on 26 February 2008
Stupidly, Amazon have linked reviews from the older and rubbish pan & scan DVD releases to this new edition -- thus misleading customers into thinking that this MIRIAM TWO-DISC DELUXE EDITION is in some way as shoddy as earlier releases. It is not.
Here are the tech specs for this release:
Original aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Commentary with William Bronston (Samuel's Son) and biographer Neal Rosendorf
Vintage Radio promo interviews
Text Filmographies and Still Galleries
Disc 2 Featurettes:
Hollywood Conquers Spain: The Making of An Epic (23:56)
Samuel Bronston: The Epic Journey of a Dreamer (52:20)
Behind The Camera: Anthony Mann and El Cid (17:22)
Miklos Rozsa: Maestro of the Movies (30:11)
Preserving Our Legacy: Gerry Byrne on Film Preservation and Restoration (7:38)
on 31 May 2006
El Cid is one of my favourites from that epic period of American cinema, the 1960s, where every film made seemed to be over three hours long and featured all the stars you could possibly want to see that weren't in the sky. This one also has the distinction of being helmed by one of the great unsung directors, Anthony Mann, whose work with James Stewart in a remarkable and memorable series of westerns in the 1950s deserves to be reappraised. Mann seemed to specialise in films where the hero's mental and phsyical state was always in question (and usually brought to the fore). In El Cid, that inner conflict is dwarfed by the historical conflict, although he later went on to explore the male psyche more dramatically in his last truly great masterpiece, the equally spectacular The Fall of the Roman Empire a few years later.
For those not in the know, El Cid is the legendary Spanish hero who succeeds in driving the Moors from Spain. Charlton Heston (who else?) is the eponymous hero, portraying Cid as a man with a strict sense of honour even when everything and everyone is against him, and the lovely Sophia Loren plays Chimene, his on-off lover. A masked Herbert Lom, however, steals the show in a raving, shouting, wild-eyed performance as the leader of the Moors (he has one of the best and unintentionally funniest deaths in screen history, to boot). Aside from the gigantic battle set-pieces near the end of the film, which are exciting and powerfully shot by the great cinematographer Robert Krasker, the highlights of the film are two ferocious one-on-one fights, the first one a vicious swordfight between El Cid and Chimene's father over their relationship, and the other a trial by combat between El Cid and Don Martin over the the ownership of the city of Calahorra.
Filmed in the widescreen process Super Technirama 70, this brilliant film should have an aspect ratio of roughly 2.20:1. However, this DVD from Universal unwisely crops the image to 1.78:1 after the credit sequence, thereby rendering Mann's exquisite shot composition insignificant. Furthermore, the print used doesn't appear to be the same version so lovingly restored in the early 1990s, exhibiting much more print damage than even the UK TV showing did.
Once again a major distributor shows their contempt for us with this DVD release, so I would recommend getting the new Japanese or French DVDs of this fine film instead, because they're both in the correct anamorphic widescreen ratio.
on 27 April 2011
Amazon do a bad job on reviews with mulitple versions and do not always get the right review with the right disk, so I have made it clear in the title. Amazon have also got confused on some aspect ratios as there is much confusion amongst the public in what they mean. This Blu Ray disk is great. I bought it from Amazon.de but now the UK price is very competitive. The picture quality is fantastic (you can really spot the jet trails and the retakes in the sand), the aspect ratio is 2.35, the sound is good and it appears to be the full movie. I also have the US R1 3 disk DVD and a Japanese DVD. The color is far superior here and for a film from the 1960's it gives a very good result. I love this movie, I do not care what they say about Sophia Loren's relationship with Heston it is great. Only drawback for me is Region B and although I have a Region B player, most of my kit (portable and laptops) are locked into Region A. Never mind may be Weinstein will release this some time in Region A.
on 5 July 2004
This wonderful film deserves a Criterion or BFI DVD complete with a restored print. It certainly is a timely film and I find its vision of mutual tolerance and charity between Christians and Muslims particularly welcome at the present moment (especially with all those frothering neocons yapping about a clash of civilizations). It will be interesting to see Ridley Scott's forthcoming Crusades film, which looks to be an avatar of El Cid.
But do not buy this DVD. It is full screen, not widescreen. There is a DVD available from Amazon.fr, however, which does have widescreen. I saw the film when I was eight (for my birthday) in 1962 and saw it on television (wth a pan and scan edit) which butchered the 70 mm Technirama print. The fullscreen (tv) format gives one only less than two thirds of the actual frame. It's a wonder to see the French DVD version on my 23 inch flat computer screen. the only problems with htis DVD are that the print is not a great one--there are scratches every now nad then, and hte sound track is momentarily off for a few seconds. More troublesome is that the French subtitles were burned into the print, so they can't be removed when you watch the DVD in English (there is also a French dubbed version). And the various menu features don't work except for film and language tracks. Still, I'm glad I got it and recommend it until a DVD here becomes available.
on 24 August 2011
This is a lovely release from Anchor Bay - the extras are particularly good, albeit in standard definition, and provide a good 3 hours of extremely interesting insights into the making of this epic of epics.
However, for those who have been singing the joys of the 2.35:1 ratio as opposed to the admittedly terrible 1.78 ratio of the vastly inferior DVD release, bear in mind that this, as well as 'The Fall of the Roman Empire' were actually shot in Ultra Panavision, and correctly, should be in a 2.75:1 ratio. You can see signs of cropping throughout the entire movie, and it's especially noticeable in the opening credits to both films.
Don't get me wrong, the 2.35 ratio is a great improvement, and the blu-ray is a really lovely print, but this is a common occurrence with movies from the 50s and 60s which are cropped down from Cinemascope, Cinerama, Todd-AO and Ultra Panavision to the 2.35 ratio. Not many distributors will present those original 2.55 or greater ratios as they were originally intended - a couple of exceptions are Ben Hur and Battle of the Bulge, both from Warners noticebaly, which retain the 2.75 ratio.
Perhaps there is some concern that the greater the ratio, the thicker the tram lines on the screen to provide the width?
Personally, I want to see these kinds of movies in ALL of their glory, but I guess I'll have to put up with 2.35 for now.....
on 24 February 2013
A lot of discussion is going on about the aspect ratio of El Cid by reviewers who do not seem to have viewed the film in any format and they may be putting off potential buyers in the hope of a better presentation, which may not materialize. I myself was hoping that a 50th anniversary edition may be issued in USA, but finally succumbed and bought this set and am glad of it.
One reviewer, who may not have seen this film at all, claims that this was filmed in Ultra Panavision with the ratio of 2.75:1 but it is not so. The main title states "Super Technirama 70" - they should have added "in selected theatres" though. For details about the Technirama look up Wikipedia. According to the IMDb the aspect ratio of the original negative was 2.20:1 (that would be after unsqueezing the anamorphic image), but 2.35:1 with 35mm prints. Unfortunately no mention of the aspect ratio with Super Technirama 70, so called when printed on 70mm film with 6-channel soundtrack. The comfort is, with the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 we are getting basically what the majority of viewers not living in major cities were getting in smaller cinemas back in 1961 but with the luxury of a surround sound they only heard about.
Some claim this blu-ray is no better than upscaled DVD, but no doubt this is a genuine HD transfer. You can't expect the same crispness like Ben-Hur or Cleopatra which had almost double the negative size, and had been very well preserved, so different from El Cid. Moreover, unusual for such a gigantic production, the picture is rather often out of focus. One ought to be grateful to have this restoration. I never saw such a complete version before with the overture, intermission music, entr'acte and exit music. However, they ought to have clearly separated the short intermission music and entr'acte which follows without break and "intermission" screen still on, and when it ends the second part starts immediately. The sound quality of the music is hardly CD quality - I compare it with the authentic "soundtrack" album conducted by Rozsa - but excellent for its age. The surround sound is nicely done, more effective than even Ben-Hur - for example the echo in the cathedral square and the empty palace hall.
So much for the technical side. As a Heston and Rozsa fan I have to love this film, but it is not a great film in spite of many positive qualities, as Heston himself said in interviews and his books.
on 30 May 2011
After years of abusing the customer with cropped versions of the film (1.78:1 not its original 2.35:1), when the only way to get the correct ratio and hence full picture was either a newspaper giveaway (can you believe that?) or import it from the USA or France (but on the French one you cannot dissable the subtitles) - finally they have given us the correct ratio - and yet, on the case cover it still says 1.78:1. Don't panic, it's not. It is actually 2.35:1 on the DVD. Add to this the disc of extras and the superb price and we finally have what we should have had decades ago - a decent version of this classic movie epic. At last!!!
on 14 June 2011
Both the new EL CID Blu-ray from Anchor Bay and the previous Koch version from Germany use the Weintraub/Miriam Collection restoration master elements. They are close in quality, but this UK release has the slight advantage. The color timing is warmer, giving the reds a more appealing richness (the Koch reds have an orange hue). The dialogue offset appears to be higher in the UK version also, giving its DTS-HD soundtrack louder volume at the same reference level - the Koch volume needs to be set higher for equal fidelity. The quality of the print noticeably exceeds the dvd versions, and is a very satisfying experience as screen size increases, albeit with some inconsistencies. Some scenes display softness and color-alignment problems, but these are marginal infringements, and shouldn't detract from a fine experience for fans of the film. Sadly, the Bronston epics lack the perfection of many, better-protected 70mm roadshows finding their way to blu-ray of late, but this is no reason to deny oneself of their vast pleasures.
on 26 May 2011
I just finished watching El Cid on Blu-Ray. Here are my findings:
Region Code: Confirmed locked to "Region B". Being in "Region A" (USA), I had to install a region B player on my computer to watch this movie.
Video Quality: 9/10 Image was sharp most of the time with only a few scenes marred by mild color registration blurring.
Audio Quality: 5/10 Excellent conversion to DTS for stereo and surround effects. Unfortunately this was marred by poor audio equalization with excessive emphasis to midrange tones.
Still, the impressive video restoration makes this Blu-Ray a worthy addition to your movie collection.
on 14 October 2003
Wonderful movie, terrible disc.
The one star rating is for spelling the title right, and for the spectacle of Doctor Cameron wielding a broadsword instead of asking Janet to put the kettle on.
The box is labelled "16:9", and it lies. After starting out with the opening titles in the correct aspect ratio of around 2.3:1, the movie descends into Pan & Scan hell - two-shots with only one person in them, crowd scenes reduced to an octet, rolling vistas the size of a pocket handkerchief. Any closeups of people who weren't in the centre of the original widescreen frame are out of focus.
Avoid at all costs.