Cover Graphic from Man of La Mancha
Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Man of La Mancha

Reviewed by: Alex Hughes
CONTRIBUTOR

Good
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Musical
Length:
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
1972
PG

Starring: Peter O'Toole, Sophia Loren

As a fan of classic literature, and, in particular, Cervantes' Don Quixote, I had high expectations for this film, a movie version of the 1965 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha, a stage adaptation of Cervantes' triumphant work. I was not disappointed. In fact, it exceeded my expectations by a long shot.

For those unfamiliar with either the play or Cervantes' original work, the story revolves around a poor retired Spanish fellow, named Alonzo Quixano, who, being retired, spends all his time engrossed in books of chivalry. He spends so much time dwelling on them, that Quixano goes mad, and decides to become a valorous knight-errant, and sally forth into the world to battle evil, with the assumed knightly name of Don Quixote. To aid him as his squire, Quixote cons a none-too-bright neighbor named Sancho Panza, and together they share a number of hilarious adventures.

Here the play and the novel diverge for the most part. While the play/movie does contain a number of the more important points of the book—the “friends” who try to win Quixote back to sanity, the famous “windmill scene,” where the knight mistakes an ordinary windmill for a multi-armed giant, and the “lady” Aldonza, a kitchen scullion Quixote sees as the peerless Dulcinea (Sophia Loren in the movie)--the movie tends to treat Quixote (played masterfully by Peter O'Toole) as an admirable dreamer, while the book treats him as an empty-headed fool. Here is where the movie has its appeal to Christians, and non-Christians, alike.

The whole theme behind the play/movie, to “dream the impossible dream,” is fantastic. Throughout the film, Don Quixote continues to strive for what his “chivalrous virtues” tell him to be correct, through all adversity—defend the weak, uphold the law, punish the guilty, and yet, even after Quixote “vanquishes” a foe, he has the Christian charity to minister to his wounds. The wonderful songs, too, only broaden its appeal to Christians. One song in particular I found to be exceptional, “The Impossible Dream,” extolling of a knight’s duty, with such lines as: “To fight for the right Without question or pause, To be willing to march into hell For a heavenly cause.”

All in all, “Man of La Mancha” is a wonderful film for the Christian, albeit, perhaps a bit too difficult overall for anyone under 14 or 15. It contains no swearing, blood, gore, or sex whatsoever, and throughout, Quixote preaches of the virtues of chastity, charity, and the like. “Man of La Mancha” is, if anything, an entertaining, yet terrifically-inspiring reminder of our Christian duty to, if necessary, give our last breath fighting in the name of God and what is right.

Viewer Comments
Whatever you do, do NOT see this movie, try to see a stage production of it instead. “Man Of La Mancha” was one of the greatest musicals in the history of Broadway, opening in 1965 with Richard Kiley in the dual role of Cervantes and Don Quixote and ran for nearly seven years. With an outstanding score that included the classic “The Impossible Dream” and its lessons of courage and standing up for what’s right against all odds, the results were truly magical on stage.

This movie however, ranks as the ultimate example of Hollywood taking a Broadway classic and fouling things up beyond measure. For one thing, Richard Kiley who created the part wasn’t allowed to reprise his role because he was not a box office name. So instead we get Peter O'Toole whose singing had to be dubbed, and it’s not good dubbing at that. Sophia Loren, also cast for box office reasons only, was allowed to do her own singing and the results are like fingernails on a blackboard (and on top of that the major song for Aldonza/Dulcinea, “What Does He Want Of Me?” has been dropped!). Listen to the original Broadway cast CD sometime which had Kiley and Joan Diener and you’ll hear the kind of beautiful singing that should have been in this film! If the bad casting and bad singing isn’t bad enough, there’s also been an egregious change in the script from the original.

In the stage version, Cervantes is arrested because in the course of exercising his duties as a tax collector, he forecloses on a church and thus brings down the wrath of the Inquisition on him despite the fact that he was doing his lawful duty. In the film, Cervantes has been made a political agitator which destroys the wonderful contrast that exists between Cervantes and his fictional altar ego. “Man Of La Mancha” has some good lessons for the Christian, but the bad execution of this film is reason enough not to see it. I urge anyone to (a) get the Broadway cast CD and read along a printed copy of the stage version or (b) see a local production of it if it’s ever in your area. My Ratings: [Good / 1]
—Eric Paddon, age 32
This movie is an amazing movie. The fight between idealism and realism is a good one in this movie. I enjoyed this movie very much and will keep enjoying until I have passed away.
—John, age 16