Rated: PG-13 For violence and nudity. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: August 21, 1992 Released by: Twentieth Century Fox
Two movies commemorate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' Discovery of America, the Ilya and Alexander Salkind version, Christopher Columbus and the soon-to-be-released 1492.
This production has been plagued with problems. The Salkinds were called in to finish the picture amidst budget shortages. George Coraface who plays Columbus, was hired only days before filming began, and one of the stars, Marlon Brando, who plays the Inquisitor, has been vocal in his criticism of the film; he wanted Columbus portrayed as a rapist and pillager of the natives, instead of a greedy opportunist.
After many years of trying to peddle his dream of discovering land beyond the West Indies, Columbus, a mapmaker with three children, finally talks Spain's Queen Isabella (Rachel Ward) and King Ferdinand (Tom Selleck, looking bored and uncomfortable) into financing his journey.
If successful, his mission would be to bring Christianity to the heathens and return with gold and treasures for Spain, and 10 percent of the riches for himself, along with the title of Admiral of the Ocean Sea.
Columbus has trouble finding sailors willing to make the arduous journey, so the queen offers a pardon to any prisoner who will sign on. The voyage is hindered by uncertainty, sabotage, disease and murderers stalking the unsuspecting deck hands. Just before the crew is to behead Columbus, he spots land.
The natives are trusting and welcome the strangers with open arms. Soon after placing the Spanish flag on their soil and christening the island "San Salvador", Columbus heads home with all of their gold, trinkets and five natives that he can deliver to the queen as converts to Christianity.
Columbus is depicted as a man whose religious fervor and ambitions overrule his enthusiastic good intentions.
Robert Davi, who plays one of the ship's captains, and Rachel Ward are both good in their parts. Brando, however, wearing an enormous black cloak, appears awkward and bad-humored (maybe he saw a copy of the finished product).
Some of the scenes with the natives are laughable. A young Indian girl with a large chest is prominently displayed in every scene and one of the evil sailors who was left behind on the island so grossly over-acts that what should have been a moving scene turns into a funny one.
The screenplay by Mario Puzo is choppy and has an unsatisfactory ending. It looks as if the production company ran out of money and said "let's wrap this up". Unfortunately, except for Coraface who is able to capture Columbus' innocent inspiration and growing fanaticism with some passion, and a few great ocean scenes, Christopher Columbus - The Discovery leaves the audience looking forward to 1492.
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