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Robert Siegel's Golden Hollywood

Robert Siegel - Main Page

NOTE: The scans below are the property of Robert Siegel and The Digital Bits, and may not be
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In addition, please note that all the information contained within the text
is taken from ORIGINAL studio press materials, which may contain some errors.


Kings of the Sun

Film appreciation by Robert Siegel of The Digital Bits

Marking their second major motion picture to be filmed entirely on authentic locations in Mexico on the Yucatan (their first was The Magnificent Seven), MGM Home Video brings to DVD the 1963 classic Kings of the Sun. The Mirisch Company sought to spare no expense in their multi-million dollar screen epic, originally released by United Artists in 1963. With an aspect ratio of 2:35:1, the film was shot in Panavision with color by Deluxe. Kings of the Sun recreates a lost world that was once an ancient storied Mayan civilization of over 1,000 years ago. Nearly two years in various stages of preparation, numerous location scouting trips were made to Mexico, with special costumes designed for the cast of more than 15,000 extras. Various Mexican National Museum pieces of Mayan Jewelry and weapons were acquired for filming this epic. In addition, entire Mayan cities, fishing villages, pyramids, sacrificial alters and homes were recreated under the supervision of numerous Mexican scholars of the Mayan era. And, with special permission of the Mexican government, Kings of the Sun was photographed among the actual pyramids and ruins of the Mayan civilizations, which makes for fascinating viewing of this DVD.

Kings of the Sun stars Yul Brynner (The Ten Commandments, The King and I, The Magnificent Seven) as the leader of a great Indian nation that does combat with the legendary Mayans. Also starring are British screen actress Shirley Anne Field (Alfie, The Buckaneer TV series) as the Mayan Indian princess, and George Chakaris (633 Squadron, West Side Story and later TV's One Life to Live) and Brad Dexter (House of Bamboo, Magnificent Seven, Taras Bulba and Von Ryan's Express) as warriors.

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Kings of the Sun - Press Book Scan

Kings of the Sun is about Balam, King of the Mayans (Angel Di Steffano), leading a procession headed by the Prince, his son (George Chakiris) and the high priests, Ah Min (Richard Bashart), and Ah Zok (Barry Morse). The procession marches to the great pyramid at Chichen Iza to sacrifice a youth to their gods. However, before the knife can sweep down to take the youth's life, Chichen Iza is overwhelmed by conquering tribes from the west. Mayans are killed by the thousands by the fierce warriors, led by Hunac Ceel (Leo Gordon). Balam is killed as he, the Prince and many other Mayans flee into the temple atop the great pyramid. A passageway leads down into the pyramid to the nearby jungles. The prince is declared by the priests as the new Balam. The Mayans flee to the coast and seek asylum with a primitive tribe of Indians. Hunac Ceel discovers the escape route of the Mayans, follows them and begins an attack on the village. The Mayans and their new allies barely escape to the sea. After days of paddling at sea, the refugees finally sight land and come ashore. Just before putting to sea, Balam promised the Indian chief he would marry his daughter Ixchel (Shirley Anne Field). Lyxchel is furious because she was never consulted.

Meanwhile, the Mayans begin to build anew the civilization they left in Yucatan. Suddenly, a great new peril arises, as a savage and magnificent warrior appears. He is Black Eagle (Yul Brynner), chief of a North American tribe. He and Balam stage the greatest battle the Mayans have ever witnessed. Both are severely wounded, and Black Eagle is almost killed. Through the nursing of Ixchel, Black Eagle's life is saved, and Ixchel grows to love the great savage. Fine garments are brought to Black Eagle, who thinks he is being prepared for battle with Balam again. Upon discovering he is being saved for a Mayan sacrifice, Black Eagle denounces the Mayans, but nevertheless, he is prepared for the sacrifice. As Black Eagle mounts the temple, his own tribe has sought out the city and begin their attack. Black Eagle throws aside the priests and tries to quiet his own people. All is peaceful until Hunac Ceel discovers where Balam's new empire is. Ceel attacks, but Black Eagle and his people had already returned to their original habitat. Upon hearing of the battle, Black Eagle orders his own tribe to return. They attack Ceel's rear guard.

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Academy Award winner George Chakaris stars as a Mayan warrior.A publicity shot of Yul Brynner and George Chakaris dueling.
LEFT: Academy Award winner George Chakaris stars as a Mayan warrior.
RIGHT: A publicity shot of Yul Brynner and George Chakaris dueling.


Behind the scenes, stunt expert Chuck Hayworth set up his own stunt school in Mexico to teach more than 5,000 local extras how to perform hazardous feats for some of the film's action sequences. Hayward used his speciality Hollywood-imported stunt extras as the teachers. Twenty-eight stunt specialists from Hollywood were brought into Mexico for the more dangerous battle scenes, most employed exclusively with United Artists Pictures. More than 150 pieces of rolling stock, including automobiles, trucks, trailers, Chapman Cranes, sound trucks, and camera trucks were sent at quite an expense to Mexico, adding greatly to the film's multi-million dollar budget. In addition, sword-making factories were set up near location, producing authentic looking swords that would be used by more than 3,000 extras. Also adding to the costs was the fact that hundreds of extras got an extra 100 Pecos just for scenes in which they were in the ocean, which humored the extras because they spent much of their day in or near the beautiful waters on these locations. Forty ships were also designed after the fashion of the Mayan war vessels. Upon release, several prominent museums in New York devoted space to the history of the Mayan civilization, and several of those displays still stand.

Director J. Lee Thompson (Guns of Navarone, Cape Fear, Mackenna's Gold and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) had said about making the film, "I have never seen any place where one got more cooperation that where we filmed this movie... the people of the area couldn't do enough to help us. We used so many extras and never had a single problem with any of them because they were so anxious to help out." Thompson was nominated for the Academy Award for directing The Guns of Navarone (and critical acclaim for Taras Bulba) was said to have spent more time on this movie that any of his other films. The high quality epic musical score is by none other than the Hollywood legend Elmer Bernstein, so fans take note that this score is one of the more epic of the Bernstein catalog.

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British screen actress Shirley Ann Field poses for the UA Publicity Department.Academy Award winner Yul Brynner as the king of a great Indian nation.
LEFT: British screen actress Shirley Ann Field poses for the UA Publicity Department.
RIGHT: Academy Award winner Yul Brynner as the king of a great Indian nation.


Release Details:

Theatrical Release: 12/18/1963 by United Artists
Filming Locations: Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico, Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico, Estudios Churubusco Azteca
Catagory: Adventure/Historic
Original Running Time: 108 minutes
Original Specs: 35mm mono, 2.35:1, color by DeLuxe
Soundtrack on LP, CD: Music from this film by Elmer Bernstein on Film Score Monthly - FSM BOX 01

DVD Release: 3/25/2008 by MGM - UPC 883904103011
DVD Specs: English Dolby Digital mono and stereo (simulated), Spanish mono, French mono, English and Spanish subtitles, Closed Captioned, Dual-layered
Click here to order Kings of the Sun on DVD from Amazon

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