Captain from Castile (1947)

Captain from Castile (1947), directed by Henry King.

A Spanish nobleman runs afoul of the Inquisition and flees to the New World, joining Cortez's expedition to Mexico. Costume adventure, mild swashbuckler, heavy romance.

It's not as rousing as other adventure films of the period, but poses some interesting dilemmas: how to reconcile overwhelming desire for a justly deserved revenge with a promise to forgive? And if you can't be with the one you love, should you love the one you're with?

Oddly, it is understood that the conquistadors are just villains after plunder, but the film still gives them pomp and glory music. They put in a lot of historical detail but soften aspects of mass violence and religious controversy.

I've never quite understood Tyrone Power's appeal as a matinee idol, but the ladies loved him. He can fence and has an endearing earnestness. He had no illusions about his acting talent, but wisely compensates with an understated simplicity. The studio held this and other films for him while he was a Marine pilot during the War.

First role for Jean Peters, last seen in Pickup on South Street (1953). She had zero acting experience but the studio wanted her, and she's fine as a peasant girl in love with the fugitive nobleman. Watch closely and you'll see her touch a hunchback's hump for luck, a bit of folklore I had never heard of until I saw it in a French film a few years ago.

Cesar Romero plays Cortez as a masculine, confident pirate king, making up his own rules, the type of great man one of Shakespeare's characters called "Alexander the Pig".

Lee J. Cobb gets to play an colorful action character who shouldn't drink.

Jay Silverheels has his first prominent role as an Aztec prince.

Filmed in Technicolor in Mexico with erupting volcanoes on the skyline. They used the historical locations where possible and borrowed period jewelry from a museum.

Famous Alfred Newman score. The DVD has an isolated audio track and chatty commentary.