At the turn of the 20th century, a young American woman named Ann Mercedes (Eleanor Parker) has arrived in Cairo for a bit of archaeological exploration. Her father, a famed archaeologist, had previously searched for a tomb that could provide proof of the Old Testament’s text.
Desperate to get to the bottom of the mystery, Ann meets with Mark Brandon (Robert Taylor), a man in charge of an excavation project. Showing him a statue that her father found in London after it was smuggled out of Egypt, Ann convinces Mark to help her finish her father’s work.
Valley of the Kings was directed by Robert Pirosh. Pirosh also co-wrote the script with Karl Tunberg. According to TCM’s introduction to the film, this was the first major Hollywood production to be shot on location in Egypt.
As is to be expected in a 1950s film set in Egypt, this one emphasizes some of the “exotic” dangers of adventuring there, from scorpions to culture shock. Some mishaps are more serious than others, but as they build, the story certainly grips the viewer with plenty of danger and drama.
With antiques smuggling, biblical mystery, and undiscovered tombs all at play throughout the film, there’s plenty of adventure to be enjoyed. At one point, Taylor repels down a cliff face using only a dodgy-looking rope for support. This is just one of the many tense scenes met by the central duo.
The film being shot on location, the viewer can expect to catch some very cool scenery, too. Ancient ruins and Egypt’s beauty in general are on full display here.
Taylor and Parker both give fine performances. Their chemistry is quite good, and Parker is such an underrated actress! She’s certainly worth tuning in for.
Valley of the Kings is pretty much exactly what I expected it to be: an archaeological adventure with nice performances, pretty colors and landscapes, touches of historical intrigue, and some exoticism. If you love mid-century adventures, this is definitely one to see. If you’re not too much a fan of the genre, you may still find it worth tuning in for, for Parker and the location shooting.
I am wondering where I can obtain this movie. I found this interesting bit on Wikipedia: Eleanor Parker recalled the film as the most difficult experience she ever had making a movie:
[It] was simply a dreadful nightmare. We had a terrible producer who made no accommodations for the company or crew on location. We were in Egypt, out in the desert filming, with no sanitary facilities, no dressing rooms to speak of, it was unbelievable. Robert Taylor and I had to use the bathrooms with the locals, hiding behind coats. Additionally, the director (Robert Pirosh) had no idea what he was doing; the head cameraman (Robert Surtees) was directing the film. Then the crew wasn’t getting paid and our great cameraman told them that we were all going out on strike until everyone got paid. Believe me, the money showed up.
I watched it on TCM, but it is available on DVD! If you’re in the US, Amazon has it for around $15, and you may be able to find it cheaper elsewhere.