It's all a matter of timing

After a long, LONG absence on home video in North America, Samuel Bronston’s El Cid finally makes its debut here on DVD. Although directed by Anthony Mann, there’s no doubt Bronston’s name should top the credit list, as this was his baby right from the beginning, and is directly tied to his success as an independent producer until he over-extended himself by several million during the making of The Fall of the Roman Empire and Circus World, causing his main financier to pull the plug on future cash flows.

The Bronston empire, as it was cheekily called, quickly fell apart, and both a once powerful producer and very wealthy financier (Pierre Dupont III) were kaput, never to recover from the disastrous expenditures that began when Roman Empire almost rivaled Fox’ messy Cleopatra (1963).

Previously available as single disc DVDs in Europe and Asia, El Cid is slated for a January 29th 2-disc release in the U.S. from genius productions / The Weinstein Company, under the Miriam Collection imprint (named after the Weinsteins’ mumsy).

We’ve uploaded a fat review of the film that goes through the extras in detail, largely because collectors familiar with the 1996 Criterion laserdisc will want to know what’s been left off the DVD (these things matter… to a point), and whether the new extras stand up as fitting and informative tributes to this great film or fall terribly short, and gloss-over some controversial aspects of Bronston’s meteoric producing career.

Those without the Criterion laserdisc - the last one produced by the label before entering the DVD realm – will find some of the differences intriguing (or maybe just minor and petty). Because the review is long and windy, we’ve inserted colour-shifting breaks between specific subjects so as to render the blathering less stressful.

Our review is also larded with links to some related info at other sites, and over the next few months we’ll upload film reviews derived from other Bronston films available in Europe, starting with The Fall of the Roman Empire, which coincidentally, will be the next Bronston title coming from Miriam (sometime in April, I believe).

Canadians wanting El Cid on the same release date as Americans will have to order the DVD via or other online retailers, as the film’s domestic distributor, Alliance-Atlantis [A-A], has a street date of February 26th, most likely to get the bilingual and logo-friendly packaging done in time. still lists the street date as January 29th, but if the fuss over Fay Grimm reappears (the DVD was imported by retailers just as the film was hitting cinema screens in Canada), Canadian retailers might be asked by A-A to kindly wait for the domestic edition, since they do have Canadian rights, and probably won’t want to lose a month’s potential sales to the better lead time in the U.S.

The domestic release will be cheaper (about $2-3 less than the U.S. price), but this title certainly raises the issue of whether a distributor should do its damned best to make parity with a U.S. street date. El Cid is not Die Hard 4 (Live Free or Die Hard), but if TV viewers have shown us anything, it’s that there exists something called 'reasonable wait', and TV viewers do not like it when they have to wait unreasonably for their episodic fix.

We’ll delve into that trend at the end of the month when we upload Everything Doc Martin, since the situation with British TV shows trickling down to the North American market has its own share of problems, but basically one can hypothesize that a good chunk of TV viewers also love classic movies, and long wait times aren’t very pleasing when it involves a favourite TV show or movie.

In 2007, Warner Bros. bungled the release of several boxed sets in Canada when they repeatedly missed street dates or things were delayed by a month, forcing many fans to import the titles from the U.S., and motivated local merchants to import product when they knew fans would not wait long before making that powerful click.

One to two weeks seems to be the limit for hardcore fans, and if merchants have to import (as they had to with Warner’s John Wayne-John Ford box), by the time local product reaches shelves, they’re sometimes deadwood, and that might happen if El Cid is a sign of what happens when parity can’t be met.

Whatever the reasons, it’s in the interest of distributors who need an edge within the smaller Canadian market to not fall behind, because four weeks will mean more copies will be imported than expected, resulting in more returns when the late-coming local version fails to sell as expected, and El Cid is just too good to suffer that fate on a local level.

In any event, please check out our El Cid review HERE, and watch out for more related reviews via this blog.

So… now that one of Martin Scorsese’s beloved films is finally out on DVD in Region 1-land, can someone please get cracking on another of his favs, Duel in the Sun? Yes, it's out on a bare bones MGM disc, but this icon of excess deserves the multi-disc special edition treatment. (The roadshow version put out by Anchor Bay years ago is long out of print, and MGM's disc, while a cleaner transfer, is just another blah budget edition that doesn't do David O. Selznick's film, and ego, proper justice.)


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