This $11 million musical version of Don Quixote starred Peter O’Toole as the mad, ageing nobleman who embarrasses his respectable family with his adventures. Backed by his faithful sidekick Sancho Panza, he duels windmills and defends his perfect lady Dulcinea – who is actually a downtrodden trollop at the inn named Aldonza (played magnificently by Sophia Loren).
Playwright and actor Miguel Cervantes (O’Toole) finds himself in trouble with the Inquisition and is put in an underground dungeon on charges of heresy alongside thieves, murderers and wicked ladies.
They are managed by an old ruffian nicknamed (Harry Andrews), who, according to tradition, puts the newcomer on trial to be prosecuted in a kangaroo court by these gangsters and murderers.
For his defence, Cervantes presents his character, Don Quixote, and stages his story, recruiting players from amongst the prisoners.
Thus, the scene changes into the poor old man’s adventures with the windmills, at an inn and with his fearful relatives. He is accompanied throughout by his devoted, protective, roly-poly manservant, Sancho Panza (James Coco). The cynical, rustic prostitute Aldonza is eventually discovered by him as his Dulcinea, while he has a fearful rival in the villainous Pedro (Brian Blessed).
In the stage version of Man of La Mancha, the rape of Aldonza by the muleteers was a stylised ballet. In the film version, it became a starkly realistic fight between Sophia Loren and her attackers, culminating in her being lashed with a whip and knocked unconscious.
Loren admitted that the rape scene called for the most physically strenuous acting she had ever done. It took three full days to film, and at the end of it, her body was black and blue all over.
Simon Gilbert dubbed Peter O’Toole’s singing voice, and mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne was approached to dub Sophia Loren’s. She would only consent if she received equal billing with Loren, who ultimately did her own singing.
The film was shot in Italy with interiorsfilmed at Dino De Laurentiis Studios in Rome. Outdoor sequences were shot near Etruscan ruins at the village of Tarquinia, outside Rome.
Don Quixote De La Mancha/Miguel Cervantes/Alonso Quijana
Sanson Carrasco/The Duke
Captain of the Guard
Rolando De Santis