All you really need for a good time at the movies is a swell fella, a dangerous dame, a corpulent bad guy, and a treasure map, all in a swanky location. Plunder of the Sun has all of that and more—it can be a little creaky and predictable, and frequently feels like a pale imitation of The Maltese Falcon, but even on its own modest terms it's a terrifically entertaining little picture, perhaps the best that Batjac, John Wayne's production company, had to offer of the movies not featuring appearances by the Duke himself.
Glenn Ford plays Al Colby, and he's in a heap of trouble with the Mexican authorities. Just what does he think he's doing, trying to smuggle out cartons full of jewels and artifacts taken in the dark of night from an ancient Aztec tomb? Therein lies our story, which is framed by Colby's confession of sorts to representatives from the U.S. Embassy—it's a bit of a clumsy expository device, but it allows the running time of the picture to be swift, and Ford's occasional voiceovers push the plot along. His story begins not in Oaxaca but in Havana, where he's dead flat broke. (Being Glenn Ford, however, he still looks perfectly put together in a sharp suit, gleaming cufflinks, and just enough pomade.) While dodging the proprietor of his hotel, who's looking to get the gringo to settle up, Colby kills some time on a bar stool, even if he can't afford the price of a drink—sidling up next to him is the sexy American wife of an aging invalid, looking for (ahem) companionship. No red-blooded man, and certainly not Glenn Ford, could resist, and I don't know a guy who could blame him.
Of course things aren't just as they seem, and Colby is asked to be more than just a sugar boy. He's soon pressed into the employ of a crusty old sort in a wheelchair called Thomas Berrian, who is prepared to compensate Colby handsomely simply for serving as the courier for a small package from Cuba to Mexico. If the task pays that dearly, Colby figures, it's got to be more than just tourist trinkets in that envelope, and he's right—he's been asked to smuggle out an ancient map, and soon finds himself at the nexus of a fevered group of treasure hunters looking to get at the priceless baubles buried so many centuries ago.
Ford is your classic on-screen standup guy, and he relishes this role; he's also got a winning supporting cast. Francis L. Sullivan is appropriately oily as Berrian—no doubt this could have been a Sidney Greenstreet role; and Sean McClory has busted out the peroxide for his strong turn as one of Berrian's chief rivals. Diana Lynn shows up as a tramp of a Pittsburgh steel heiress, crucial to the plot's complications, of which there are many. At least as memorable as any members of the cast is the film's use of locations, too—director James Farrow finds both elegance and menace in the ancient ruins, and he keeps the story humming. It's pretty much a B picture in most respects, but it's a mighty entertaining one.
Glenn Ford - Al Colby
Diana Lynn - Julie Barnes
Patricia Medina - Anna Luz
Francis L. Sullivan - Thomas Berrien
Sean McClory - Jefferson
Eduardo Noriega - Raul Cornejo
Julio Villareal - Ubaldo Navarro
Charles Rooner - Capt. Bergman
Douglas Dumbrille - Consul
Mona Barrie - Tourist
Juan Garcia - Bartender
Margarito Luna - Tacho