Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969)




Director:  Irving Lerner

Starring:  Robert Shaw (Francisco Pizarro),  Christopher Plummer (Atahualpa), Nigel Davenport (De Soto), Leonard Whiting (young Martin), Michael Craig (Estete), Andrew Keir (Valverde), William Marlowe (Candia)

Francisco Pizarro and the conquest of Peru.


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

Toledo, Spain. Spring 1528. Francisco is an explorer who appeals to the King of Spain for a third voyage to the new world. The king, however, points out that on his first voyage out of 60 men only 34 returned and on his second voyage out of 80 men only 12 returned. The king is very reluctant to approve the voyage, but finally agrees as long as Pizarro raises all the funds for the voyage. A young man named Martin asks Pizarro if he can be his page and Pizarro agrees.

It takes a year for Pizarro to get the voyage ready to go. He says that without cavalier De Soto he could not have managed the fund raising. Pizarro names De Soto as second in command. Vidor arrives and declares that as the representative of the crown, he will be in command of the expedition. Pizarro rejects this idea saying that he will be the man in charge. It looks as if command of the expedition is going to be at least somewhat divided.

Peru, Spring 1530. The Spanish arrive. A native who saw them arrive tries to run to tell the Inca king about the strange men, but Pizarro has the man captured. From him they learn that the Incas have just finished a civil war between two brothers, one legitimate and the other a bastard. The bastard brother was the victor. The native kills himself with a knife.

The Spanish cross over a long rope bridge to the Inca capital. The city looks deserted as they enter the main square. An Inca priest comes out to tell the Spanish to stay where they are and the Indians will come to them. The Spanish prepare for battle and wait.

After a long wait, columns of Inca men in groups wearing different brightly colored uniforms come marching into the square. There are so many of them, that they fill up the entire square. Finally the king arrives carried on a platform.

The Spanish priests try to teach the Inca king about Christianity. In doing so they give him a copy of the Bible to look at. The king acts very peculiar making different kinds of strange, inappropriate sounds. He looks at the Bible, touches it, scratches the cover, smells it, licks it and then finally throws it to the dirt below him. The older priest is furious and he shouts to Pizarro to act against this insult to the Christian God. He further adds that everyone will receive dispensation for killing the pagans.

By the time the Spanish finish their slaughter of the Inca men, 2,000 natives lie dead in the square. The Spanish then try to kill the Inca chief, but Pizarro wonít let them do it. The king is taken into custody.

Pizarro talks with the Inca king and asks him if he has gold. The king tells him that yes the Incas have a lot of gold. Pizarro agrees to set the Inca king free if he will fill the room in which he is being held with gold.

The attempt to convert the king to Christianity continues. The page Martin tries to explain that the land belongs to Spain, according to the Pope when he made the agreement to split South America between Spain and Portugal. The king says that the Pope is crazy because he is giving away land that doesnít belong to him. The king looks at the face of Pizarro and says: "You do not believe them. . . . Their God is not in your face." Pizarro does not answer except to ask the king not to ask him that question.

Pizarro starts to spend many hours with the Inca chief. He finds that they actually have a lot in common. But now the gold room is full. The soldiers start to charge the gold room to get their promised share of the booty. When they are told that the division of the booty will take place later, they are very unhappy and start to grumble.

Pizarro says that the Inca king is free, but that for the moment (and for his own safety) the Spanish will be his "host". Cavalier De Soto warns Pizarro that mutiny is smoking outside. Everyone except Pizarro wants to kill the king. They say it is necessary to ensure the survival of the 167 men of the expedition.

Pizarro does not want to kill the king. He likes the Inca chief. He asks one of the priests: "If Christ were here, would he kill the Inca?" But the priests are all too willing to provide any justification they can think of to bless the killing of the Inca king. Vidor tells Pizarro: "You kill him or I will." Vidor and two others pull their swords and Pizarro answers by pulling out his own sword. Pizarro asks De Soto if he is with them. De Soto answers: " Iím not with them, but Iím not with you."

The Inca king tells Pizarro not to worry about defending him: "You canít kill me." According to Inca lore, if the king dies, his father, with a mere touch, will bring him back to life the next morning. The page Martin says this is impossible, but Pizarro reminds him that Jesus rose from the dead after three days.

It is decided that the king be put to death by burning, but Pizarro objects telling the king that if all his flesh is burned, his father will not be able to touch him. But to avoid burning, the king has to agree to be baptized. So the king agrees and is baptized. The punishment is now changed to death by strangulation.

Thee next day Pizarro goes to the ceremonial room to see if the king will rise from the dead. The king wears a mask while sitting on the royal throne. Pizarro goes over to the king to touch him and on contact the king falls to the floor, obviously still dead.


Not a very good movie.  This must have started out as a theatre play.  There are very few changes of location and not that much action.  There is, however, a lot of boring and pretty pointless talk.  It seems to be an anti-clerical conversation with Pizarro criticizing the priests for their great willingness to provide any justification possible to bless the actions of the Spanish, including killing the Inca king after Pizarro had given his word he would be freed.  The discussion might be of interest to some in philosophy or ethics, but here we are interested in history. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:




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