An Incan legend states that the Inca Empire was destroyed by the gods when a gold and jeweled starburst was stolen from the Temple of the Sun centuries ago, and that the ancient civilization will be reborn once the treasure is returned. Harry Steele (Charlton Heston), an American adventurer, is seeking the artefact, as is his nemesis Ed Morgan (Thomas Mitchell), along with Elena Antonescu (Nicole Maurey), an Iron Curtain refugee.
Secret of the Incas was filmed by Paramount Pictures on location in Peru at Cuzco and Machu Picchu, the first time that a major Hollywood studio filmed at this archaeological site. Five hundred native Indians were used as extras in the film. The film also featured the Peruvian singer Yma Sumac as Kori-Tica. The film caused a surge in tourism to Peru in 1954.
The film is often cited by film buffs as a direct inspiration for the Indiana Jones franchise of films, with many of the scenes in Secret of the Incas bear a striking resemblance in tone and structure to scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Throughout Secret of the Incas, the main character, Harry Steele, can be seen wearing the “Indiana Jones” outfit – brown leather jacket, fedora, tan pants, an over-the-shoulder bag, and revolver.
Raider’s costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis noted that the inspiration for Indiana’s costume was Charlton Heston’s Harry Steele in Secret of the Incas: “We did watch this film together as a crew several times, and I always thought it strange that the filmmakers did not credit it later as the inspiration for the series.”
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