Secret of the Incas Reviews
Not only do I have a strong passion for films but I want to make them my future as I am a Video Production major with a minor in Film Studies. Relating all of my courses to film not only betters my knowledge of that class but coincides with my passion. In choosing Yma Sumac I decided to watch her film Secret of the Incas. The film is essentially a precursor to Indiana Jones as it is about a tough, handsome archaeologist searching for treasure and adventure. It takes place in South America, specifically in Machu Pichu. Sumac doesn't arrive until more than halfway through the film when Heston is exploring the jungle and finds a village of natives. Here he meets Sumac's character who is very minor but has her own entire scene representing the woman making an offering to the sun god. This brief scene shows her vocal range which may not even be recognizable, at first, as a human voice for it sounds beyond humanly high pitched. Not only is it impressive that she sings so high but after she vocalizes a ridiculously high note, she begins singing with a much lower timber, almost manlier at that.
She comes back with an even better performance twenty minutes later. Here she is very quirky, dances, and is accompanied by many tribal-dressed dancers. She has a raspier voice, exhibiting a different style of her broad range, and she's silly and eccentric with her singing. As she keeps a lower octave she then continually changes from high to low in an astounding way. Her role in this movie was clearly to show off her singing talents and possibly her beauty too. Her acting is not bad at all; in fact, it is pretty good for her minor role. But prominently the director chose Sumac to give her a chance at showing her talents to the world. This quote is right as it states "A defining feature of American instrumental pop music of the 1950's and early 1960's is its reliance on exotic references" because very frequently features such as Latin rhythms, lyric-less vocalization, bird calls, and many other forms of foreign musicality (1999, p. 45). Finally, she returns in the end of the film to give a glorious performance as she bellows the theme of the movie to the sky during a ritual. Not only is this an iconic way to end a great film but it shows the absolute musical beauty of the Peruvian Yma Sumac.
Haley, John H. "A Re-Evaluation of the Artistry of Yma Sumac Based on Live Recordings." ARSC Journal 43.2 (2012): 163. Web.
Raiders of the Lost Ark. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Paramount Pictures, 1981. Film.
Secret of the Incas. Dir. Ranald MacDougall. Perf. Yma Sumac. Paramount Pictures Corp., 1954. Film.
Sullivan, William. "THE SECRET OF THE INCAS." notes 1 (1998): 2.
Leydon, Rebecca. "UTOPIAS OF THE TROPICS." Widening the Horizon: Exoticism in Post -war Popular Music (1999): 45.
As many have pointed out, the character Heston plays here seems to have been a direct influence on Spielberg and Lucas when they dreamed up Indiana Jones. They certainly look the same, but the big difference is that while Indy is doing it for science, Chuck Heston's character is doing it for the money.
And that's what makes this movie so unexpectedly appealing -- Heston's character is unapologetically greedy and with many scruples.
One more thing: extra points for the film because it was actually shot on location in Peru as opposed to some filming the actors on a sound stage in Hollywood with tacky backdrops behind them.
Check it out if you get the chance. Perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon.