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Restored ‘El Cid’ sans extra footage

The version of the 1961 epic “El Cid” that opened the AFI/LA Film Festival Thursday evening was advertised as “restored and lengthened,” as is the fashion with revivals of 30-year-old roadshow pix these days, but it turned out that only the first part of the claim was accurate.

Pic’s star Charlton Heston joined AFI director Jean Firstenberg and Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein in welcoming the crowd at the Directors Guild of America Theater for the unspooling of the impressive historical drama set in 11th century Spain.

Pic was produced by Samuel Bronston and directed by Anthony Mann.

Advance promotion from the fest and Miramax promised “16 additional minutes of footage never before seen in the U.S.”

But while the Dolby sound remix sounds great and the new 35mm print restores much, if not all, of the original luster of Robert Krasker’s 70mm Super Technirama images (some opticals remain to be properly done), pic runs 180 minutes, exactly as it did when it premiered in December 1961, with part one running 115 minutes and part two coming in at 65 minutes.

Miramax attributes most of the confusion to the company in Europe that restored the film, supplied them with the materials and claimed that this version is 16 minutes longer than what has appeared on U.S. TV.

No scenes are missing from the video version available in the U.S.

Heston’s performance is probably his best in this genre, Miklos Rozsa’s score is stunningly good and the mix of history, religion, melodrama and action gives the viewer a lot to feast upon. Above all, it’s the kind of picture no one is disposed to — or can afford to — make anymore.