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The movie El Cid is an adaptation of the medieval legend of Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, a.k.a. El Cid. The real Rodrigo Diaz seems to have been a very successful soldier of fortune who served both Christian and Moslem kings in eleventh century Spain. After centuries of multiple authors retelling the tale he became the Moslem slaying hero of the Reconquista - the Spaniards' generations long war to take their country back. In this version Rodrigo has suddenly become a multi-culturalist, working for a union of Christians and Spanish Moors against an invasion by ferocious Berber Jihadists.
As per the source material Rodrigo Diaz's (Charlton Heston) life gets complicated after he kills his girlfriend's father in an informal duel. Needless to say Jimena (Sophia Loren) takes this badly. In accordance with the best medieval ideals of vendetta she makes an earnest effort to have Rodrigo killed. As Rodrigo is now the King's champion, replacing Jimena's dad, his majesty takes exception to this and thinks its a fine idea to make the couple marry after all.
Jimena chooses the wedding night to confess that she was party to an underhanded attempt to murder Rodrigo. Hurt but understanding he makes no attempt to consummate the marriage. This does nothing to help Jimena's state of mind as she is deeply in love with her husband, father killer or no.
Meanwhile King Ferdinand dies leaving his kingdom to be divided between his two sons. The elder, Sancho (Gary Raymond), says to hell with that and attacks his younger sibling Alfonso (John Fraser), who is supported by their slinky blond sister Princess Urracca (Genevieve Page). Rodrigo sides with Sancho, because he is his friend. But Sancho is murdered at the behest of Urracca and the King's Champion publicly forces Alfonso to swear he had NOTHING to do with it. Needless to say this goes over like a ton of bricks with Alfonso and Urracca who promptly exile Rodrigo.
Whereupon Jimena resolves her conflictand follows Rodrigo. They are dreaming happily of a humble life together in some remote valley when the appearance of his entire fief and just about every officer who ever served with him puts an end to that. The lot of them then set out to fight the Berber horde on behalf of Rodrigo's friend the Emir Moutamin (Douglas Wilmer).
Alfonso, back in Castille, busies himself by doing everything possible to make Rodrigo's life harder, including capturing and imprisoning Jimena and their twin daughters Elvira and Sol. Ordonez (Raf Vallone), Jimena's old admirer and Rodrigo's bitter enemy and attempted murderer, atones by helping Jimena and her children escape. Alfonso sees the light and throws off Urracca's evil influence and rides to join the Cid, dying of his wounds, for the final battle against the Berbers.
The movie ends with a Crowning Moment of Awesome in which Rodrigo's dead body, tied onto his horse, leads the victorious charge and then gallops off into the sunset (literally).
Tropes in El Cid:
- All in the Eyes: Ben Ussuf.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: It's hard to top Jimena's heartbroken: 'I will make myself worthy of you, Rodrigo. I will learn to hate you.' after Rodrigo kills her father.
- Arranged Marriage: After their original engagement breaks off, Rodrigo asks the king to give him Jimene as his Standard Hero Reward.
- Badass Cape: Rodrigo. And Charleton Heston has the shoulders to pull it off, too.
- Badass Spaniard: The original article so to speak - even if played by the very anglo Charlton Heston.
- Behind the Black
- Brother-Sister Incest: Implied with Alfonso and Urraca.
- Broken Bird: Jimena
- Blondes Are Evil: Partly.
- Combat by Champion: Rodrigo champions Castile.
- Duel to the Death
- El Cid Ploy: Trope namer.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: During the intermission that covers his years spent in exile, Rodrigo grows a beard streaked with gray.
- Femme Fatale: Urraca is characterized as this, although her part is fairly small.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: During his exile, Rodrigo acquires a diagonal scar on his right cheek that runs from beneath his eye to his beard.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Definitely. The historical El-Cid seems to have been a great deal more self seeking and much less hostile to Muslims than his legend.
- The Lady's Favour: Jimena first gives her to the Champion of Aragon in hopes he will kill Rodrigo. Then when that fails offers not just a scarf but her hand in marriage to Ordonez - a disappointed suitor - if he will do same.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Rodrigo has a touch of this as he refuses to fight against Alfonso no matter WHAT he does to him because Alfonso is his rightful king.
- Ominous Pipe Organ
- Redemption Equals Death: Ordonez who is tortured to death by the Berbers but dies declaring his belief in El Cid.
- Royal Brat
- Secretly Dying
- Ten-Minute Retirement: About how long Rodrigo and Jimena get to dream of a peaceful life together before his army catches up with them. Literally--they step outside the barn, and find his army waiting for them.