John Chamberlain (1927-2011)
The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez (excerpt) (1968)
Underground classic The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez, directed by sculptor John Chamberlain. For the first time in decades New York audiences will have an opportunity to see this visually lush and humorous improvisation starring Taylor Mead in the role of Spanish conqueror, Hernando Cortez, and the divine Ultra Violet as his consort, the daughter of Aztec emperor Montezuma.
The filmmaker and producer met at Max's Kansas City, they asked themselves 'what kind of film could we make if we brought our stars to the Yucatan and invented a narrative, while visiting places that Hernando Cortez had been...’ Cortez was a Spanish soldier who assembled several armies in the new world between 1518-1521 to oppose the Aztecs, killing their last emperor and effectively ending the civilization.
The film mixes common activities in an uncommon way; there is a blood sacrifice and a symbolic scene where a mountain lion eats an antelope in a tree. Aided and abetted by the local population, Cortez with his consort, delivers proclamations on his campaign, and we get an inside look at their private lives. The filmmaker has a cameo role as a Clark Gable type, Blackie Norton, who gets shot by a firing squad for seducing the consort. The grand finale is a feast scene, held at the ocean's edge, it features Ultra Violet's cover version of "I love you more than you'll ever know" by Blood Sweat and Tears.
John Chamberlain's only complete feature film, whose wonderful actors invent a witty romp with serious undertones, it is not to be missed.
Produced by Alan Power. Cinematography by Carol Williams, Richard Davis and John Chamberlain. Costumes by Tiger Morse. With the participation of Octavio, Mary Easy, Tarzan and Fats.