When French playwright Pierre Corneille wrote El Cid, a fanciful version of the life of 11th-century Spanish hero Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, aka "El Cid", an attempt was made to honor the "classic unities" and to compress the whole story into a single day! Be assured that the 1961 film version of El Cid is more faithful to the actual chronology. Charlton Heston adds one more character to his gallery of historical portrayals as El Cid, the disgraced Spanish knight who rids his country of its Moorish conquerors. The triumphs of El Cid's military life are not matched by his private affairs; he is betrayed by his bride Chimene (Sophia Loren) and is made a political pawn by the avaricious Spanish landowners. El Cid has a climax unique in the annals of movie epics: the final assault against the landgrabbers is led by a dead hero. El Cid established the short but generally profitable reign of producer Samuel Bronston as the King of the Epics; his imprint on the film is much stronger than that of director Anthony Mann.
by Hal Erickson synopsis