Tuesday, February 16, 2010

arqueológico noir


Plunder of the sun [DVD]. Warner Bros. presents a Wayne-Fellows production; produced by Robert Fellows; screenplay by Jonathan Latimer; directed by John Farrow. Based on the novel by David Dodge. Originally released as a motion picture in 1953. Special features: Commentary by Peter Ford and Frank Thompson; On location with Glenn Ford; Sean McClory; Plundering history. Performers: Glenn Ford, Diana Lynn, Patricia Medina, Francis Sullivan.

style ***
substance ***



Film noir buffs are divided as to whether Plunder of the Sun is genuine noir or not. I include it here because of its heist/missing treasure plot and its shadowy look (the latter is actually quite strikingly done; kudos to director John Farrow and cinematographer Jack Draper). Two more strengths: 1) it’s refreshing to see a movie about Mexican archaeology that’s not a horror film; 2) the novelty of the filming locations (Oaxaca, Mitla and Monte Alban).





Looking great at forty-ish, Glenn Ford is solid as always. Here he's part villain and part hero, and seems bemused much of the time as he tries to locate some sort of mislaid Aztec parchment. His leading lady Patricia Medina is terrific. I’d never heard of her until this film, and her exotic looks make her perfect for the part: she's absolutely gorgeous in every scene she's in, though I was never sure, even at the end, whether she was a femme fatale or virtuous heroine.

But the great coup of the story - and the casting - is the group of eccentric characters who are sprinkled around the nominal leads: Francis Sullivan as an obsessive collector; a Gloria Graham-esque Diana Lynn as an oversexed American tourist; and the, alas unidentified, singer of  “Sin Ella” at the saloon in Havana. Miss Lynn in particular practically steals the movie from nominal femme fatale Patricia Medina.




First among supporting equals is surely Sean McClory’s oily villain, an excommunicated archaeologist named Jefferson who is Glenn Ford’s principal rival in tracking down the McGuffin-like treasure. McClory steals every scene he’s in, despite (or perhaps because of) his albino looks. What’s up with that bleached hair and shades, anyway? Whatever the intentions of the scriptwriter and director, it all gives a fey element to an already offbeat, vaguely sinister character. In any case, it's a marvelous performance by McClory.

A curious little movie, then, alternatingly compelling and boring, and with more than a few touches of The Maltese Falcon. The real star of Plunder, of course, is the authentic Mexican atmosphere, so effectively underscored by Antonio Díaz Conde's brash, idiomatic  score. In sum, Plunder of the Sun is not quite an undiscovered masterpiece, but rather a well-heeled, quasi-noir adventure film, definitely worth a watch. Raiders of the Lost Ark with feeling, if you like.



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