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Paramount Home Video presents
Plunder of the Sun (1953)

"You're playing with grownups now, Junior."
- Al Colby (Glen Ford)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: June 12, 2006

Stars: Glenn Ford, Diana Lynn, Patricia Medina, Sean McClory
Director: John Farrow

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:22m:11s
Release Date: June 06, 2006
UPC: 097368876644
Genre: western


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BBC+ B-

DVD Review

All you really need for a good time at the movies is a swell fella, a dangerous dame, a corpulent bad guy, and a treasure map, all in a swanky location. Plunder of the Sun has all of that and more—it can be a little creaky and predictable, and frequently feels like a pale imitation of The Maltese Falcon, but even on its own modest terms it's a terrifically entertaining little picture, perhaps the best that Batjac, John Wayne's production company, had to offer of the movies not featuring appearances by the Duke himself.

Glenn Ford plays Al Colby, and he's in a heap of trouble with the Mexican authorities. Just what does he think he's doing, trying to smuggle out cartons full of jewels and artifacts taken in the dark of night from an ancient Aztec tomb? Therein lies our story, which is framed by Colby's confession of sorts to representatives from the U.S. Embassy—it's a bit of a clumsy expository device, but it allows the running time of the picture to be swift, and Ford's occasional voiceovers push the plot along. His story begins not in Oaxaca but in Havana, where he's dead flat broke. (Being Glenn Ford, however, he still looks perfectly put together in a sharp suit, gleaming cufflinks, and just enough pomade.) While dodging the proprietor of his hotel, who's looking to get the gringo to settle up, Colby kills some time on a bar stool, even if he can't afford the price of a drink—sidling up next to him is the sexy American wife of an aging invalid, looking for (ahem) companionship. No red-blooded man, and certainly not Glenn Ford, could resist, and I don't know a guy who could blame him.

Of course things aren't just as they seem, and Colby is asked to be more than just a sugar boy. He's soon pressed into the employ of a crusty old sort in a wheelchair called Thomas Berrian, who is prepared to compensate Colby handsomely simply for serving as the courier for a small package from Cuba to Mexico. If the task pays that dearly, Colby figures, it's got to be more than just tourist trinkets in that envelope, and he's right—he's been asked to smuggle out an ancient map, and soon finds himself at the nexus of a fevered group of treasure hunters looking to get at the priceless baubles buried so many centuries ago.

Ford is your classic on-screen standup guy, and he relishes this role; he's also got a winning supporting cast. Francis L. Sullivan is appropriately oily as Berrian—no doubt this could have been a Sidney Greenstreet role; and Sean McClory has busted out the peroxide for his strong turn as one of Berrian's chief rivals. Diana Lynn shows up as a tramp of a Pittsburgh steel heiress, crucial to the plot's complications, of which there are many. At least as memorable as any members of the cast is the film's use of locations, too—director James Farrow finds both elegance and menace in the ancient ruins, and he keeps the story humming. It's pretty much a B picture in most respects, but it's a mighty entertaining one.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: You'll notice occasional smudges on the print, and they detract significantly from the visual presentation, which is otherwise quite impressive—the black-and-white photography has been well rendered and with strong contrast.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: There are occasional sync problems with the audio, which also displays some muffling on occasion; the limited dynamics of the mono track are reasonably typical of the period.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The John Wayne Collection, The Batjac Collection
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peter Ford and Frank Thompson
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. photo gallery
  2. DVD credits
Extras Review: Glenn Ford's son Peter is joined by film historian Frank Thompson for a worthwhile commentary track, going over the history of the project—Thompson is particularly knowledgeable on the career of Farrow, and the track is crammed with the gossip of old Hollywood, ranging from casting possibilities to speculation on why Glenn Ford never won an Oscar. Archaeologist David Carballo assesses the historical accuracy of the film in Plundering History (18m:25s), discussing the sorry legacy of looting ancient gravesites in the Americas—he's got a scrapbook assembled during the shooting of the movie in hand, and lends some valuable insight into the locations and their significance.

The John Wayne Stock Company: Sean McClory (13m:48s) is a quick look at the actor's life, which began in poverty in Ireland, and ended, after a full career in movies, in the Hollywood Hills. It includes lots of photographs and film clips of this favorite of both Wayne's and director John Ford. This film's leading man was an amateur photographer of sorts, and On Location with Glenn Ford (01m:54s) features some of his snapshots from the set; over them, Peter Ford reads a letter that his father wrote during the shoot, extolling the wonders of Mexico. Finally, along with some trailers, there's a photo gallery featuring some nice stills from various shooting locations.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

When a smoldering woman in a tropical climate offers to buy you a drink and asks you for one teeny, tiny favor, you should probably run in the other direction. That's one of the life lessons in Plunder of the Sun, a pretty slick little film, featuring great use of its Mexican locations, a dizzying plot, and a strong central performance from Glenn Ford.

 


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