Before Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, there was Chuck Heston as Harry Steele in Secret of the Incas. New to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber.
Some movies hit you square in the face. I should have known I was in for something special when I realized the Coen’s had used the opening musical score for The Big Lebowski (it’s during the Jacky Treehorn introduction). Though it isn’t until Chucky Heston shows up dressed head to toe in an Edith Head special … that you realize Spielberg and Lucas didn’t steal from James Bond. They pulled the biggest filmic heist from Secret of the Incas!
Harry Steele (Heston) is your average con man/treasure hunter, some may call him a grave robber, in Post-War Peru. He’s got a good deal going on. He makes a living taking tourists around the sites, woos an older Married Woman of Wealth, he gets a little side cash, and everyone’s happy. Though his real goal is to find the Incan Sunburst, a solid gold jewel-encrusted idol that is to be hidden in the Machu Pichu mountains. Harry may have found his chance of getting the Sunburst in the form of Elena (Nicole Maurey) a Romanian Refugee being changed by a slimy Romanian Official. Deals are made, double-crosses abound, beautiful vistas, a romantic triangle, alpacas abound, and much more all done in the Technicolor pop of the era!
To say this wasn’t the blueprint for Raiders of the Lost Ark would be doing this film a grave disservice. Other than the electrifying action set pieces, Secret of the Incas is basically the original Indiana Jones. Even the Morally questionable hero, the idol they are after, the relationship between Steele and Elena. It’s all been lifted, and of course given its Spielbergian touches but everything has a heavy sense of déjà vu.
That being said, Secret of the Incas is a rollicking good time in a completely different way. The film feels more like a travelogue with stings of Film Noir treachery than the grand adventure that Indiana Jones is. That noirish blend adds a nice amount of drama as you watch the less-than-sterling Steele (yes, pun intended) eventually wrestle with the amoral choices he’s making. Adding the chemistry that Heston and Maurey have adds to the entertainment of the entire proceeding.
Director Jerry Hopper wisely understands the two attractions here. The first is the bold and beautiful Technicolor cinematography by Lionel Lindon and Irvin Roberts. The second is the man himself, Chuck, who is front and center as the leading man he was in the prime of his career. Everything Hopper does directorially is all in service of these draws and the results are a brisk, beautiful, and entertaining film that pops.
Secret of the Incas is a damn good piece of entertainment that any cineaste would be hard-pressed to not enjoy.
The 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative that was remastered in HD, provided, and done by Paramount Pictures is nothing sort of a minor miracle. The Technicolor image is as crisp and sharp as one hopes for in any restoration let alone a “Scan” of the Negative. Paramount has wisely not done any digital augmentation – e.g. the dreaded noise reduction to clean the image. The result is an image that retains the beautiful luster of the Technicolor process, and a healthy sheen of film grain.
They include the following;
- NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Toby Roan
The all-new Audio Commentary by Film Historian Toby Roan opens with the film’s bonafides before diving into his entertaining commentary track. Some of the details include where this lines up in Heston’s career (2 years before The Ten Commandments and 2 years after The Greatest Showman), the on-location shoot in Peru and Machu Pichu, Heston outfit designed by Edith Head, the work and career of actor Marion Ross (who was famous for Happy Days), the songs from singer and actor Yma Sumac – and the music she produced and its place in the 1950s pop culture, the work and career of actor Glenda Farrell, the work and career of actor Thomas Mitchell – including an early stage run as the character Columbo before Peter Falk brought the character to TV, the work and career of editor Eda Warren, the work and career of actor Nicole Maurey, the work and career of actor Alvy Moore – who is a essentially a cameo, the work of cinematographers Irvin Roberts and Lionel Lindon – the work and how it was divided, the work and career of costume designer Edith Head – including that she designed a uniform for the Navy at one point, the work and career of actor Leon Askin – including his time during WW2, a deep dive into the work and career of star Charlton Heston – including a personal account of his time before becoming an actor and then super star, the many connections to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and much more. Roan provides a deeply insightful commentary track about the productions, its stars, and the behind-the-scenes crew. Essential listening for fans of the film.
Rounding out the special features are trailers for Touch of Evil (2:12), The Big Country (2:56), Night Passage (2:33), Thunder Bay (2:15), Against All Flags (2:25), Naked Alibi (2:18)
The Final Thought
Secret of the Incas is part adventure part film noir and all greatness. Kino Lorber’s special edition of this film is a treat for the eyes. Highest Recommendations!!!