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An adventure film depicting the 1928 search for missing Col. P. H. Fawcett.
In the 1700s, Portuguese explorers report finding a city more ancient than the pyramids and filled with gold and jewels. Via an Indian, they send a written message, but remain behind and are never heard from again. The document is later found in a library in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Almost two centuries later, in 1925, Col. P. H. Fawcett, a British officer and surveyor, forms an expedition to investigate the Portugueses' claim, a quest that takes them on a tortuous trek across the region of Mato Grosso. After sending a last message to the outside world, Fawcett disappeared, becoming as enigmatic as the lost city. Three years later, the North American Newspaper Alliance funds an expedition led by Comdr. George M. Dyott of the British Naval Reserve to solve the mystery. Although some people believe Fawcett was murdered by bandits, Dyott is determined to investigate. At the beginning of Fawcett's trail, Dyott searches for native men to assist him in his trek, but the fear and superstition of the villagers hinder his efforts. He is eventually able to recruit men by offering them special enticements. He offers Miquel money; bribes the childlike Carissimo with a gramophone; and saves Juan, who has been caught stealing a chicken, from a brutal punishment when he pays for the chicken. Dr. Emmett Wilson, who works in the village, shows Dyott a map leading to the unexplored area where Fawcett was heading and warns him about the dangers ahead, from the smallest insects to large boa constrictors. Their departure is delayed by Pedro, a villager, who insists that the commander meet his wife, a Catholic woman who has visions. The woman goes into a trance to invoke the spirits on the expedition's behalf and, while in this state, says Fawcett is being held prisoner by Indians near a river. For three days, the men travel in a heavily loaded model "T," and at the road's end, have arranged for burros to carry their equipment. Nearby lives Bernadino, who carried Fawcett's last message to civilization and now offers to accompany them. While crossing the river, an electric eel attacks Dyott's horse, but no damage is done. After a night's sleep, the group begins the trek across Matto Grosso, where they suffer from extreme elements in an ill-tempered wasteland: sand, sun as hot as a furnace, freezing nights, rain, wind and storm, until they reach a river. From there, the burros are returned and the men are left alone at the edge of the unknown. They now must travel by water, so they unpack and assemble canoes, which are simply canvas stretched over a frame. At the camp where Bernadino last saw Fawcett, they find a blaze mark on a tree in the shape of a "Y." To his newspaper backer, Dyott radios that Bernadino believes the mark was made by the colonel. In the savage jungle filled with new dangers, the men spend a tense night. At daybreak, Juan goes to the river for his ablutions and encounters an anaconda, which his companions must wrestle to save him. Although Fawcett probably traveled in heavy Indian dugout canoes, Dyott's men's lighter crafts are precarious in the rapids where rocks and stumps tear at the canvas. While replenishing their food supply with fresh game, the group avoids confronting Indians who seem to be performing a ritual ceremony. After a detour around another river to avoid rapids, they camp at a lagoon. When they must again travel by water, rapids overturn a canoe and their supplies are lost. The men are unharmed, but near their breaking point when Miguel is killed by piranhas. If it were not for the rapids behind them, Dyott suspects that his men would probably turn back. After burying their companion, they travel by following blaze marks on trees. At a fork in the river, Bernadino is sent ahead to scout and soon makes contact with an Indian tribe, who return with him. Among the natives is Aloique, a chief with a reputation of being cruel and evil. The Indians tell the expedition that Fawcett had been there, yet Dyott believes they know more than they are saying. On a sand dune, he makes camp and presents gifts to the Indians. Suddenly, a horn is heard from the village, signalling that something might be wrong. Aloique comes to take Dyott's group to their village, where they see evidence that Fawcett has been there: a brass nameplate advertising one of Fawcett's suppliers is now worn as a woman's necklace and, on a case, Fawcett's name is engraved. When the group returns to the sandbar, Indians are overrunning their camp and playfully toying with their radio. To scare the Indians away from the camp, Dyott lights fireworks and sounds the alarm on a clock. Later, a message comes from Aloique, asking Dyott to come to him alone. Before he goes to see Aloique, Dyott instructs his men to make plans to leave within thirty-six hours. When Dyott meets with Aloique, he is shown an old campsite where much of Fawcett's equipment remains. Using sign language, Aloique tells Dyott that another tribe killed the explorer, but, unconvinced, Dyott suspects that Aloique is Fawcett's murderer. Sensing Dyott's doubts, Aloique aims a rifle at him, but the safety catch prevents him from firing, causing the Indian to believe that only white men can fire the "magic stick." Returning to camp, Dyott finds Indians again converging upon his men, but this time the mood is different. Bernadino, who understands the Indians' language, overhears Aloique ordering his men to take Dyott and the magic away, then kill the others in the expedition. During the night, Carissimo, who is severely stressed, attempts to leave and the next day is found missing, along with his supplies and canoe. Aloique tries to lure Dyott away from his men by offering to show him more evidence about Fawcett. Seeing that Aloique is wearing Carissimo's bandana on his pants, Dyott replies through Bernadino that he will answer him in the morning. To his backers, Dyott sends a last message, reporting their conviction that Fawcett's expedition was destroyed by hostile Indians. As their supplies are low and the Indians are a threat, Dyott radios that they are unable to follow through and will be abandoning all heavy equipment, including the radio, to make their escape. That night, which is Christmas Eve, Dyott's men make a bonfire and pretend to have a party under the Indians' watchful eyes. They tie mirrors on the trees, and leave behind shoes, shirts, and most of their equipment, hoping it will delay the Indians' attempt to follow them. In the dead of night, the group slips away, taking shelter behind trees. Later, when they hear the eerie sound of the horn, they know their disappearance has been noticed. However, by Christmas morning, they feel safe, despite the long way home.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 11 Apr 1958|
|Release Date:||1958||Production Date:||
EBXX; Bob 16mm - donated to UCLA
|Color/B&W:||Distributions Co:||Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.|
|Duration(mins):||77-79 or 82||Country:||United States|
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Deb P 2017-10-19
This is my first ever movie review, and this movie is so horrible that everyone should watch it! This must be "savage" day (I never check for the...