Put simply, Alexander the Great is a colossal bore. Directed by Robert Rossen (The Hustler, All the King's Men), this visit to the epic well comes off far worse than contemporaries Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. What's the problem? Well, the troubles are legion. Start with Richard Burton, engaging here in the lead role of the philosopher/warrior/conquerer, but given a series of brooding sermons to deliver for well over two hours. Burton doesn't carry the movie as he absolutely has to; the result is an experience not unlike attending a late night lecture. Then there's the warfare. Those of us spoiled on modern epics like Troy will find the playful skirmishes here on the laughable side. Sure, you can stage a battle with just a couple hundred men and no special effects if you shoot it carefully, but if your warriors look tired and on the verge of striking, you won't quite get the necessary effect. My little brother and I had more authentic swordfights when we were kids, using sticks in the backyard. Pretty sad considering Alexander conquered Europe and Asia.
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La Mancha adapts the stage play with Peter O'Toole in the lead as both Don Quixote and Miguel de Cervantes: Cervantes is imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition, finds his papers held ransom by his fellow inmates, and given a mock trial by them in order to determine whether they shall be returned. The trial takes the form of a reenactment of Don Quixote, Cervantes' adventurous tales of his alter ego. As the delusional Quixote, O'Toole jousts with a windmill and promptly rides to a nearby village, which he believes to be a castle holding his beloved Dulcinea (Sophia Loren). By his side is the lovable chubster Sancho Panza (James Coco), who sees the reality behind Quixote's grandiose delusions but finds himself taken in by them as well.
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