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Man Of La Mancha (Blu-ray Review)

I first was introduced to the legend of Don Quixote when I was in my Spanish class in either middle school or high school (Forgive me, its been a while, I can’t pinpoint that). We learned about the story and then followed it up by watching this film, Man of La Mancha starring Sophia Loren and Peter O’Toole.  And, that’s the only time I’ve seen it. And forever director/Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam was trying to get some epic based on this story off the ground. That sorta topic would ALWAYS come up in his interviews. But, that’s really my only experience with it. Shout! Factory has now launched a Shout! Broadway line of films and Man of La Mancha is going to be one of its first titles. You can order down below or from their site for this US Blu-ray debut of Arthur Hiller’s film, available April 25th.

Film 

An impossible dream comes true! Imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition, author Miguel de Cervantes and his servant must perform his most celebrated story for his fellow inmates: the tale of Alonso Quijana, a man who has lost his mind… and found his purpose. Renaming himself “Don Quixote de La Mancha,” he sets out for a musical adventure unlike any other.

This is going to sound really bizarre, but I got a real Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibe when watching Man of La Mancha. The costume and set design does resemble it in its “lifelike” approach to a medieval outfitting of set and costume design. Moreover, Graham Chapman’s King Arthur almost feels like a straight up parody of Peter O’Toole’s Miguel Cervantes/Don Quixote. I closed my eyes a few times (Especially during shouting) and you can’t not mistake them as one in the same. There was even the scene with the Knight of Mirrors that almost played like a Black Knight riff. Its uncanny. Plus the fact that Terry Gilliam’s constant push to get The Man Who Killed Don Quixote made makes me feel this could be no coincidence.

The film, Man of La Mancha is a cute little musical with a really strong overarching song and some decent ones to fill in the rest. It features some really solid performances from its lead characters as well. Peter O’Toole gives a strong state to screen esque performance. Granted, you gotta get over a pure Englishman playing a Spaniard. Sophia Loren, even as dumpy as they made her still looks very stunning and is really able to steal the movie whenever she can in the most grounded performance of the film that is the least “theatre-like”.

What really hampered the film for me is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. And what I mean by that is it literally is in one place the whole time. Sure, Don Quixote’s story goes to different places, but a lot of it is outside or in a one-room like place. Plus, some of the exteriors are very obviously sound stages and feel like you’re watching a Broadway production. I really just felt like I was trapped in a room the whole time and wanted to get out for some fresh air. Yes, the film does have exteriors that are really outside, but they come and go too quickly.

Man of La Mancha may be a bit long in the tooth, but it isn’t without its fair share of charms and impressive performances. The film has a catchy lead tune, some good comradery and sort of really genuine feel to its locales and costuming (As I mentioned, almost in a Monty Python way). If this movie was about 20 to 30 minutes shorter, I might’ve sang it more praises, but for a film with such a restrictive location for most of it, you’ll start checking your watch. What seems like it should be a classic, feels more like “it’s ok”.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Shout! Factory’s transfer on this 1972 musical of Man of La Mancha is very impressive. It retains a very projector/cinematic look, retaining grain and some print damage. Details are strong as clothing, dirt, and patterns relish through the image. Its as sharp as it can be and really just is wonderful to look at as grim and dirty as the aesthetic is. This release is probably going to fly under the radar, but its a really impressive transfer/restoration effort from Shout! Factory.

Depth:  With this image you get a strong distancing form characters and background. There are free cinematic movements and lots of background details that come across quite nicely.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich, though don’t deteriorate from any information as hair follicles and clothing still retain discernible features, pattern and textures. No crushing witnessed during this viewing and grain is heavier the darker the lighting.

Color Reproduction: Colors are more on the side of browns, blacks, and natural colors. Though, some red and blue clothing really stick and Sancho’s brown/golden comes across quite bold.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent appearance with no flickering for the duration of the film. Facial details are very strong in medium and close up shots. Peter O’Toole’s make-up and prosthetic forehead and nose are impressively obvious. Red blemishing, stubble, lip texture, wrinkles, facial lines, tired bags under eyes and much more can be seen in damn near every shot.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a decent layer of grain present with some dirt/specs. A couple bits of print damage and very light streaks remain in the print.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This stereo track is an average one. The mix is low so you’ll need to turn up your volume a bit more than normal on it. For the most part, the vocals, effects and music have good separation. The best mixing and overall performance comes during the musical numbers in the film. And also worth mention is that this track has some good bass to it as well.  It also carries a faint analog hiss to it.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are good and clear for the most part. There are very minimal moments where it drops into a bit of muffled sound.

Extras

Man Of La Mancha: The Impossible Dream Comes True (HD, 10:04) – A vintage “Making Of”/promotional featurette from when the film was released.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:12) 

Photo Montage (SD, 3:02) 

Summary 

Man of La Mancha rides into Blu-ray with a very nice, cinematic looking presentation that I really respected in its appearance. The stereo track was solid enough for a complete experience when watching it. Its a shame no new extras were created as this film has a legacy and the Don Quixote mythos are for the ages. Regardless, this is still a very solid Blu-ray release.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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