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The aging Don Quixote follows his dream by traveling the countryside as a warrior knight.
During the Spanish Inquisition, Miguel Cervantes, a poet, playwright and actor, is arrested, along with his manservant and taken down a great iron stairway into a prison dungeon. Once they are inside, a mechanical device raises the stairs, thus leaving them no way out and vulnerable to the dungeon's inhabitants, who are mostly hardened criminals. The prisoner's leader, called "the governor," announces that Cervantes and his manservant must undergo a ritual mock trial. "The duke," an inmate imprisoned for treason, asks to prosecute the case, because he resents poets for the unrealistic visions they portray. Cervantes enthusiastically approves of the duke's assessment, saying that reality is a stone prison crushing the spirit, but that imagination and poetry offer the chance to dream. The duke charges Cervantes with being "an idealist, a bad poet and an honest man," to which Cervantes pleads guilty. Meanwhile, the contents of Cervantes' trunk, which is filled mostly with props and costumes, is distributed among the inmates. However, when the governor prepares to set fire to his manuscript, Cervantes begs him to wait until after hearing his defense, which he proposes to present as a "charade" he has written. After convincing the others to portray various roles, Cervantes assigns his manservant the part of Sancho Panza, a poor but loyal, proverb-spouting farmer. As for himself, Cervantes quickly dons makeup and a costume, and announces that he will play Alonso Quijana, a wealthy, studious older man who has read about the evils of the world and, through brooding about it, lost his sanity. Cervantes explains: Wanting the world to be a better place, Quijana imagines that he is Don Quixote De La Mancha, a knight-errant on a mission to right wrongs and aid the oppressed. Accompanied by his neighbor Sancho who serves as his squire, Quixote mounts his old cart horse, calling it a fine thoroughbred and, carrying a crooked lance, sets off. Two minutes into their journey, Quixote spots a windmill and believes it to be his nemesis, the Great Enchanter. Despite Sancho's protests, Quixote fights the evil giant valiantly, if not victoriously. Later on their journey, Quixote hears a cow horn, which he assumes is a trumpet heralding his approach. Following the sound, they discover a remote inn, which Quixote calls a castle. When they arrive at the gate, Quixote asks the innkeeper, whom he refers to as Castellaño, or Lord of the Castle, to grant him the boon of hospitality. Judging Quixote insane, but wealthy enough to pay, the innkeeper invites him in, playing along with the illusion. To the other inn patrons, a group of rough muleteers led by Pedro, a whip-wielding man with a hook for an arm, Quixote offers his assistance in any noble undertaking. He then notices an embittered serving wench, Aldonza, who has previously told the randy muleteers that they must pay for her sexual favors. However, in Aldonza, Quixote sees a fair virginal noblewoman and, confusing her by his gentle reverence, calls her Dulcinea. In the prison, the duke protests, saying Cervantes' story is mere diversion, but the governor overrules him. Cervantes then tells the inmates: When Quixote's niece and heir, Antonia, hears of her uncle's deeds, she fears that her fiancé, Doctor Sanson Carrasco, a well-bred university graduate, will disapprove. Although Antonia and Quijana's housekeeper tell their priest they are worried about Quijana, the good-hearted padre knows their concerns are self-serving. Aware of Antonia's future inheritance, Carrasco remains, but decides he will cure the old man of his madness and demands the padre's assistance. Meanwhile, Quixote sends Sancho to request on his behalf a token of Aldonza's affection, such as a silk scarf that he may wear as a standard in battle. Aldonza, presuming Quixote is toying with her, tosses a dirty rag at Sancho and asks why he follows the madman. Sancho replies the reason is that he likes him. When Sancho presents Quixote with Aldonza's rag, the Don sees it as a gossamer scarf and caresses it. After a barber arrives at the inn, wearing his shaving bowl on his head to ward off the sun, Quixote claims that the shaving bowl is the Golden Helmet of Mombrino. Later that night, Quixote confesses to the innkeeper that he has all the qualities of a knight, but has never been dubbed. The innkeeper agrees to knight him at dawn and Quixote pledges to hold vigil until then. While he is praying in the courtyard, a Black Knight and his party enters and a lady in mourning asks Quixote to fight the Great Enchanter, who she says turned her brother to stone. Determined to help, Quixote calls out to his Dulcinea to pray for him and retires to the stable, which he calls a chapel, to prepare for battle. As Aldonza watches from the periphery of the courtyard, Carrasco, Antonia and the padre, who are masquerading as the knight, the lady and her brother, remove their disguises and she accuses them of playing tricks on a madman. Sympathetic toward Quixote, the padre says that Jesus and St. Francis could also be called mad, but Carrasco argues that anyone who can choose to be mad, can also choose to be sane. Aldonza proceeds with her chores, but is hounded by the muleteers and, at Pedro's insistence, agrees to meet him later. In her room, Aldonza looks into her mirror, trying to fantasize that she is Dulcinea, but failing, confronts Quixote, suspicious of what he expects from her. She warns that he may be killed, but he says it is important only to follow his quest, no matter how impossible it is. Pedro, finding them together, jealously attacks them. Sancho and the muleteers join the fray and a brawl ensues, in which Quixote, Dulcinea and Sancho are the victors. Awakened by the disturbance, the innkeeper respectfully asks Quixote to leave. Quixote agrees, but asks first that the innkeeper keep his promise to knight him, as he has held his vigil and proven himself in battle. After the innkeeper dubs him "Knight of the Woeful Countenance," Quixote states that nobility demands that he tend to the wounds of his enemy. Aldonza, moved by all that has transpired, offers to take care of them instead, but when she tries to help the muleteers, who are about to leave, they kidnap her. Cervantes' story is interrupted when the staircase lowers and guards descend. To everyone's surprise, the guards ignore Cervantes and remove a different prisoner. Afterward, the duke says that there is a difference between reality and illusion, and urges Cervantes to see life as it really is. Cervantes claims that he already has, as a soldier and a slave, and has concluded that it is better to see life as it should be. Continuing his story, he explains that Quixote and Sancho leave the inn: On the road, they find Aldonza cowering on the road where the muleteers left her after having their way with her. Unable to bear Quixote's tenderness, she accuses him of robbing her of anger and causing her despair. When armored men march up and surround them, Quixote recognizes their leader as the Great Enchanter, who reveals that he is the Knight of the Mirrors. His soldiers, with shields displayed, encircle Quixote and, with a droning voice, the Enchanter insists that Quixote look at the reflected image of the madman dressed for masquerade and acknowledge that his mind is disordered. When Quixote faints from shock, the Knight removes his helmet to reveal that he is really Carrasco. Back in prison, guards alert Cervantes that he will soon be summoned by the Inquisitioners, but the governor says there is still time to finish the story. Cervantes tells how Quijana is taken home: As Quijana lies in a coma, Sancho tells him local gossip and slips in words like dragon and quest, which mysteriously revive the old man. Now awake, he vaguely remembers an unusual dream but does not recognize Aldonza. However, upon recognizing his Dulcinea, Quijana arises, eager to resume his quest, but, just as abruptly, collapses. Although Quijana dies, Aldonza and Sancho agree that Quixote still lives. In the prison, Cervantes and his manservant are taken away, but the prisoners are better off for having met them.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 11 Dec 1972; Los Angeles opening: 14 Dec 1972|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
An Arthur Hiller Film
|Color/B&W:||Color (DeLuxe)||Distributions Co:||United Artists Corp.|
|Sound:||70 mm 6-Track, Stereo||Production Co:||PEA Produzioni Europee Associate|
|Duration(mins):||130, 132, 135 or 140||Country:||Great Britain, Italy, and United States|
Leonard Maltin Ratings & Review
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User Ratings & Review
Beg to differ
Guess I'm in the minority here... Maybe it's because I saw the original musical with Richard Kiley and Joan Diener, I found the movie pretty bad....
I have seen this story in the theater, in the round, on musical stage and now the movie.Although I must confess I enjoyed the Broadway play being produced...
Underrated Film of the Broadway Musical
Intelligent and literal film version of the Broadway smash musical. The acting is excellent through out (though the singing leaves much to be desired)....