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.

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Plaza El Regocijo-Del Medio, Cusco, 1 July 2018
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Plaza El Regocijo-Del Medio, Cusco, 1 July 2018
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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
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Meson De La Estrella , Cusco, 1 July 2018
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Portal Espinar, Cusco, 1 July 2018
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Portal Espinar, Cusco, 1 July 2018
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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.

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Cathedral, Cusco, 1 July 2018
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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.

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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.

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Corner Calle Palacio-Plazoleta Nazarenas, Cusco, 1 July 2018
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Door Hotel Monasterio, Cusco, 1 July 2018
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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