Christopher Columbus:  The Discovery (1992)






Director:  John Glen

Starring:  Marlon Brando (Tomas de Torquemada),  Tom Selleck (King Ferdinand),  Georges Corraface (Christopher Columbus),  Rachel Ward (Queen Isabella),  Robert Davi (Martin Pinzon),  Catherine Zeta-Jones (Beatriz),  Oliver Cotton (Harana),  Benicio Del Toro (Alvaro Harana),  Mathieu CarriPre (King John),  Manuel de Blas (Vicente Pinzon),  Glyn Grain (De La Cosa),  Peter Guinness (Fra Perez),  Nigel Terry (Roldan),  Nitzan Sharron (Benjamin),  Steven Hartley (Terreros),  Hugo Blick (De Torres),  Nigel Harrison (Gonzalo),  Chris Hunter (Morales),  Simon Dormandy (Bives),  Christopher Chaplin (Escobedo),  Michael Gothard (Inquisitor's Spy),  Clive Arrindell (Lord Guarco),  Richard Cubison (Isaac),  Mark Long (Joseph),  Nicholas Selby (Monsignor Camos). 

Country:  U.S.-Spanish film


George Corraface as Columbus, Marlon Brandon as the Spanish Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada, and Tom Selleck as King Ferdinand.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Turks taken Constantinople and the Holy Land.

Columbus chases away a fellow.  Columbus is told to be careful. People disappear on the island (Chios).  The silk that Columbus admires comes from India.  You remember, Marco Polo and his trip to see the Great Khan.  A prostitute approaches him in a set-up.  Columbus is attacked by three guys and then a fourth (the one who Columbus kicked out).  The last fellow Columbus knocks over the railing. The prostitute tries to steal his things, but he throws a knife and pins her garment to the wall of a building and retrieves his things.

Columbus introduces his son Diego to Monsignor Camos. He says that he lost his wife two months ago.  He shows the fellow a map and says:  "What I show you cost me six years."  He says he has made many journey even getting to Iceland.  He explains that "your sea ends in Marco Poloís sea.  He can sail west across the only one ocean sea. For his efforts he wants to be Governor of all lands discovered and receive 10% percent of all the revenues taken from the land. Columbus speaks with King John II of Portugal. He tells Columbus that he will consider the idea.  Columbus has to hide as men come after him.

Columbus tell a clergyman he is friendly with that he is going to France to see the French King about his ideas. The father says "But have you seen our King and Queen?"   The father has someone that can get him an audience with the Spanish King and Queen.  And Columbus does indeed get to speak with Isabelle and Ferdinand. The King is skeptical from the start saying that the cost of the journey would be considerable.  Columbus tells him that he had served the Prince of Anjou and the King of Portugal. Later Columbus says his his father in Genoa was descended from a senator. The Queen talks about the Moors having ruled Spain for some 700 years. She wants the Indies to be Christianized.

Columbus tries to recruit men to sail with him.  Harana says he would sail with Columbus to hell. There is a pretty girl named Beatriz that Columbus likes. Guards arrive and arrest Columbus, place him in a carriage and take him to the dungeon.  Later he is brought to Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition. He intently questions Columbus, who asks him:  "Why do you doubt my faith?"  Torquemada speaks of heresy.   Augustine said that the oceans cannot be crossed. Columbus defends himself by saying the does not disagree with the famous scholar as to matters of faith, but the man's science was imperfect.

Beatriz wants Columbus to marry her. He and she kid around.  She says that perhaps he will never return ". . . and I will be empty inside forever."  Columbus responds:  " I do love you and you will always be at my side"  Their talk is disturbed by a messenger that shouts that the Inquisition Commissioner has announced that they have reached their final deliberations.  Before Columbus leaves Beatriz tries to tell him something, but he has to run.  She is going to have his child.

The Commission finds that Columbus's science does not outweigh the fact that the ocean sea may not be crossed. The decision is final.

Columbus sees the King and Queen again. He congratulates them on their recent victory over the Moors.  The King tells Columbus that Portugal sent out an explorer heading west.  He sailed for weeks without finding anything but more ocean. He then had to return. The Queen asks to speak to Columbus alone. She says that "our Commission" may have been over ambitious. She says that she will grant him a small allowance that he might continue his preparations. Columbus responds:  "I am grateful to Your Highness."

Columbus looks out on the ocean. He gets teased by some kids and then some of the kids throw rocks at him.  They think is crazy to try to cross the ocean sea.  

All Jews will be expelled from Spain unless they convert to Christianity. The Moors have surrendered. Spain is now Christian.  The Queen celebrates the victory over the Moors.   Columbus speaks with the royal couple again.  He tells the King that if he must he will go to France to get his needed backing.  The King becomes angry and says:  donít utter threats in my presence again.  The Queen tells him to modify his requests for they are too exorbitant. Columbus takes the position that he cannot.  But King may be a bit surly but the Queen tells Columbus in private:  "As God has given me my dream, I intend to give you yours. God go with you Don Christopher Columbus."

Columbus has three ships, but no crew. He asks his one of his friends if he will sail with him. Into uncharted waters?  No.  In a bar Columbus tells everyone  how the voyage can be made.  He gets Vicente Pinzon to go with him.  And with Vicente will come his brother Martin.  And all of a sudden the tide turns and many in the bar are willing to go on the voyage.  Among the men signing up is Gonzalo from Portugal.  

Columbus still doesn't have enough men.  And eight men have deserted already.  So they have to go to the prison looking for seamen.  Columbus tells the men that the Queen offers a pardon for all who sail with him A murderer/rapist wants to go and Columbus accepts him, as well as other. The King sends some of his own men on the voyage.  One fellow is from the treasury and will record events aboard ship.  Another is a man who speaks all the languages of the known world. And then a volunteer comes aboard.  He is Alvaro Harana, the son of Christopher's friend Harana, now his Master of Arms.  

It turns out that Gonzalo is an agent for the Portuguese who do not want Columbus's journey to be successful.  Gonzalo pays the murder/rapist money to make sure the voyage is sabotaged.  A Jewish boy named Benjamin goes with Columbus. He will stay way in the back of the Church room so his non-participation wonít be seen. Torquemada gives the voyage a blessing and the ships sail away.  Torquemada does not want to be eclipsed by Columbus so he does not want the voyage to be a success.

The three ships sail to the Canary Islands. Alvaro tells Columbus that he came on the voyage because he wants to redeem himself with his father.

Two convicts are thought to have done an act of sabotage against the Pinta.   Columbus demands that they be punished even if there is no definitive proof that the two accused actually committed the sabotage. One is dragged behind the ship.  Another is strapped to the yardarm.  Then Portuguese agent Gonzalo is caught in the act committing sabotage.   He is tied to the mast.  Columbus says the fellow will soon talk under the heat of the sun.  But the man never talks because somebody stabs him to death (probably so he wouldnít talk).  The body is wrapped in canvas and thrown overboard.  The sharks tear the canvas up and get to the body. 

The murderer/rapist tangles with and threatens the Jewish boy Benjamin.  Benjamin is a curious fellow and very loyal to Columbus, two things that the convict does not like. 

Someone shouts "I have sighted land."   But a little later Benjamin declares it a false sighting. Itís just a cloud and itís breaking up.  The men start grumbling again.  Columbus says: "You said my faith would light my way, yet all I see before me is a sea of darkness. Why Your Highness has God forsaken me?"    To make matters worse the crew seizes the ship. Benjamin rushes to tell Columbus and tells him that they are coming for him next.  And Alvaro is one of the leaders of the mutiny.  Columbus goes out to confront the mutineers.  Even Alvarado is on the mutineerís side.  The men tell Columbus to turn back and he may remain Captain General. Columbus says he must speak to his captains to consider the matter of turning back. Columbus tells his staff that for the past 32 day he has kept them information.  They have gone a little over 1,000 miles.  But this figure is incorrect.  He deliberately underestimated the distances so the men would not think they were very far from Spain.  They have actually gone 2,379 miles on a 3,000 mile journey.  The staff and Columbus agree that they will sail for three more days. If they donít sight land by then, they will turn around.  

They find birds flying over their heads.  Columbus says itís a sure sign of land.  Cathay must be close. He is already overdue according to his own mileage calculations.  The men test the depth.  They go down 200 fathoms and still  didnít touch bottom.  Then Columbus sees a light in the distance.  Others see it too, but soon it is gone.  They have an incident with St. Elmoís fire, which spooked the crew.

The murderer/rapid tries to kill Benjamin, but Columbus fights with the fellow.  Columbus head butts the man. When the man attacks Columbus with a hook on the end of a long pole, Columbus side-steps him and the fellow goes over the railing and into the sea.  The sharks get the fellow.

The three days are up.  Columbus had offered his head if they did not discover land by the end of the three days.  Colon gets ready to die. He turns the shipsí command over to Martin Pinzon. Alvaro volunteers to be the one to cut off  captainís head. The wind picks up and the mood of the ship changes. Alvaro insists on killing Columbus, but he is stopped by his father who punches Alvaro in the stomach. He says to his son:  "Weíre seamen not executioners."  Soon afterwards comes the shout:  "Land ho!"  Everyone cheers.

They row ashore. For God and Spain. They fire the ships' cannons. Columbus says they have landed in the Indies. He then gives the command to bring all the men ashore. "Let their feet touch the ground."  They see some Indians come out on the beach. They donít look like Chinamen says one of the staff.  The crew grab their weapons, but the Indians turn out to be friendly.  Columbus claims the land "in the name of our glorious King and Queen Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain."   A rat from one of the ships  comes ashore. The linguist tries the different languages with the Indians without success. Columbus tells the man to start learning their language. An Indian has a gold nose ring, which creates a great deal of excitement among the crew.

Chiefís daughter brings Columbus shells and various trinkets. He gives the girl a necklace. The Chief smokes tobacco and lets Columbus try smoking.  They give the chief a  beautiful knife and the Chief quickly ends up cutting himself.  Columbus and the others with him are worried about the Chief's response, but all he does is laugh. One of the lines is cut or breaks and the ship the Santa Maria drifts and wrecks itself on the rocks. The men retrieve what they can from the wreckage. One of the owners of the ships is mad at Columbus.  He tells Columbus that as captain he will have to tell the men why so many of them have to remain behind.  The Spaniards put up a huge cross. Columbus named the settlement he will found Navidad because it is Christmas time. The settlement will be the first permanent Christian settlement. Diego Harana will be in charge of the settlement until they return in the spring.

The Pinta arrives. Captain Pinzon had taken the ship off in search of gold without Columbus's knowledge or permission.  The Pinta captains asks Columbus:  "Where are the houses of gold?"  Columbus is none too happy. All the men have to give up their gold they took from another island. They also take the gold from the Indians. Columbus tells everyone that they will take six heathens with them to the Spanish court.

Columbus sails off.  Alvaro still looks like trouble. The Pinta gets separated from the Santa Maria. Alvaro takes seaman Moralesís girl.  The man objects and Alvaro kills the man. Oh, great.  Now the Indians know they are not Gods. Alvaro's father tells him he is a murderer, a rapist and a thief. The two fight each other. Dad has his blade to his sonís throat and the son begs for mercy.  Dad says:  "Thereís been enough killing, get up."  Alvaro has a knife and as his father helps him up he stabs the man in the stomach area.  The Chiefís daughter is horrified and disturbed at these events. 

Aboard Columbus is told that the natives aboard ship refuse to convert. The one that is the main resister jumps off the ship to escape any reprisals.  So Columbus has them all shackled. He who does not become new Christians will become slaves is Columbus's position. 

Back at the settlement Alvaro is in charge. The Chiefís daughter brings him his fatherís things.  Alvaro has the nerve to cry about seeing his fatherís things. Then Alvaro starts to get violent with the Indians. They step  backwards away from the mad man. He stabs one of the Indian males in the belly.  The Chiefís daughter then stabs Alvaro with a spear. Alvaro retreats toward the water, falls down, gets washed by the waves of the ocean and dies.

A huge storm bounces the ships about. Columbus throws a bottle overboard with a note inside telling about his exploits.

At Navidad, the white men are all killed and their buildings burned.

Christopher and the Nina return. But the Pinta is already there. The captain of the Pinta is very sick. Columbus visits him.  The captain tells the Admiral (now) that his glorious secret was the rivers of wind blowing in both directions (easterlies and westerlies).  Yes says Columbus, but he did not know they go the winds went entire way across the ocean sea.

Beatriz is there to meet Columbus.  She has to compete for his attention with a huge crowd of well-wishers.  Toquemada is none too pleased at the sight.

The Queen says what a glorious day for Spain. Columbus tells her:  "I have delivered Christís blessings."  The he shows her the Indians he has brought back with him.

Bow down before me, says the King.  He declares Columbus Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy of the Indies.  The Queen asks Columbus to show her "our new world" on his maps. 


A pretty good movie.  A lot of incidents on the ships were made up for dramatic effect and to make Columbus look more like a real he-man hero.  And only a small part of Columbus's explorations are covered;, basically just the first voyage.  But the broad outline of the story is basically correct.  I didn't care for Brando, Ward or Selleck in their roles as Torquemada, the Queen and the King respectively.    Georges Corraface looked like a leading man, but a little too young and handsome for the part of Columbus.   Catherine Zeta-Jones as Beatriz was spirited and beautiful.  And very young. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)