaller parts for other well known stars (like Brian Blessed). It is a very colourful and imaginative film, and the fact that it is a musical, doesn't mean that it lacks in meaning.

What I liked especially about it, is it's layeredness.
The story starts with Cervantes (O'Toole) being picked up and thrown into jail, to await the inquisition. In jail he (and his side-kick) needs to defend himself against the other detainees. He does this by telling and enacting his story of Don Quixote. For this he "uses" the other prisoners. So you see the same characters appearing in different roles on the one hand in prison (reality) and on the other in the play.
But that is not all.
Starting from the inside, and working your way out, first there is Don Quixote acting out his adventures (amusing, romantic, and colourful), but Don Quixote is of course only the figment in the imagination of a Spanish nobleman. So part of the play is about some of his relatives trying to shock him out of his Quixote-delusion back into the real world (which works temporarily, thus providing the heart breaking finale).
And finally of course, even the noble man is only a creation of Cervantes' who tells the story in prison. And then this leads us out of the film to us, the audience, watching the scenes in prison.

On a more philosophical level, I think the film asks you to think about two opposing ways of facing life: idealism versus realism. In this the film is clever (but disingenuous) to polarise these alternatives into idealism=romantic=noble versus realism=cynical=degrading.

All in all a very enjoyable film which I will watch a few more times (than once).
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on 19 September 2010
I initially approached this film with a great deal of trepidation. I had always loved Man Of La Mancha on stage - not just for its performance, story and great songs - but also for the sheer theatricality of the piece. The device of having Cervantes in prison acting out his great creation of Don Quixote was a marvellous one and the imaginative staging was a neverending joy. There was no way this unique and exciting concept could be recreated on film.

However, the film makes a better attempt than I expected, substituting a gritty reality for the stylized stage vision. Sometimes this works quite well, particularly in the opening scenes. Other times, a bit more dream-like quality would have helped. One good move was to retain the basic design for the huge prison cell, with its long dramatic descending staircase. Visually, the film had promise.

But, of course, Man Of La Mancha is a musical and musicals tend to rise or fall on the strength of their performers. For the central role of Cervantes/Quixote, Peter O'Toole was a great choice - in a dramatic sense. His flamboyant acting style suited both characters and he made the transition back and forth with the ease of a seasoned trouper. But Man Of La Mancha was written for performers with strong singing voices and O'Toole, as he proved in Goodbye Mr Chips, doesn't have one. So instead of stirring renditions of "The Impossible Dream" and other songs, we get dramatic versions that are spoken as much as they are sung. This is not as bad as it sounds and O'Toole pulls it off much better than, say, Richard Harris in Camelot. It is only the knowledge of how the songs could sound that leads to a touch of disappointment. Still, O'Toole does better than some of his co-stars.

The largely British supporting cast of non-singers does well enough. Dependable old Harry Andrews tries gamely, Brian Blessed roars and stomps as he usually does, Ian Richardson is wasted in a part that was much larger on stage, and John Castle is quietly effective as a sarcastic cynic. But James Coco as Sancho Panza is a huge obstacle to credibility. Why he was cast is a mystery - presumably someone wanted an American in the project. But he seems uncomfortable and out of place, and the rapport he should have with O'Toole simply isn't there. Then there is Sophia Loren...

Loren manages to seem, often at the same time, both perfect for her part and totally miscast. At first glance, she looks wonderful as Aldonza, the serving wench with easy virtue. But, on closer inspection, she occasionally appears too glam and at other times (dare I suggest it?) too old. Her acting is fiery and sexy enough. But I always thought Sophia was a better singer than she demonstrates here. However, she looks great in the stills!

All in all, Man Of La Mancha arrives on screen reasonably intact but with a cast better suited to its dramatic elements than its musical ones. Man Of La Mancha is such a great play that it will take more than this to ruin it. Its impact may be diminished, but it is still an interesting and relatively enjoyable experience.
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on 16 November 2012
This musical version of the story of Don Quixote is great fun. Probably most famous now for the song 'impossible dream', it relates the tale of Cervantes 'hero'.
Starring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren, neither of whom would seem first choice for a musical, it moves along at a good pace. As suggested, neither star makes a real success of their roles, although they are acceptable.
Overall, an enjoyable romp, but it does look dated.
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on 11 January 2004
The most impossible dream for this film is that it will be released on DVD or re-released on video.
It is a classic musical that has some of the most well known music. From the hillarious windmill fight to Cervantes's (writer on Don Quixote) imprisonment and call to trial, beautiful music accompanies Don Quixote (Peter O'Toole) and his ever loyal Sancho.
It is a stunning product of a low-budget 1972 film and shame on the producers for the lack of investment into promoting this film as it is one of the best musicals around.
All range of emotions are brought alive as Cervantes tells out his story to the inmates, imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition.
By telling this story and involving the inmates into acting out the story, he boosts the inmates morale and wins over their respect, thus saving the hard copy of the story he tells from the inmates' kangaroo trial.
So, I suggest if you see a rare copy of this video, snap it up straight away - it's great fun to watch and beats Carousel by a long way.
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on 8 January 2014
Saw this musical on stage a few years ago and loved it. Have been trying to find the DVD ever since and came across this on Amazon. Couldn't believe how brilliant the performances are by Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren - didn't know they could sing!! Have watched it over and over again - such a fab story! If you like musicals, you will love this!
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on 3 November 2014
Very interesting adaptation of great art. As a play it has got its limits on screen . The message is today more real than it was ever before - the whole mankind is fighting with Wind mills and all for ... dream of flesh. A smell. In some way O'Toole's character reminds me Pinocio .
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on 28 October 2006
I thought this DVD was a true interpretation of the stage show as remembered it. True, Sophia Loren and O'Tool are not renoun for their singing voices, but a great watch any way.

Loved it.
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