Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Secret of the Incas (1954)

Director: Jerry Hopper

Starring: Charlton Heston, Nicole Maurey, Robert Young, Thomas Mitchell

More Info: IMDB

Plot: Harry Steele is a tough young American soldier of fortune, eeking out a living as a tour guide in Cuzco, Peru. He has heard the legend of the Inca treasure, a fabulous golden Sunburst which has been missing for centuries, and his intention, when he can get hold of a private plane, is to head for the long lost Incan city of Machu Picchu.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Would I watch it again? I can see that happening.

I recently came across this website, theraider.net, dedicated to all things Indiana Jones. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) is my favorite action adventure movie of...all...time. I've seen it more than any other film (nearing 50 viewings I expect - 25 of them in the theater) and nothing will ever topple it from the top spot. They have a section for films that inspired Luca$ and Spielberg in the character of Indy and for RAIDERS. INCAS was one of a dozen films and serials that have something that later made its way into the Indy films.

Before I got this movie I read quite a bit about it as it's touted by fans as the film Spielberg forced Paramount to suppress because he stole so much from it he doesn't want the public to know. I figured it was horseshit but I read on. After seeing it, it is surprising at the number of scenes and ideas that made its way into RAIDERS.

First things first. Heston looks like Indiana Jones but for the scarf. Side note: what is it with Heston and scarves? He's worn them A LOT in his movies. There's no doubt L&S modeled Indy's look after this guy. But then this isn't the first time this getup has been filmed. It's not uncommon to see the same sort of look in some jungle/desert adventure films of the 30s and 40s. To see it here and in color it really brings it home.

Harry (Heston) is a likeable guy but he's clearly a bastard and a scoundrel. You'd like him. LOL. He's a fortune hunter that's currently making a few bucks as a tour guide. The tour, btw, includes an artifact museum. Harry doesn't care much for others and he's got a really cynical attitude. This plays out well because he's got a lot of biting dialogue that's just cruel and this is a big distinction between him and Indy.

Miss Morris: Most men don't enjoy taking money from women.
Harry: I do. It's the hardest to get, and it smells so good.


Harry has been flirting with an older woman, Mrs. Winston, since she and her husband arrived in Cuzco. While on a tour of the museum she notices Harry eyeing a much younger Elena to his right.

Mrs. Winston: You thinking of changing horses in mid-stream?
Harry: [pauses and grins slightly] Wouldn't you?

That's some cold shit. Later that evening at a restaurant he stops by the Winston's table where they invite Harry to join them afterwards...

Mrs. Winston: We thought you might go with us.
Harry: I'm meeting a girl.
Mrs. Winston: Awwww. We don't want to interfere with your private life.
Harry: Oh, you won't.


"I've seen so many women cry it doesn't impress me anymore."

What a badass. This movie's filled with great lines like that and not just from Harry.

There's a shady man that Harry's dealt with before who wants the portion of stone tablet Harry has because it supposedly is helpful in finding out the location of the treasure everyone wants so bad. Eventually Harry succeeds in stealing a plane and takes Elena to the excavation site where the treasure is said to be.

There he discovers that an archaeologist, Stanley Moorehead (Young), has beaten him to it. In another nod to what would later become RAIDERS, Harry used a gold piece that, if placed in the right spot with a light shone onto it, will give the location of the treasure. Sound familiar? It's not nearly as exciting as the map room scene in RAIDERS but it is cool, jus the same.

Harry does a lot of lying and betraying in this film and he largely stays true to his character through to the end. The love triangle business is rather forced and ridiculous (Stanley proposes to Elena after knowing her for a day) and it plays out about par for the course for Hollywood during this time. But in all, I enjoyed it if only for looking for clues as to the origins of Indiana Jones.

If you're remotely interested in this film I encourage you to go to THIS SITE which is basically a love letter by a fan to the film. There's lots of pix and you can even view the entire movie.

The cool thing about all of this is that it's got me on a kick to see the other films and serials that served, in some way, as an inspiration for my favorite adventure film of all time, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. It's got me feeling like a kid again, like when I first saw RAIDERS during the summer of '81 in a big dark theater and I made a journey to the other side of the world and back a little more than two hours.

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed your take on the greatest precursor to the Indiana Jones series SECRET OF THE INCAS. Many thanks for the link to my web site on this wonderful movie.