Thursday, November 5, 2015

Montezuma's Treasure Again?

Wasn't Montezuma's treasure found in yesterday's post in a comic book adaptation of Tales of Wells Fargo?

Well, it turns out the TV version of the wild West had Montezuma stashing his treasures all over the darned place.

What made me look up and watch "The Alexander Portless Story"--the March 16, 1960 episode of Wagon Train--was running across the fact that Peter Lorre was the guest star. Lorre in a Western? That's something everyone in the world should be legally obligated to watch.

Not surprisingly, Lorre play a villain and a "fish-out-of-water" role. Alexander Portless is a British archaeologist who believes he's found evidence that Montezuma's treasure--hidden somewhere in the American Southwest to keep it out of Cortez's hands--actually exists. He's found the general area, but now he needs a scout who knows the territory to help track it down more precisely.

This by itself wouldn't make him a villain. What does tip him into bad guy mode is his obsession to find the treasure before a fatal disease finishes him off. That treasure is his immortality. If he finds it, the British museum will have an "Alexander Portless" room and he'll live forever. So Heaven help anyone who gets in his way.

He embezzled the money he needed to outfit his expedition and recruited a quartet of thugs to help him. The thugs are in it for a share of the Aztec gold, so naturally Portless will have to eventually kill them so the treasure will go to the museum in its entirety. And to find a scout--well, he just has his men kidnaps Flint (Robert Horton), the scout for the wagon train.

Lorre is superb in the role, convincing us that Portless is indeed a highly educated scholar and giving him a polite veneer that doesn't quite hide his complete lack of a moral compass. Portless is one of the best sorts of villains in a work of fiction--someone we can sympathize with, yet still not feel like the story is asking us to excuse the crimes he commits.

On top of this, the plot is well-constructed and Portless' thugs are given individual personalities. In many ways, it's a typical treasure hunt story employing the cliche of the treasure hunters turning on each other at the first opportunity, but it is skillfully and effectively done.

So apparently, Montezuma didn't hide his treasure all in one place. Two different stashes have been respectively found in today's post and yesterday's post. Maybe we all had better go out and take a look. No tellin' how many more Montezuma's treasures are out there!

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