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Patrick Schoenmaker

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Help Support Research Indy's Influences Inspirations Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings

Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - 1954

Directed by: Robert Pirosh
Story by: C.W. Ceram (novel)
Screenplay by: Robert Pirosh & Karl Tunberg

Robert Taylor .... Mark Brandon
Eleanor Parker .... Ann Barclay Mercedes
Carlos Thompson .... Philip Mercedes
Kurt Kasznar .... Hamed Backhour
Victor Jory .... Taureg Chief
Leon Askin .... Valentine Arko, Antique Dealer
Aldo Silvani .... Father Anthimos


If you watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and think it’s an original movie, think again and then rephrase that thought. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great movie, and certainly an exciting one, but it is not as original as you might think. Few films if any are completely unique. The idea of archaeological adventure in cinema has been around for quite some time, and treasure hunt films have been around longer than that.

A journey into the
desert on camels.

The 1950s was a Technicolor explosion of adventure films set in exotic lands. It kicked off with a bang in 1950 with the excellent remake of King Solomon’s Mines. Another notable adventure of the period was Secret of the Incas, released in 1954. That same year saw the release of another great adventure, Valley of the Kings, the plot of which will sound familiar to those who think Indiana Jones is a new concept.

Set in 1901, Eleanor Parker stars as the daughter of a deceased archaeologist who was obsessed with discovering the whereabouts of the tomb of Ra Hotep, believed to be the biblical Joseph of legend. Parker, as Ann Mercedes, bears a small golden statue, which contains the first clue to the location of the tomb. She persuades notable local archaeologist Mark Brandon, played by Robert Taylor, to aid her in fulfilling her father’s lifelong quest. But someone else wants the treasure of Ra Hotep’s legendary tomb and will stop at nothing to keep Brandon from reaching it alive.

Swordfight with nomads.

This is a fun film to watch today for modern audiences, being one of the obvious precursors to Indiana Jones, but merely seeing it as an inspiration for another film diminishes its own value as entertainment. MGM pulled out all the stops on this movie, filming most of it on location in Egypt. The film is filled to the brim with beautiful footage of every major Egyptian pyramid, ruin, cityscape, and landscape, including the Valley of the Kings.

An encounter with
Bedouin brigands.

The story is also extremely entertaining. Brandon and Mercedes wander through bazaars in Cairo, trek into the desert on camels while braving sandstorms and Bedouin brigands, visit the catacombs of ancient monasteries, and piece together lost clues while trying to stay one step ahead of their mysterious enemies. The movie is filled with action and Taylor’s Brandon is no slouch. The plot finds the two-fisted archeologist in swordfights with Arab nomads, cart chases in Cairo, surviving an impressive aforementioned sandstorm, braving the dangers of lost tombs, deciphering the hieroglyphics of ancient stone tablets, and even getting into a dangerous fistfight on the top of one of the massive statues at the famous Egyptian temple of Abu Simbel.

Be warned those of you untested in the ways of older cinema. The action is paced well for 1950s filmmaking. This is not the frantically paced Indiana Jones or Lara Croft style of editing, but it is the same kind of action. Keep an open mind and let the story take you in.

Brandon and Mercedes.

The characters are well developed for a film of this genre and the story contains an adequate number of twists and subplots to keep things interesting during the quieter moments, of which there are few. Taylor and Parker’s chemistry is decent if not electric, but then again Taylor was often a wooden actor, as his performance in Ivanhoe will attest. Parker is, as usual, drop-dead gorgeous. She had one of the coolest and most varied careers of 1950s cinema, starring in an eclectic group of films including Valley of the Kings, Scaramouche and The Naked Jungle. But don’t let me get sidetracked on Eleanor Parker, which I am prone to do.

Valley of the Kings is definitely worth watching. A great adventure movie with everything modern audiences like in their cliffhanging treasure hunts. (MF)


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