Sunday, June 29, 2008

Glenn Ford's Maltese Falcon

TCM is airing Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound tomorrow, but I've recommended enough Hitchcock for a while. Instead, I'd like to talk about a movie I briefly mentioned back in May: Plunder of the Sun.

Glenn Ford stars as an insurance adjuster who gets more than he bargained for when, stranded in Havana, he accepts an offer to transport a package to Mexico in exchange for the money he needs to get out of Havana. Unfortunately, he ends up on a ship full of mysterious people, each of whom is more than just what he or she originally presents himself to Ford as being. Much as in The Maltese Falcon, one of them dies along the way, and eventually, they all get to Mexico, looking for treasure. In this case, the treasure is Mesoamerican jewels, which are hidden somewhere in the ruins of an abandoned city of one of the civilizations that had inhabited central and southern Mexico a millennium or more ago.

The movie could stand on its own as a reasonably good B movie, but unfortunately, it has obvious comparisons to The Maltese Falcon, and there, it falls well short of the mark. The characters here are not as interesting as in The Maltese Falcon, and despite being an underrated actor, Glenn Ford isn't as good at playing a hard-boiled character as Humphrey Bogart was. Worse, there's a serious plot hole in Plunder of the Sun: the ruins where the treasure is to be found are not in the jungle, but a tourist attraction. You would think that the archaeologists who had discovered the ruins and maintaing the site as a historical site would have combed over the place to the extent that they would have found any buried treasure.

The other big flaw of Plunder of the Sun is that, despite the noir elements -- the attempts at hard-boiled characters, the story being told in flashback, and the like -- it really needs to be in Technicolor. The movie was filmed in Mexico, with the climactic scenes at the ruins being filmed at actual Mesoamerican sites in Mexico. These would have been much better were they on the screen in the brilliance of Technicolor. Noir may not work so well in Technicolor, but exotic locations certainly do.

All in all, Plunder of the Sun is a reasonable way to spend an hour and a half. It's not great, but it's better than a lot of the stuff that passes for entertainment on TV nowadays. It's available on DVD, too, if you want to give it a try. If, however, you want to introduce people who aren't movie buffs to the genre, it might be better to start with the Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon.

No comments: