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Genius Hails 'El Cid'

30 Jan, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey


The special screening of the Oscar nominated film El Cid to celebrate the epicÆs DVD release took place January 28.


It may have been El Cid's night, but it was also a celebration of every epic film, the ones that cause people to actually say “they just don't make them like they used to.”

The Weinstein Company and Genius Products hosted a sold-out screening of the 1961 film Jan. 28 at the ArcLight Hollywood, a launch party for the much-anticipated DVD release the next day. The release also marked the first in The Weinstein Company's The Miriam Collection series, announced in May; and the first of four films from Samuel Bronston Productions that are hitting DVD for the first time ever.

“We think these are really going to appeal to the collector,” said Michael Radiloff, EVP of marketing for Genius Products. “It took a long time to do this, to deliver these films to DVD. It's been a labor of love for all of us.”

Much like the special features on the El Cid DVD, the Genius event featured the children of those behind the movie: Bill Bronston, son of late producer Samuel Bronston; Norma Barzman, the widow of late screenwriter Ben Barzman; Nina Mann and Toni Parra, the daughters of late director Anthony Mann; and Juliet Rozsa, daughter of late composer Miklos Rozsa.

“It's amazing what's changed since this film was made,” Bill Bronston said. “It's all entirely real, there was no such thing as CGI. The whole feel bleeds and breaths in a very human way.”

Based on the story of the real-life 11th century Castilian knight and Spanish hero El Cid, the film earned three Oscar nominations and is remembered for its cast of thousands and authenticity in locations, costumes and props.

“Everything was a struggle to be shot … it was an enormous undertaking. It cost $7 million at the time, which wouldn't cover the insurance of such a film today,” Bill Bronston said, adding the DVD is being released about a month before what would have been his father's 100th birthday. “The special features (on the DVD) are rich and very interesting. I loved the magnificent editing.”

Two biographers of Samuel Bronston's life and his lasting affect on American cinema also were in attendance. They too contributed to the special features on the DVD.

[El Cid] is nothing like the films you see today. This [DVD] captures that,” said Mel Martin, author of The Magnificent Showman: The Epic Films of Samuel Bronston. “More people have forgotten [Bronston's epics] than remember them, and a lot of us were worried these films would be gone forever.”

El Cid is being released in two DVD offerings that include the same special features: a feature commentary with Bill Bronston and a historian, promotional radio interviews with El Cid stars Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, an introduction interview with Heston, featurettes on Samuel Bronston and Anthony Mann, three other featurettes, a trailer gallery, filmographies and still galleries. A limited edition aims straight at the collector, including a reproduction of the original souvenir program for the movie, a reproduction of a 1961 El Cid comic book, and six color production stills.

“It's a challenge,” Radiloff said of putting together so much material for a movie that's closing in on 50 years old. “Fortunately, we were able to get Bill Bronston, vintage material like the radio interview, and all this great promotional material.”

Radiloff also confirmed that El Cid would be followed this year by another Samuel Bronston epic, The Fall of the Roman Empire, with a similar limited-edition DVD offering expected, in addition to a standard release. Circus World and 55 Days at Peking also will see eventual DVD releases, he said.

“I think he'd love that,” Bill Bronston said of his father's films, especially the epics, making it to DVD. “He got earlier than most people that this is a global audience … he basically had no country, [and] strained for family and community in everything he did.”

The Miriam Collection is named after Bob and Harvey Weinstein's mother, and will act as a premiere label for restored classics, notable foreign titles and some more recent selections.

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