Sunday, 14 October 2018

Machu Picchu, Peru

The second part of the film SECRET OF THE INCAS is set in Machu Picchu, high in the mountains of Peru. After Harry Steele (Charlton Heston) and Elena Antonescu (Nicole Maurey) have stolen the plane from the Romanian consul (see Cusco, Peru), they set off to the old Inca town where a golden treasure might be hidden.

Machu Picchu, 30 June 2018
Not much is known about the origin of Machu Picchu ('Old mountain'). The city was probably founded around 1450 by order of Pachacuti, ruler of the Inca empire. Because of the location, on top of a mountain ridge at 7,217 feet (2200 meters) altitude, it is assumed that it was built as a royal retreat. The Spanish conquerors arrived in 1532 but never found Machu Picchu. Nevertheless, the Incas abandoned the settlement somewhere in the 16th century for unknown reasons.

It would take until 1911 before the American explorer Hiram Bingham, in search of another ruin, accidentally discovered the deserted city. When Secret of the Incas was filmed here in October 1953, the existence of Machu Picchu was only known for 42 years and tourism to Peru was on the rise.

Secret of the Incas, 1:36:41
The film will certainly have made the public curious. Nowadays, if you want to see Machu Picchu you have to beware of mass tourism. A ticket should definitely be bought in advance, also for the train to Aguas Callentes. It is the only way (next to walking) to get to the monument. The number of visitors per day is limited, also a part of day (morning or afternoon) has to be chosen. This results in Machu Picchu being never too crowded. However, even if you decide to take the first bus in the morning from Aguas Callentes up to the mountain, you will have to wait in line with hundreds of other visitors.

Filming on location was limited to a number of overviews of Machu Picchu, including many local extras. All scenes in which actors appear were filmed in Hollywood. Part of the Inca City was recreated in the studio, not always accurate. When Harry and Elena arrive they see from a distance the tent camp of an archaeological expedition, led by Dr. Stanley Moorehead (Robert Young).

Secret of the Incas, 0:45:10
Machu Picchu, 30 June 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:45:17
Machu Picchu, 30 June 2018

At the end of the film, the local people gather around a small hill. At the top is the Intihuatana ('Tie up to the Sun'), a mysterious ritual stone. Its function remains unclear, it is assumed the Incas studied the stars and the sun from this place.

Secret of the Incas, 1:35:41
Machu Picchu, 30 June 2018
Secret of the Incas, 1:36:58
Machu Picchu, 30 June 2018
Intihuatana, Machu Picchu, 30 June 2018

Screenshots © Paramount Pictures

Friday, 14 September 2018

Cusco, Peru

The film SECRET OF THE INCAS would have been largely forgotten if it had not been the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Unlike the first adventure of Indiana Jones, which was partially set in Peru but filmed in Hawaii, this film was shot on location in Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Secret of the Incas, 0:26:38
In the early 1950s, adventure films set in exotic locations were popular in America. Screenplay writer Sydney Boehm told the San Francisco Chronicle that he got the idea for a treasure hunt in Peru after he had met the Peruvian singer Yma Sumac at a party. She was offered a supporting role in the film and sings three songs. Prior to the studio filming in Hollywood, a film crew of 16 people, including lead actor Charlton Heston, producer Mel Epstein, cameraman Irmin Roberts and director Jerry Hopper, went to Cusco in October 1953 to shoot on location.

The city, also spelled Cuzco, has an elevation of 11,200 feet (3,400 meters) and before the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors was the capitol of the Incas. More than 60 years have passed since the movie was filmed here but the historic city centre has hardly changed.

Plaza de Armas, Cusco, 1 July 2018

The film starts with the arrival and departure of tourists. The airport, Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, is situated in the middle of the city and was named after the first pilot to fly across the Andes in 1925. The airport has changed beyond recognition, only the obelisk that stood in front of the entrance in 1953 is still here today. We were here very early in the morning when it was still dark.

Secret of the Incas, 0:03:53
Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, Cusco, 2 July 2018

American Harry Steele (Charlton Heston) is an adventurer and works as a tourist guide in Cusco. He possesses a carved stone that contains a clue where an Inca treasure is hidden. Harry crosses the Plaza El Regocijo and the street Del Medio to enter a hotel. The hotel is nowadays a restaurant where guests are constantly bothered by street vendors, at least when we were there.

Secret of the Incas, 0:10:04
Plaza El Regocijo-Del Medio, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:10:12
Plaza El Regocijo-Del Medio, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:10:15
Restaurant Los Portales II, Cusco, 1 July 2018

Not much later Elena Antonescu (Nicole Maurey) arrives in the city, after a truck gave her a ride. She has fled from Romania and hopes to travel to America but is being chased by the Romanian consul. She gets off at Portal Espinar with the Iglesia de La Merced (‘Church of Mercy’) in the background. As soon as she sees a two police officers, she turns around. Nicole Maurey was never in Cusco, the scene where she gets out of the car was filmed in front of a screen. The woman coming out of the street and walking towards Calle Maruri is a stand-in. Although the walls have been reconstructed, the dome of the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (‘Church of the Companionship of Jesus’) can still be seen in the background.

Secret of the Incas, 0:14:05
Calle Santa Clara, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:14:18
Meson De La Estrella , Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:14:42
Portal Espinar, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:14:44
Portal Espinar, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:14:50
Corner Loreto-Calle Maruri, Cusco, 1 July 2018

In the meantime, Harry Steele is giving a guided tour and walks over the Plaza de Armas where the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús is located. At the time of the shooting, the building was still partly under construction after a heavy earthquake on 21 May 1950 had damaged many buildings.

Secret of the Incas, 0:15:13
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, Cusco, 1 July 2018

In front of the Cusco Cathedral on the same square Harry Steele tells about a famous church bell, the Maria Angola, but is pointing towards the wrong tower.

Secret of the Incas, 0:15:27
Cathedral, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:15:39
Cathedral, Cusco, 1 July 2018

Behind the tourists a small part of the fountain in the middle of the Plaza de Armas can be seen. The fountain was constructed at the end of the nineteenth century. The design comes from the catalogue of an American smithy and is not unique, the exact same fountain can be found in three cities in the United States. The image of the American Indian on top was replaced in 2011 by a gold-coloured statue of Pachacuti, emperor of the Incas. During the annual Inti Raymi ("Festival of the Sun"), which coincided with our visit, the fountain is covered with a cardboard construction to make it appear as if Pachacuti is standing on a stone platform.

Secret of the Incas, 0:15:35
Statue of Pachacuti, Cusco, 1 July 2018

The tour continues by walking on the Calle Palacio to visit the archaeological museum on Plazoleta Nazarenas. Nowadays this building is the 5-star Hotel Monasterio. The entrance, including the wooden doors decorated with lion heads, has remained the same. Note that the tourists who were standing in front of the fountain are not included, that scene was also recorded in front of a screen.

Secret of the Incas, 0:15:52
Corner Calle Palacio-Plazoleta Nazarenas, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:15:56
Door Hotel Monasterio, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Secret of the Incas, 0:15:59
Hotel Monasterio, Plazoleta Nazarenas, Cusco, 1 July 2018

Harry and Elena decide to leave the city together by stealing the plane from the Romanian consul. Elena is unaware that Harry actually wants to search for the Inca treasure in Machu Picchu. The scene in which they get in the car was also filmed on the street Del Medio. It is pretty obvious that they are not being played by the real actors.

Secret of the Incas, 0:36:13
Del Medio, Cusco, 1 July 2018
Screenshots © Paramount Pictures

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Kaua'i HI, USA

Part 4 of the Pirates-series, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES, was filmed in London, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Previously I wrote about the locations on O'ahu, this blog post is about Kaua'i, nicknamed The Garden Island.

Na Pali Coast, Kaua'i, 22 June 2017
Kaua'i is known for its high annual rainfall. The island owes its nickname to the heavy rain, nature is lush with thick, dense jungles and there are deep valleys worn out by the rain. These turned out to be the perfect backdrop for the tropical island where the pirates end up in search for the Fountain of Youth. In April 2010, a casting call for extras in Lihu'e, the capital of Kaua'i, attracted hundreds of local residents, many dressed up as pirates.

Filming was done at the Na Pali coast, the Allerton Garden, the Kipu Ranch, Grove Farm at Lihu'e, Valley House at Kealia Valley, the former Coco Palms Resort and the Waikapala'e Cave, a cave in the film seen as the entrance to the Fountain of Youth. During our stay we were not able to visit all locations.

The first day of shooting was on 14 June 2010 at Honopu Beach. In this scene Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) discovers the stranded ship of Juan Ponce de Leon, the Spanish conqueror who according to legend had been searching for the Fountain of Youth. Honopu Beach has a rock formation with a natural arch and is part of the Na Pali Coast. The coastline in the north of the island consists of green cliffs and are difficult to access, there are no roads or trails. Johnny Depp was brought to the beach with a helicopter. We watched Honopu Beach from a boat and also by helicopter.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides, 1:19:40
Honopu Beach, Kaua'i, 22 June 2017
Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides, 1:19:42
Honopu Beach (helicopter view), Kaua'i, 22 June 2017
Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides, 1:19:49
Honopu Beach, Kaua'i, 22 June 2017

A one minute video on the first day of shooting at Honopu Beach is on YouTube.

On their way to the Fountain of Youth, a stop is made at a group of trees with roots that grow above the ground, Moreton Bay fig trees. The trees are in the Allerton Garden, a tropical botanical garden in the south of Kaua'i. The only possibility to see the trees is during a 90 minutes tour with a guide for US $ 50, every hour from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
We arrived at the end of the afternoon on our last day at Kaua'i and could not do the tour anymore, unfortunately. We did get a brochure with a picture of the fig trees on the cover. The same trees can also be seen in Jurassic Park.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides, 1:21:53
Brochure Allerton Garden

Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) have been captured and are tied to palm trees. This scene was filmed at the Coco Palms Resort, once a luxurious hotel where films like Miss Sadie Thompson and Blue Hawaii were set but there was little left of its former glory during our visit. Because of the damage Hurricane 'Iniki caused in 1992 it had to be closed and left the hotel in decay. However, plans to renovate the Coco Palms Resort are well advanced, there is already a new website. The grounds were not open to the public in 2017, but part of the site was visible through the fences. Coconuts were removed from the palm trees during production of the movie to prevent people being hit by falling coconuts.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides, 1:35:49
Coco Palms Resort, Kaua'i, 20 June 2017

The movie ends with Jack Sparrow and his first mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) walking on the beach towards the sunset. This beach is Ke'e Beach and is also part of the Na Pali Coast. Besides from the sea, it can also be accessed on foot by following the Kalalau Trail. We saw the beach from the sea; note the shape of the mountains to see the similarities.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides, 2:07:03
Na Pali Coast, Kaua'i, 22 June 2017

Information about the filming on location comes from The New Kaua’i Movie Book: Films made on the Garden Island by Chris Cook published in 2015.

Screenshots © Walt Disney Pictures