Spain, 1518: young caballero Pedro De Vargas offends his sadistic neighbor De Silva, who just happens to be an officer of the Inquisition. Forced to flee, Pedro, friend Juan Garcia, and adoring servant girl Catana join Cortez' first expedition to Mexico. Arriving in the rich new land, Cortez decides to switch from exploration to conquest...with only 500 men. Embroiled in continuous adventures and a romantic interlude, Pedro almost forgets he has a deadly enemy... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's a shame that 20th Century Fox has yet to have released DVD editions of many of the films of the studio's biggest star, Tyrone Power. Almost impossibly handsome, enormously popular, and with excellent acting credentials, Power nearly singlehandedly kept the studio solvent in the traumatic transition years following WWII, with costume epics like "Captain from Castile" showcasing his strengths.
"Castile" echoes Power's earlier films, "The Mark of Zorro" and "Son of Fury", as again he plays a gallant standing against an arrogant aristocratic class, but this time he runs afoul of the Inquisition, and must flee Spain to re-establish his wealth and reputation, accompanied by loyal friend Lee J. Cobb, and a servant girl who secretly adores him (Jean Peters, in one of her best performances). Recruited into the service of the charismatic Hernando Cortez (Cesar Romero, who nearly steals the film), it's off to Aztlan (Mexico, today) with a small army to face the overwhelming but naive Aztec civilization.
While the film frequently drifts into melodrama, shooting on location in Mexico (with the permission and support of the Mexican government), in glorious Technicolor, gives even the most mundane moments a sense of spectacle, and the cast is in top form. Worth singling out is a terrific supporting performance by Thomas Gomez, as a soldier/priest who dispenses common sense as well as religion, and helps Power realize that the woman he truly loves is not on a balcony, in Spain, but beside him, as they march towards their destiny.
Two aspects of the film deserve special recognition; Alfred Newman's score, featuring the vaulting 'Conquest' march, is one of the finest of his long career, and is even more popular today than when the film was released; and Arthur E. Arling and Charles G. Clarke's cinematography is truly magnificent, particularly in the breathtaking finale, as Cortez' forces proudly march across a broad plain, with active volcanoes in the background. Never has going 'on location' been more justified, as the image is unforgettable! If any 'Powers that Be' are reading this review, PLEASE offer this film on DVD, soon! And while you're at it, consider Power's other great films of the 40s and 50s; he deserves to be 'rediscovered' by audiences, today...
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