Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Plunder of the Sun (1953)

PLUNDER OF THE SUN is a rather plodding Aztec treasure mystery, filmed on location in Mexico.

This story of an insurance man (Glenn Ford) who becomes entangled in looking for ancient treasure is interesting in fits and starts but never really takes off. The story meanders for 81 minutes as he becomes involved with a lovely lady (Patricia Medina) he meets in a bar, and there's also a woman (Diana Lynn) he crosses paths with on board a ship and at his hotel.

I like Ford but this particular part seems to call for someone a little more devil-may-care; it would have been much more suited for Robert Mitchum. For that matter, Medina seems to be channeling Jane Greer, and Lynn's role seems to have been meant for Gloria Grahame, although the purpose of her character is for the most part fairly inexplicable.

None of the characters are very well defined, with Medina coming off best, and the story, while watchable enough, lacks a certain fizz to make it really engrossing. Given the choice, a viewer would be much better off with a Mexican chase film such as Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer in THE BIG STEAL (1949).

The movie's biggest positive factors are location shooting in Mexico and a fun turn by Sean McClory as a mercurial baddie also on the trail of the treasure. McClory, who appeared in John Wayne films such as THE QUIET MAN (1952) and ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953), is almost unrecognizable with a short blonde haircut and dark sunglasses.

PLUNDER OF THE SUN was directed by John Farrow for John Wayne's production company. It was photographed by Jack Draper, an American-born cinematographer who spent his career in the Mexican film industry, occasionally filming U.S. productions shot on location in Mexico. The supporting cast includes Douglass Dumbrille, Francis L. Sullivan, and Eduardo Noriega.

The screenplay was by Jonathan Latimer, a name which turns up regularly in my viewing -- in fact, one of his earliest screenplays was the Nick Carter mystery PHANTOM RAIDERS (1940) which I also watched today! Latimer's credits included THE GLASS KEY (1942), THE BIG CLOCK (1948), NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948), and THE WHOLE TRUTH (1958). He also worked on two of the great films in Frank Capra's Bell Science series, THE STRANGE CASE OF THE COSMIC RAYS (1957) and THE UNCHAINED GODDESS (1958).

The DVD release is terrific, part of a series of John Wayne productions released in collector's editions. Extras include a commentary with Glenn Ford's son Peter and several featurettes, including an informative piece on Sean McClory.

For more on PLUNDER OF THE SUN, please visit Riding the High Country and Tipping My Fedora.


Blogger barrylane said...

I think the story problems go to post-production cutting, especially Diana Lynn's character arc. Thought Ford fine. And quite agree that Medina came off well. She usually did.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It would be interesting to know what was left on the cutting-room floor, particularly with regard to Lynn's character. The storytelling was jerky and her character was extraneous -- maybe it made more sense before it was pared down to 81 minutes!

Best wishes,

7:54 PM  
Blogger rockfish said...

I found the story, like you, to be sluggish at points but didn't have issues with Ford or Medina. McClory is always a treat -- he made a very engaging bad guy when given the chance! Also, the true star of this film was the locale; the photography really deserved a bit of a north-by-northwest-like pace.

8:36 AM  

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