|Plunder of the Sun (1953)
Run time: Approved | 81 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Director: John Farrow
Writers: Jonathan Latimer, David Dodge
Stars: Glenn Ford, Diana Lynn, Patricia Medina
In this exciting mystery-thriller, American insurance adjuster Ford unwittingly becomes involved with a fortune in Aztec curios and a very dangerous game of pursuit.
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While much of Glenn Ford's early 1950s film output are unabashedly 'B' movies (he filled the same niche as Robert Mitchum did, at RKO), the movies are, by and large, very entertaining, and "Plunder of the Sun", shot in Mexico for Warners and John Wayne's Batjac Productions, is no exception. Directed by John Farrow, this action drama offers noir elements (an ambiguous hero, a 'fallen' woman, brutal violence, and an 'expressionist' use of light and shadow), John Huston-like characters (reminiscent of both "The Maltese Falcon" and "Treasure of Sierra Madre"), and an actually pretty accurate look at ancient Indian civilizations that built cities with pyramids when Europe consisted of little more than tribes.
Ford is Al Colby, a down-on-his-luck American recruited by rotund Thomas Berrien (Sidney Greenstreet-channeling Francis L. Sullivan) to slip a package through Mexican customs. When Berrien unexpectedly dies, a variety of characters offers Colby money, potential treasure, or his life, in exchange for the mysterious package, which he discovers contains part of an ancient document mapping where a hidden cache of priceless artifacts is buried. Seduced by both beautiful native girl Patricia Medina, who seems involved with all the 'major players', and drunken American 'party girl' Diana Lynn (doing a 'Gloria Grahame' impression), and 'educated' through beatings and genial lectures by the mysterious 'Jefferson' (scene-stealing Sean McClory), Colby teeters between succumbing to the vast wealth the document promises, and 'doing the right thing', and turning everything over to the Mexican authorities, who legally 'own' the artifacts. While Ford's portrayal lacks the subtle shadings of Bogart or Mitchum, he handles the moral dilemma quite well, and he certainly can take a beating!
With much of the action filmed at actual Aztec sites, in Oaxaca, Mexico, the film has an authentic 'feel', is fast-paced, and very watchable.
Certainly worth a look!
David Dodge’s novel is brought to the screen with Ford excellent as protagonist Al Colby. The script however, plays fast and loose with the novel, changing the locale from Peru to Mexico and now the search is on for Aztec artifacts instead of Incan. All things considered, this is a tightly directed and well acted tale. It has not been available for viewing as it seems to be tied up in litigation along with "Island in the Sky"(1953) and "The High and the Mighty"(1954)as the Wayne Family battles Warner Brothers and we are the losers.
Long unseen due to legal complications, Plunder of the Sun is now available on DVD and recently popped up on TCM. It was worth the wait. Glenn Ford is excellent as usual as Al Colby, an American who succumbs to temptation and gets involved in the artifact smuggling trade in Latin America. For the princely sum of $1,000, he's hired by Berrien (Sydney Greenstreet stand in Francis Sullivan) to transport the Maguffin from Cuba to Mexico. Things get complicated when Berrien turns up dead, and Colby finds others on the trail of his valuable package. The film features outstanding cinematography by Jack Draper–whose atmospheric, carefully lit work is best known to baby boomers thanks to his work on horror films such as Curse of the Crying Woman and World of the Vampires–and magnificent location footage of the Oaxaca ruins. Also noteworthy is the supporting cast, which includes bleach blonde Irish thespian Sean McClory and the brilliant veteran character actor Charles Rooner, an unheralded talent whose performance as a dissipated doctor in 1947's La Perla remains a landmark of cinematic malevolence.
The insurance adjuster Al Colby (Glenn Ford) is interrogated by the Mexican authorities about the trail of dead bodies behind him. When the personnel from the American Consulate arrive to talk to Colby, he tells that his journey had begun in Havana, Cuba, where he was short of money. Colby is contacted by Thomas Berrien (Francis L. Sullivan), a crooked collector of antiquities that offers one thousand dollars to him to travel by ship to Oaxaca, Mexico, smuggling a small package. During the voyage, Thomas dies in his cabin, and Colby opens the package and finds three parchments and one medal of stone. When he is contacted by the rival of Thomas, the archaeologist Jefferson (Sean McClory), he discovers that the parchments contain information about a hidden treasure in the Zapotecan ruins of Mitla.
"Plunder of the Sun" is a flawed but enjoyable action movie of treasure hunting and double-crossing. Glenn Ford performs an ambiguous and amoral adventurer that is motivated by money only. There are several silly moments, like for example the tiger men removed by chisel by archaeologists that do not see the loose stone; or the heavy statue falling over Jefferson; or the conclusion with Dr. Ulbaldo Navarro (Julio Villareal) clearing his situation. The funniest scene is when he tells Julie Barnes, performed by Diana Lynn, that she would not be threatened by the sacrifice of virgins by the Zapotecans. Nevertheless the movie is entertaining and was filmed in the Zapotecan ruins of Mitla and Monte Alban. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Pergaminho Fatídico" ("Fatidic Parchment")