Certain movies just seem to stick in the mind for one reason or another, sometimes not the whole film but a scene or two or maybe even only part of a scene. That was the case with Secret of the Incas (1954), which I recall seeing on television as a kid. It was the climax, or parts of it anyway, that remained with me and I hoped for a long time to get the chance to catch it again. Over time I’d heard it said that the film had a big influence on the development of the Indiana Jones character, and it’s easy enough to see where that idea comes from, but that didn’t interest me so much – my early viewing had preceded Raiders of the Lost Ark by a few years. Returning to half-remembered movies can, of course, prove to be enormously disappointing – all the elements which appeared thrilling and memorable to a youngster can fall completely flat when viewed through adult eyes – but not always. I’ve been able to see Secret of the Incas a few times now and I think it still holds up as an entertaining adventure yarn.
Harry Steele (Charlton Heston) is a classic pulp creation, scratching out a living in and around the Peruvian city of Cuzco. Trading on his looks and rugged demeanor, he latches onto newly arrived American tourists and offers his services as guide and, it’s strongly hinted, as a source of entertainment for the bored wives of the tired middle-aged businessmen who retain his services. Essentially, he’s a disreputable character, willing to do most anything to turn a buck and ever on the lookout for an opportunity to hit it big. In this case hitting it big would be the recovery of a fabled Inca artifact, a fabulous jewel-encrusted sunburst which has been lost for centuries and is of huge spiritual value to the indigenous people. While Steele runs his own schemes and scams he also makes use of, and is used in turn, by a fellow expatriate scoundrel, Ed Morgan (Thomas Mitchell). Both men long to get their hands on the Inca treasure, Steele actually having come into possession of a vital clue to its whereabouts, and the chance to do so presents itself in a somewhat roundabout fashion. The arrival in Cuzco of a Romanian defector, Elena Antonescu (Nicole Maurey), desperate to reach the US by any means looks at first to be an unwelcome distraction. However, the fact that the lady in question is being pursued by an official who just happens to have his own light airplane rouses Steele’s interest. He now has a way to get in and out of the lost city of Machu Picchu, where he believes the sunburst is hidden. Still, with Morgan on his trail, a team of archeologists excavating the site, and an ever-increasing stream of native pilgrims arriving daily, things may not be quite so simple.
Director Jerry Hopper had a pretty solid run of pictures in the early and mid-50s, he’d already worked with Heston on Pony Express and went on make the entertaining Smoke Signal with Dana Andrews afterwards. One of the most attractive aspects of the film is the beautiful location work in Peru, with Lionel Lindon’s camera lapping up the local color and spectacle. Hopper keeps things moving along nicely, blending footage of Peruvian customs to add a sheen of authenticity without allowing the narrative to flag. The script comes courtesy of Sydney Boehm and Ranald MacDougall, the former having written some fine films noir and there’s a brusque, hard-boiled quality to much of the dialogue that wouldn’t sound out of place in a crime film. Although this is a fairly unpretentious adventure, there’s also enough character development to ensure it doesn’t become overly formulaic. Steele grows and changes as events proceed and he undergoes the kind of redemptive arc I always appreciate seeing.
Charlton Heston almost inevitably ended up dominating any movie he appeared in, the sheer physical presence of the man demanding your attention. That trademark swagger is on display of course, but he has plenty of opportunities to show off his acting chops too. The early scenes highlight his complacent amorality, cuckolding clients to their faces and pocketing the money women give him with relish. If that were all it consisted of, it would be a one-dimensional performance though. What adds interest is the gradual awakening of some ethical sense, the realization that his current path will surely lead to his transformation into all he holds in contempt. Perhaps it’s the stinging rebuke of a woman or maybe the contact with those whose spirituality overrides base greed that pricks at his conscience; whatever the trigger actually is, the character of Steele comes to see himself as he really is, and what he may become.
Heston carries that off well, but the presence of Thomas Mitchell is vital in making it work. Mitchell always gave great value as far as I’m concerned, conveying a feeling of pathos better than any character actor I’ve seen. His playing of Ed Morgan is a spot on portrayal of a man gone to seed physically and emotionally. The stubbly face, the stained sweater, the fevered and darting eyes all point to decay and decline, and it’s all perfectly believable. Nicole Maurey is fine too as the political fugitive, a woman whose shady past is alluded to but never wholly explained. This leaves her with an air of mystery and we don’t really need to know what led her to flee to South America anyway. Less satisfactory is Robert Young’s staid archeologist – his performance isn’t a bad one yet the writing leaves his character’s storyline hanging and unresolved at the end. There are supporting roles for Peruvian singer Yma Sumac (her extraordinary and haunting vocal talents provide the basis for much of the soundtrack), Michael Pate, and a knowingly humorous Glenda Farrell.
Secret of the Incas appeared to be out of circulation for a long time but there are DVDs available in both Spain and Italy now. Olive Films had announced their intention to release the movie in the US at one point and then backed out of it citing the poor condition of the available elements. I have the Spanish DVD and it’s easy to see what probably discouraged the US company. The print has the kind of overall softness and instances of damage which mean it’s crying out for restoration. Having said that, the colors are quite strong and it’s by no means a struggle to watch. While I certainly found myself thinking about how much better the film could look I can’t honestly say the presentation reduced my enjoyment to any significant degree. If hunting for lost treasure, remote and exotic locations, and old-fashioned adventure are your thing, then Secret of the Incas should satisfy.
65 thoughts on “Secret of the Incas”
Here in the U.K., this was the type of picture that the BBC used to show regularly on Saturday afternoons back in the 70s and I remember seeing it more than once back then and enjoying it. I don’t believe I’ve seen it since though, so hearing that the Spanish disc is of acceptable quality, at least, is very good news. Another one to go on this list. I agree about Thomas Mitchell being a superb character actor. Doc Boone in “Stagecoach” and Kid in “Only Angels Have Wings”, (in the same year), were both very fine performances. I remember very little about the details of the story of this one so it will be a pleasure revisiting it. Thanks for the review Colin.
I guess it would have been one of those BBC showings I remember seeing, Dafydd. The film then seemed to just disappear completely for some reason.
I had a good time revisiting it and I was pleased it wasn’t a situation where my memories proved more attractive than the reality.
As for Mitchell, I really can’t recall being disappointed by him in anything I’ve seen.
As you say Heston dominates practically all films that he appears in. Another fun film from his action period in the early fifties. Thomas Mitchell adds that extra “something” to most film he appears in as well and no different here. Copy I have is ok from a tv broadcast and will have to do for now.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks, Mike. I think the film needs to be restored, which would prove costly, and it looks unlikely to happen any time soon. It could look better but it could look a whole lot worse too.
And I should, of course, have mentioned that you featured the movie on your site a while back here.
Thanks for the lead. Too many films will suffer the fate of never being restored due to the costs involved which for fans like us is somewhat disappointing.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, in a lot of cases it simply comes down to how well the elements have been preserved as proper restoration just isn’t economically viable, unfortunately.
It might be added that Hopper made a success of another film in which he directed Charlton Heston, THE PRIVATE WAR OF MAJOR BENSON, untypical for Heston in that’s a comedy but a real gem. Hopper has his share of good movies and I’m a little surprised you didn’t mention NAKED ALIBI, which is kind of a late film noir and very stylish. He directed episodes of THE FUGITIVE which include some of the very best, especially “Home is the Hunted” (I believe that was the name) which involves brief reunion and interaction of Richard Kimble with his family.
Just in passing, since you mentioned it, It’s probably unnecessary in this blog to declare that SECRET OF THE INCAS is a vastly superior movie to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK; actually, apart from the costume, the movies have virtually nothing in common.
Blake, it just happens that Mike, who commented above, wrote about Major Benson today (here) and I was interested to read about the movie as I’ve never seen it.
I did think of mentioning Naked Alibi, but then wondered how many people would be familiar with it. It doesn’t seem to be all that well regarded although I like it quite a bit myself, and I’d be delighted if it were to be released on DVD or Blu-ray somewhere.
The Fugitive again – we can’t seem to get away from the show on this site lately, not that that’s any bad thing. You’re right about Home is the Hunted being the title of the episode your refer to, and I agree it’s a very strong one. Hopper directed a number of really good episodes, particularly during the first season – Terror at High Point and Ticket to Alaska spring to mind.
And yes, the similarities to Raiders of the Lost Ark are mostly cosmetic. The costume is of course the obvious one, but the South American setting pops up at the beginning of Spielberg’s film, and Heston’s means of pinpointing the location of the sunburst in the tomb does seem to be referenced in the way Indiana Jones behaves in the map room.
I read Mike’s piece on BENSON. Thanks for linking that. The movie is just as Mike describes. It is a good comedy, lots of charm.
I think Heston was aware himself that his physical presence had something monolithic about it (his voice too) and that while this assured him a great career, it also tended to get him cast along expected lines much of the time. He would play against that in different ways when he could, and could do so very effectively. My own favorite of all his performances is in WILL PENNY, not his usual kind of role at all and he was just great.
I was mindful of recent discussion of THE FUGITIVE here when pointing out that Hopper had been one of its directors. He did very well on it, and a lot of other directors did too; they generally had excellent scripts to work with but could provide some personal inflection too (check out Ida Lupino’s episodes for one example).
BTW, I got a response to my query at Amazon which you can check out in further comments on that complete set that is coming out. Someone who sounded like they were speaking with authority assured that all of the original soundtracks are back in place now down to the last detail.
David Janssen is in THE PRIVATE WAR OF MAJOR BENSON. Everything is related somehow.
Oh, I’d happily talk about The Fugitive all day, and I’m delighted to hear you got that positive response to your question re the music cues. I’m glad you mentioned Ida Lupino’s work on the series; she was a first rate director in my opinion and I really admired the episode Fatso which she did – very affecting stuff.
I think it’s no coincidence that Heston thought so highly of Will Penny and, I believe, rated it as his favorite picture. It’s almost a subversion of the typical Heston role and works beautifully – the climactic scene with Joan Hackett is both beautiful and heartbreaking.
I’m with you on that climactic scene of Heston and Hackett–it’s very moving.. And hoped you’d link that piece you wrote because I remember that it was admiring of a Western that’s still underrated by most–well, more just not as widely seen as it deserves to be.
You know, I think that for all the swagger and bravado, Heston had a real talent for touching on loneliness and hidden vulnerability. The Omega Man is another movie which comes to mind where he explored that to some extent.
Like you, saw this on TV as a kid (BBC showed in on BBC2 in 1978 and the following year on BBC 1 so it must have been one of those) and it definitely hit the spot in terms of wonder at the ending – and certainly RAIDERS had that same feel for me when I saw it at the cinema shortly afterwards (especially the map room sequence with the play of light having to hit the crystal at just the right moment in the right position etc). Really enjoyed your review Colin as it brought it all back – lovely!
Thanks, Sergio. Good of you to dig out those TX dates – I reckon it must have been one of those showings when I caught it too. A good adventure film should create some sense of wonder, especially if you see it at the right age.
There is somethign so primal about a treasure hunt that I think it makes it utterly irresistible, and it doesn;t matter if it’s the Ark of the Covenant, the Maltese Falcon or Mr McGuffin from Strathclyde!
Yes, well it’s something that everyone can identify with. And of course I’ll have to admit to being a real sucker for exotic locations myself – put the two together and I’m well down the road to satisfied.
Nice double bill with PLUNDER OF THE SUN!
Very much so – believe it or not, I actually caught myself thinking the same thing when I was watching the film the other day.
Great minds etc! It is a shame that a better video master doesn’t exist as one would have though the obvious influence on RAIDERS would have been a selling point!
I remember some conspiracy theory types claiming years ago that the film was being deliberately suppressed so as to hide the influence on Raiders – no doubt such people might use a similar excuse for the lack of restoration.
Seriously though, I think it just comes down to the usual mundane fact that some films are handled with more care than others. And Paramount have demonstrated a distinct lack of interest in catalog titles (aside from a handful of perennials anyway) for some time now.
The way to re-release it would be to get Lucas and Spielberg to do a brief intro, especially if they are thinking of re-booting the franchise with Chris Pratt (which actually I don’t mind at all – same as Bond after all)
Nice thought – the whole Indiana Jones thing was, to my mind anyway, born out of a range of influences dating right back to the 30s, but it would be nice to hear the filmmakers themselves specify what those were.
With the Technicolor and locations, this is a movie which could be a real knockout if it were ever restored and issued on Blu-ray.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was a highly formative movie for me growing up, and all the talk of how SECRET OF THE INCAS might have been an influence has always made me want to see it. Your review makes me want to see it even more now. Pity the DVD options are limited and of so-so quality at best. Thanks for the great write-up, Colin!
Thanks, Jeff. The thing is you can see influences there, superficially at least, if you go looking for them, or if they’ve been pointed out. I do wonder how much is actually the case though, and how much is just fanciful thinking on the part of fans. I don’t think there’s ever been any explicit acknowledgment from the makers of Raiders that this film was an inspiration – in the absence of anything definitive it’s all just speculation really, but still fun.
I remember seeing it years and years ago, probably the same way as mentioned by others, and the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK link is indeed in evidence. Watching it again, I was struck by Heston’s performance, damn the man was handsome, but also how he was unafraid to take on a role that for the most part was pretty unlikeable albeit redeemed at the end. Mitchell too, I’ve seen him in a lot of things where he was sort of the comic relief, but here his character had real depth, an innate sense of his own wasted life that was brought to life by the actor. Good stuff, and a great review.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Cheers, Mike. Good point about the unlikeable aspects of Heston’s character in this movie, then again he never seemed too worried about accepting risks when it came to roles others might have baulked at.
And I agree on Mitchell too. He often played up the comic aspects but he was a fine actor all round and was capable of digging down and finding the pathos in a role – he did excellent work for Ford in The Long Voyage Home.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ha! You see Colin,I have not seen EVERYTHING! Twice in a row now you have come up with a title that I have never seen. I was looking forward to the announced Olive release of this film, but as you mention it never happened. As I have mentioned before I tend to avoid these Spanish and Italian releases as the quality varies such a lot as opposed to the German imprints like Koch, Explosive and Anolis where you know in advance that you are getting a high quality
product. The Spanish imprint Impulso of a few years back was good generally but they no longer seem to be releasing DVDs.
I like these “exotic” adventure films and have mentioned before how much I like those cheesy Pine-Thomas flicks. JIVARO (aka Lost Treasure Of The Amazon) is a favorite and I wish more of them were available on DVD.
Jerry Hopper’s work to me is pretty much a mixed bag but I do like PONY EXPRESS which I believe,Colin, you do not. NAKED ALIBI I have not seen for years but remember it as being very good. HURRICANE SMITH should have been much better considering that cast, and by the time Hopper made the lamentable MADRON he seemed to have forgotten how to direct Westerns. SMOKE SIGNAL is marred by too much rear projection in the extensive rafting sequences. I class Hopper with Lewis R Foster who made some pretty slack Westerns and adventure films but, like Hopper, give him a Noir and he shines. Sorry to be so negative regarding Hopper as I have not seen much of his work apart from those I mentioned,and I still say PONY EXPRESS is a cracking Western.
Off topic but Colin,have you noticed that DVD Beaver have just reviewed Tourneur’s CIRCLE OF DANGER.They don’t give the film or the p.q. a total “two thumbs up” but as you will see from the screencaps the quality far surpasses anything that we have had before.
Actually, I am a bit surprised you haven’t seen this, John, as it seems like the kind of movie which would be right up your street. Spanish DVDs can be a little hit and miss at times, but I find Italy is generally more consistent in terms of quality – I’ve yet to be disappointed by the stuff I’ve acquired via Golem, Sinister and A&R, for example.
I’ve only seen Pony Express once, and no, I wasn’t all that impressed. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again at some point though as I’ve forgotten a lot of the details and it’s possible I might feel better about it now – that happens sometimes. Naked Alibi has a very good cast and I wish it was better known and easier to see – it used to be up on YouTube but I don’t know for sure if it’s still there.
And yes, I saw the Beaver’s review of Circle of Danger. I thought the screencaps looked fine and it’s one I’ll be getting, along with Little Red Monkey and, when it’s released later in the year by Network, Mr Denning Drives North.
Colin and John, I bought the new Network release of “Circle Of Danger” and watched it this week so I thought I would report back…..pq is generally very good although the sharpness is a little lacking in one or two exterior shots towards the beginning. Well worth getting.
Considering it’s directed by our buddy Jacques Tourneur, my wife and I agreed it lacked a certain development of plot tension though the character development was very good, particularly between the gorgeous Patricia Roc and Milland and again Roc and Hugh Sinclair.
Thanks for the feedback on that, Jerry. Even if it’s not quite top tier Tourneur, it’s a title I’ve wanted to see and own for a long time so it’s good to hear the presentation is fine.
Now I just need somebody to tell me something definitive about Renown’s release of Siodmak’s The Rough and the Smooth.
I bought that too (together with ‘JIGSAW’). I had seen ‘THE ROUGH AND THE SMOOTH’ years ago on the gogglebox but not since. Print quality on this one is great. William Bendix is excellent in an unusual part for him and Tony Britton is an actor I will always watch. Quite adult and gritty. Recommended.
Robert Siodmak – one of THE great noir directors, I am sure we will agree…..
Excellent news, Jerry, thank you. It’s a film I’ve never seen – the only Siodmak thriller to elude me so far – and I’m keen to put that right. I’m a huge fan of the man’s work.
BTW, Colin, ‘Secret Of The Incas’ is on UK TV next week and it is years since I saw it (I don’t remember it) so due to your fine review I am going to watch it.
Good to hear you’ll have the opportunity to see it so soon – hope you enjoy it.
I’ve never seen SECRET OF THE INCAS before but would love to .The cast looks good .Colin ,have you seen THE GOLDEN MASK with Van Heflin ,Wanda Hendrix and Eric Portman. It was show on Australian TV a couple of weeks ago and is known here as SOUTH OF ALGIERS .Unfortunately it is not on DVD as far as I know .I have it on DVDr .
I didn’t mind PONY EXPRESS but anything with Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill usually grabs my attention .
Just to a different subject . In the Bogroll section there is a blog called My favourite Westerns .When I came to the westerns listed for Robert Mitchum I noticed that THE WRATH OF GOD wasn’t listed .Although it’s set in 1920s Central America ,would you consider it a western ? I have mentioned this on Toby’s Blog before and it was one of my most sought after movies .I must admit that I had originally only seen it once on black and white TV and forgot what the title was .It took me years to track it down and when I did ,at the time it was not on DVD .However ,WB Archive came to the rescue but it now looks to be discontinued .This was the last movie for Rita Hayworth .
Two films I haven’t seen there, but I’d like to – we should set up an exchange. 🙂
I’ve read the novel which The Wrath of God was based on years ago though (I’m a big Jack Higgins fan) and have always been interested to see how it transferred to the big screen.
Colin ,to get an idea of what these films are like ,there is a trailer for THE WRATH OF GOD and a scene from SOUTH OF ALGIERS on U Tube.
I am tempted to get an Italian copy of SECRET OF THE INCAS and can actually get one a few dollars cheaper from Amazon ES (Italian copy) rather then from from Amazon It.
For the last year or so I have been trying to get all of Robert Taylor’s Westerns on DVD . I recently got a Spanish copy of SAVAGE PAMPAS .When I first seen this listed I didn’t know if I would like it or not but really enjoyed it when I seen it for the first time .Of course when viewing it you sort of have to blank out Robert Taylor and Ty Hardin’s American accent .
Thanks for letting me know about the YT clips – I’ll be checking them out for sure.
I reckon the Italian DVD of Incas will be sourced from the same print as the Spanish disc – not bad, but just not all it could be. It’s funny about the price variations on the various Amazon sites – it’s something I’ve noticed my self when I picked up German discs cheaper from Spain or Italy than they were in their home country.
What’s the picture quality like on the Savage Pampas disc? I’d thought of getting that myself.
Colin ,I would rate the quality as good to very good and that is for picture and sound .I did not have a problem with itAre you based in the USA or the UK .I buy a lot of American releases from Amazon UK as it works out cheaper .I buy from Amazon US if there are no sellers in the UK selling it.
I saw a trailer for SECRET OF THE INCAS and it looks good and have it on order .I usually like to see a clip of a movie I am interested in but will sometimes take a chance if there is not .
If a movie is available on AMAZON PRIME INSTANT VIDEO are other companies allowed to release it? I have asked OLIVE FILMS if they would consider releasing RED MOUNTAIN and THUNDER IN THE EAST and they said their production team would look into it .These 2 are both Paramount and Olive have released a few Paramount films. I would also like to see BLACK SPURS get a DVD release .There is a trailer for this movie as well .When you look for the trailer for THE WRATH OF GOD put in Robert Mitchum’s name as there is a movie from the same year,1972 called AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD.
Thanks for the reply, and that sounds perfectly acceptable to me. I’m actually based in Athens, Greece and have been for many years now, although I’m originally from Northern Ireland. I tend to buy from whatever Amazon site is offering the best deal, or whatever other etailer for that matter.
I need to check out some of these trailers you mention – been moderately busy the last day or so and haven’t had a chance yet.
Colin ,my family and I went to the UK in 2001 .Unfortunately we never went to Ireland as we run out of time ,but I wish I had went there .I would like to see the village of Cong where THE QUIET MAN was filmed .Have you played the special features on this movie ?I just love the music ,particularly the bagpipes in the races scene and at the closing credits
There’s a mixture of a number of tunes in there though, Garryowen being one of them. All quite appropriate on St Paddy’s Day too!
I have this recording on cd by THE DUBLIN SCREEN ORCHESTRA and it is great but unfortunately there are no bagpipes like the film versions and that’s what makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck and gives me goose bumps .My father and father in law both came from Glasgow .Be sure and play the special features on this movie when you get time if you haven’t already. You will enjoy it.
Yes, I know what you mean – there doesn’t seem to be any recording (apart from the film itself) which includes the pipes. Odd.
Colin ,do you know what the tunes are the 2 pipers are playing at the race meeting?
I want to buy a copy of THE SECRET OF CONVICT LAKE with Glenn Ford .I’d love to get a copy with a cardboard outer slip on the case as most Impulso releases had but finding one at a reasonable price is like looking for hen’s teeth .Apparently the later reissues like a lot of DVDs didn’t have one .
They’re definitely playing Garryowen at the beginning – it pops up in a few Ford movies and it figures prominently in Walsh’s They Died With Their Boots On – but the other one escapes me now.
I didn’t know the packaging had altered for films like The Secret of Convict Lake, which is a terrific movie as it happens.
Damn Incas … always hiding their gold.
Haven’t seen this is so long I can hardly remember anything about. Definitely a fore runner for Indy. Rings of the old matinee serials.
I think the film has been so hard to get hold of for so long that I’m not surprised how many people have never seen it or have sketchy memories of it.
The old serials have often been cited as an inspiration for Indiana Jones and you can see a hint of that in this film too, although the focus is much more on character than action.
If it’s got Chuck in it, it’ll be worth a watch – even in his swagger days.
Absolutely – the films has plenty of positive elements, not the least of which is Heston. Lots of swagger on show of course, but no shortage of intelligence and self-awareness either.
I think I have covered some of this stuff on other threads but I thought I would mention
how much Hopper’s career seemed to be similar to that of Joseph Pevney not only in the
kind of films that they made and the studios that they worked for but also in view of their
later extensive television credits.
I think I much prefer Peveny as a director and there are some of his key films that I need
to give another viewing.I have seen his early Noir UNDERCOVER GIRL which I thought
was really good and I did see FOXFIRE at the time of its release and would love to see it
get a DVD release especially for the stellar cast.I also have fond,albeit distant memories of
Pevney’s ISTANBUL a CinemaScope color adventure film with Errol Flynn.
I recently saw a very ropey off air copy of Pevney’s PORTRAIT OF A MOBSTER which was
also very good but a DVD release seem unlikely because of clearance rights issues.
Colin,your mention of SMOKE SIGNAL prompted me to go back to your review of this film
and I never knew that the UK release was in the correct ratio 2.1 widescreen.
I am sure the Spanish version that I had was in 4×3 so I guess this is one that I should give
a second chance.
Perhaps if I saw more of Hopper’s films I would hold him in higher regard like the Major
Benson film that seems to be highly regarded here.
There are other major studio directors like Rudolph Mate and Henry Levin who I like
for certain titles rather than their work as a whole. Mate’s BRANDED is a wonderful Western,
one of Alan Ladd’s very best. I also have a very high regard for Levin’s THE LONELY MAN
but he is not a director whose work that I actively seek out. Having said that some of Levin’s
Forties work looks very interesting and perhaps I should investigate further.
I tend to be more interested in directors,though lesser known invest their work with lots of
nuance,irony,humor and even subversive little touches that make all the difference.
Some of my personal favorites are Louis King,Harold Schuster,Lesley Selander,Edward Ludwig,
Joseph Kane,Charles Haas,Kurt Neumann,Alfred Werker and of course George Sherman.
Most of these guys worked extensively in B movies and some of them worked for the major
studios but generally never to the extent of Hopper,Pevney,Mate and Levin.
I actively seek out films directed by my “personal favorites” but with the other guys its selected
titles only. George Sherman who we have discussed many times before possibly was more
on the A list than the other guys especially with his big budget “Indian Wars” films for
Universal. However I find films like CHIEF CRAZY HORSE and WAR ARROW less interesting
than his smaller scale films like DAWN AT SOCORRO and REPRISAL!
Gordon Douglas is also a favorite but his stock seems to be ever rising (partly due to Colin)
among film buffs.Andre De Toth’s reputation is also on the rise especially with Oliver Stone
fighting his corner. William Witney,also a firm favorite BTW has Quentin Tarantino on his
case so there is no need for endorsements from the likes of me.
Furthermore I was very pleased when Lou Lumenick,no less called Werker and Ludwig
I have not even bothered to mention various “cult” directors whose reputations are
cemented in cinema folk lore and these days I think we can certainly add Jack Arnold to the
roster that includes Tourneur,Fuller and Siegel among others.
I would just like to add that 2015 seems to herald,among other things more regular Colin,
which can only be a very good thing!
Henry Levin seems an interesting director, from what I’ve seen of his work. Night Editor is nice little low-profile noir, and I have a few Glenn Ford collaborations I need to watch .
I know George Sherman frequently gets a mention in these blogs and is rightly highly-regarded( by me too) and, in a way, it is no surprise. He started his career as a very young man at Republic Pictures, both producing and directing films in The Three Mesquiteers and Don Barry series, both high quality and with good production qualities and the best action content anywhere at the time.
It was always going to be obvious from the start that George Sherman would go far.
Not such a surprise, Jerry, as so many of us here admire his work. I think Hopper was a good enough director, but Sherman was definitely a cut above.
It has to be said though that Hopper’s TV credits are impressive and wide-ranging. We’ve already mentioned The Fugitive of course but I just picked up the first season of Wagon Train the other day which he also worked on, though I think he only has one credit in that season.
Like most of my stuff my previous post was made up as I go along. This means that I often
omit to mention things. There are a couple of names that I would certainly add to my list
of favorite “unheralded” directors. I forgot to mention Joseph M Newman,Paul Landres and
Robert Florey.Funnily enough I sent Laura a copy of Florey’s model B Movie PAROLE FIXER
which she gave a glowing review to. Furthermore Laura has mentioned that she is going
to pass the film on to various members of the “cinephile elite” who are among her followers. 🙂
That’s great news!
The problem with constantly watching B Movies is that watching certain A pictures can be
a chore especially as many of them suffer from over-length;too much padding.
On the other hand several years back at the dawn of the Blu-Ray era a friend phoned me one
night and said…”Iv’e just watched the Blu Ray of HIGH NOON and it does beg the question:
what are we doing watching all these B Movies”
I totally GOT his point but I’m too long in the tooth to amend my ways.
In discussing various directors I purposely omitted mentioning guys like Walsh,Wellman
and Hathaway whose impressive body of work more than confirms their greatness.
By the late Fifties guys like Lang found work hard to come by and Dwan was more or less
reduced to making programmers.Still Dwan’s THE RESTLESS BREED and HOLD BACK THE
NIGHT still have the master’s touch despite their low budgets.
In discussing the likes of Hopper,Levin,Pevney and Mate I guess they might be classed as
second string directors,not up there with the greats but by no means B movie talents.
As mentioned previously Hopper and Pevney moved to television and Mate kept making
films in Europe. Levin did pretty good making big budget films through the Sixties
Interestingly,moving with the times Levin even made a Blaxploitation picture (THAT MAN BOLT)
as did Gordon Douglas,Jack Arnold and Henry Hathaway.
Times have moved on since those days but I might add that I found a lot of the films starring
guys like Jim Brown and Fred Williamson pretty entertaining.
I must admit I don’t spend ALL my time watching B Movies there are of course A movies I never
tire of watching like MY DARLING CLEMENTINE and KISS OF DEATH which I watched
during the last ten days or so. It’s just a question of balance,I guess but with yours truly
the scales are tipped more towards B Movies!
That sounds fine to me, John. We all have a “system” that works best for us. For myself, I wouldn’t say I consciously seek out A or B pictures, or any other kind for that matter. Mostly, I seem to hit upon a balance, but it’s more by accident than by design I think.
Me too. I love a mix of ‘A’ and ‘B’ movies (and classic TV). I know what John K means though – maybe it’s that the ‘A’ movies one is most familiar with whereas the “discoveries” are truly among those rare little ‘B’ movies. I also appreciate the comment re; length of movies. No time for padding (usually) in the ‘B’s – and as for current movies…….apparently the longer it is the better it must be. NOT!!
I see both Jerry Hopper’s and Paul Landres’ names crop up quite a lot when watching old TV episodes. They tend to be a guarantee of a good episode!
Running times are tricky, aren’t they? A lot comes down to the story and the filmmaker – I don’t mind a longish movie as long as there’s a story there to justify it and the director and/or writer knows how to tell it. Too many films now seem to aim for what I’d term epic lengths when the truth is not every movie can or should be an epic.
I have a similar gripe with books – somewhere in the 70s it seems to have been accepted that all novels must have a certain page count, regardless of whether or not it’s necessary to string the story out so much. We’ve now reached the point where people appear to feel short changed if the latest novel is anything less than a weighty doorstop. In all things artistic, less is frequently more, in my opinion.
I have not seen this. I was charmed by Thomas Mitchell as the Mayor in High Noon. Best regards.
I remember going through a period some years ago when I was actively seeking out movies with Thomas Mitchell as I enjoyed his character turns so much, and he’s become a great favorite of mine.
I really enjoyed your blog on SECRET OF THE INCAS. This great little Heston adventure yarn blew my socks off when I saw it at a cinema in 1963. Such was the effect it had on me that I vowed to fly to Peru one day and see for myself Cuzco and Machu Picchu, the fabulous location backdrops to this colourful flick. Heston is totally wonderful as Harry Steele, the unshaven scumbag who rips off everyone in the whole movie, and Nicole Maurey is a real hottie as a Commie with a shady past. What really gives the film cult status is the appearence of Yma Sumac displaying her five octave range on the Paramount lot, recreated to look like Machu Picchu. She proves to be a one-in-a-million performer, and I left the cinema with her amazing vocals still ringing in my ears and forever in my memory. It was my most cherished cinematic experience as a kid. Years later, I met Heston a few times, flew to Paris to interview Nicole Maurey, and trampled all over Cuzco and Machu Picchu – such was the effect that SECRET OF THE INCAS had on me as a ten year old in 1963.
The movie clearly had a big effect on you, James, and it’s great to hear how you got to meet the stars of the film and traveled to Peru – that must have been quite an experience.
Quite right about Yma Sumac too – her amazing vocals turn the soundtrack of the movie into a unique and haunting one.
I still recall seeing this at the drive in around 1965-66 (Drive-ins never showed current films back in the day) I thought it was great as anything not in B/w thrilled us kids no end. (Now I would rather watch B/W stuff) I caught it again about a decade ago and found it had plenty of dead time in it. Amazing what we overlooked as kids. Good review.
I found it OK as far as pacing was concerned, it doesn’t move at breakneck speed but Hopper keeps things on the go. Those Peruvian locations add lots of value too, in my opinion.
Pingback: Smoke Signal | Riding the High Country