Channel Flip continues! We’re in the home stretch, this time with a movie that takes up two entire discs, one of which was probably just the credited cast: El Cid!

Timestamp: Disc 2, 00:02:51 (I can only assume that the actual timestamp is something like 4:02:51 into an eight-hour movie.)

So, we open as a gent on a horse rides up to a convent! Bold move, but rude. Convents are not for dudes! It is like the number-one rule of a convent!

He doesn’t think so, though; he strolls up like it’s no big. The Abbess says in Wise Voice, “I know why you have come.” Uh, is this That Kind of Convent? Charlton “I am the gent from the horse” Heston looks equally wary, though he has no excuse, since he’s been here for the preceding three hours.

Oh, he’s here for his daughters! They’re playing in the courtyard with nuns. Forced whimsy everywhere. Overcome with Dad Feelings, he approaches, but they’re scared and hide! (Good call, girls.)

Then he’s frozen by the sight of Sophia Loren, in a hunter green wimple I question. She moves to greet him; he kisses her hand in the Hollywood way we all know means business!


(This is like second base in Hays Code terms. This place is not very good at conventing!)

Later that night, he tells Sophia he’s tired of exile. He’s not sure he even wants to meet the King; he’s just going to stay and protect his family. From inside this convent.

Sophia, who seems increasingly less enthused with this guy with every word out of his mouth, suggests going into battle is the best protection for his family, so he should go get out there on the field! Ah, the ol’ Charlotte Lucas Gambit.

Cut to: CASTING!

El Cid is general for the Red Team; the guy in the right foreground is general for the Blue Team. But the two guys throw down their swords and embrace in the middle of the river. The crowd goes wild! Hugging everywhere! Best battle ever!

Cut to a huge party, this is delightful. Other Dude compliments Charlton with, “Our Moorish silks suit well your Christian armor,” which clears up several questions about the participants and their milieu and how this is probably going to end up. They watch some party activities together and worry no one back at their respective ranches is going to like that they decided to throw an enormous shindig outside Valencia instead of fighting. They are probably right.

Cut to: CASTING!

This poorly-lit group of hundreds is riding up to the convent! Okay, seriously, this convent gets more traffic than a Best Western, what on earth.

Inside, a bratty dude covered in blood, who I guess is the king, schemes to make El Cid pay for not showing up to battle. (I suppose he means another battle. He did show up for, though instantly partify, the previous battle.)

He threatens to throw Sophia Loren in prison to draw El Cid away from cutting a swath of social delight across all Spain! Abbess, horrified: “But this is a place of sanctuary!” Madam, you are a little late.

But His Majesty has bigger problems, because it’s time to cauterize his wounds with a red-hot knife! “It was not through lack of courage that we lost!” he shouts, as the blade makes contact. Mmm, fajitas foley.

Cut to: CASTING!

[Not pictured; we all know the drill.]

Amid an army of hundreds on a beachhead outside Valencia, a messenger rides up to Heston and delivers the news: His Majesty has opted to throw Sophia and kids in his dungeon. COME AND GET ‘EM, CIDDY.

Will he? Who knows – it’s timestamp.

What It All Means, I Bet: Ah, historical epics of the late ’50s and early ’60s. How macho and religious your constructions of masculinity! How measured your expositionary doses! How vast your call sheets, how wide your aspect ratio! How much you bring home the value of first aid and antibiotics to quality of life!

(Also, while some of these Channel Flips leave me curious about the whole, I feel now as I have always felt: Ten minutes of Charlton Heston is more than enough.)

Fun movie fact: Loren got a million bucks for this movie – more than Heston, who resented it and refused to look at her for many of their scenes together. Delicious!