Secret of the Incas - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Secret of the Incas Reviews

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December 10, 2015
Yma Sumac was a Peruvian soprano singer with an extremely impressive vocal range from a manly low to a squeaking high. It is unclear whether or not she was born in 1922 or 1923, probably because of immigration issues, but she unfortunately died on November 1, 2008 from colon cancer. She was called the "Peruvian Songbird" as her voice ranged over three octaves and because she wore very flamboyant outfits to attract attention and represent her South American heritage. Eventually, she moved to America where she starred in several Broadway musicals and the Charlton Heston film Secret of the Incas, which was a great way to exhibit her impressive voice and unique outfits. (Haley 2012).

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.





Works Cited:

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.
Super Reviewer
August 12, 2015
The template for Indiana Jones turns out to be cribbed from earlier adventure movie sources (like Tarzan, for instance), surprise. Charlton Heston is a Yankee adventurer overseas (down Peru way) strictly to make his fortune, looking for lost Inca gold, romancing lonely tourist wives and only a little above all around asshole until he meet Nicole Maurey (who's little better as it turns out). The character arc has both change their jaded ways by the time the credits roll with most of the action focused on the natives dutifully honoring their lost culture, Yma Sumac doing a Mariah Carey with her vocal talents. She gets 3, count 'em, 3 songs no less. Could use a bit more salt and pepper.
May 3, 2015
I wish this was a better movie. It's great to see the 1950's version of Indiana Jones with Heston as Harry Steele (or should it be steal) donning the bomber jacket and raiding tombs. Maurey is woefully outclassed by the rest of the cast and Sumac can sing, but she really can't act.
½ May 2, 2015
There's a bit of the 'Indiana Jones' about this archeological adventure, but it's not done anywhere near as good.
½ July 1, 2012
Ehh...there wasn't really too much of a story with this one. I noticed that Heston always uses his mouth muscles, especially his jaw to express his emotions.
½ February 12, 2011
The original Indiana Jones!!!! This is the movie that started it all for Dr. Jones, and the movie is entertaining and worth watching. I watched it through "Netflixs" and it was great fun. There is nothing better than a classic Hollywood movie :)
December 4, 2010
"I'm so mad at you I could put a hole in your head." Charlton Heston's graverobbing adventurer is a lot like Indiana Jones...except whereas Harrison Ford was a bit of a rapscallion, Chuck's Harry Steele is just an asshole. He will woo you for your money, he will get ya drunk for your plane, and he will toss ya off a cliff for your gold. Secret of the Incas does loose some points though for what has to be the worst, most uncomfortable musical interlude in cinematic history from Yma Sumac. Her lip syncing and body language is absolutely horrifying. VF.
December 4, 2010
"I've seen so many women cry it doesn't effect me anymore." Charlton Heston plays one cold hearted dude in this 50s adventure film that served as a major inspiration for the Indiana Jones films. Plenty of twists, turns, and acts of daring-do abound and some secrets are best left to history. An extremely awkward musical ceremony at about the mid-point serves as some nightmare fuel. Seriously, Yma Sumac's body language is an amazing combination of laughable and threatening. Otherwise, a great deal of fun and a must see for fans of the Indiana Jones films. HestFactor 9.
½ November 1, 2010
I don't have anything to say.
½ July 31, 2009
Henry Steele is THE Indiana Jones prototype.
March 22, 2009
This moderately fun adventure yarn from the mid-fifties is mostly noteworthy for two things: Yma Sumac appears in a minor role and performs several of her songs, and Charlton Heston's character of Henry Steele was clearly one of the main cinematic inspirations for Indiana Jones a few decades down the line. The performances are okay, the Technicolor cinematography is vivid, and the Peruvian locations are beautiful. The plot is a bit on the slow side, however, and the tomb raiding at the end is pretty underwhelming, at least seen with post-Indiana Jones-eyes. All in all, then, an average movie.
March 9, 2009
Quite an entertaining adventure, especially for its time.

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.
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