This past weekend I spent some time perusing the “Watch Instantly” section of Netflix.com. Friday night I settled on an old chestnut called Secret of the Incas (1954) starring Charlton Heston, Robert Young and Thomas Mitchell. It is notable mostly for having been filmed in part at Machu Picchu and the town of Cusco in Peru which at the time were extremely remote locations.
The plot involves an Inca legend and a gold and bejeweled starburst that several people are trying to find. Nicole Maurey plays a mysterious Romanian beauty with a distinctly French accent with whom Heston and Young form a love triangle. Pretty standard stuff with the exception of Yma Sumac, a Peruvian singer with a 4 1/2 octave range, who intermittently launches into creepy performances of “Virgin of the Sun Gods” and the like.
Charlton Heston is very convincing as the slightly seedy adventurer out to make money. We forget how sexy he was back in the day. He is well suited to his clothes in this film.
Clearly Steven Spielberg thought so too as Heston as Harry Steele has got to be what everyone had in mind when they were dreaming up Indiana Jones in their typical derivative way. And there is all that archaeological stuff to boot!
I remember watching this movie as a child and enjoying it immensely. I’m sure it was one of the reasons why my sister (and dual personality) wanted to be an archaeologist from an early age. She no doubt was taken with Robert Young and his sartorial splendor. Don’t all archaeologists wear jodhpurs and riding boots and smoke a pipe? Aren’t they all charmingly shy and tongue-tied around women and fall head over heels in love with inappropriate ones whose naked shoulders they are called upon to bandage? Don’t they all propose marriage (spoiler alert!) the next day?!
Anyway, it was a good few hours spent. Since I had started down the pre-Columbian road, I continued the next day with another family favorite, Kings of the Sun (1963) with the inimitable Yul Brynner and who cares who else. Clearly this film was an excuse for Yul to walk around half naked (and at times nearly naked)–not a bad excuse.
The plot here, such as it is, has to do with a Mayan king (George Chakiris of the amazing hair) who escapes ferocious invaders by boat (with his people, including Richard Basehart, Shirley Anne Field and Brad Dexter) to a new land, where he meets up with Black Eagle (Yul Brynner), a Native American. Uh huh.
Suspending disbelief, this movie is quite entertaining. Filmed on the Yukatan, there are many attractive sun-burned people in this film, foremost among them, of course, our hero, Yul Brynner. Quiet, peace-loving, handsome George Chakiris seems way out of his league and knowing it, hands over the scenery for Yul to chew. We appreciate his sacrifice.
Also over the weekend I read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, which I had picked up at an estate sale for 50-cents a few weeks ago. I had never read it before. Published in 1961, it tells the story of a little boy names Milo, who has many adventures in his search for Rhyme and Reason. It is frequently compared to Alice in Wonderland, but it reminded me of The Wizard of Oz. I enjoyed it. It is always worthwhile being reminded to pay attention and that there is much to be learned, even in your own backyard.
“Carry this with you on your journey,” he said softly. “for there is much worth noticing that often escapes the eye. Through it you can see everything from the tender moss in the sidewalk crack to the glow of the farthest star–and, most important of all, you can see things as they really are, not just as they seem to be. It’s my gift to you.”
What did you read/watch this weekend?