Reviewed by: Alex Hughes
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.