Thursday, July 13, 2017

That Man from Rio: Foreshadowing Indiana Jones?

Cruising Rio to find the lost statuette.
When a priceless statuette is stolen from a Paris museum and a young woman is kidnapped, her boyfriend follows her captors to Rio de Janeiro. He befriends a resourceful shoeshine boy, survives numerous attempts on his life, and rescues his girlfriend. The undaunted couple figures out that the statuette, which forms a set with two others, leads to an ancient treasure. They try to thwart the bad guys while bickering playfully along the way.

Is this a lost script to an Indiana Jones movie conceived by Steven Spielberg? No, it's the plot from the 1964 international hit That Man from Rio, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Françoise Dorléac.

In the movie, it really looks like Belmondo is on the ledge!
Naturally, there are distinct differences between That Man from Rio and the Indiana Jones movies, with the most obvious being the hero. Indiana is a "professional" adventurer while Belmondo's Adrien is strictly an "amateur" (even though he's a soldier taking a week of leave). Adrien doesn't understand archaeology and he's not proficient with any kind of weapon. Still, his spirit of adventure and determination certainly rival Indy--as evidenced by his willingness to climb onto high building ledges, jump out of an airplane in flight, and participate enthusiastically in a huge barroom brawl.

That Man from Rio is the kind of movie that doesn't withstand close scrutiny; heck, the villain is obvious from his first appearance. Its strengths are swift pacing, quirky touches like the helpful shoeshine boy, and a charismatic star.

Jean-Paul Belmondo as Adrien.
For those film fans who know Belmondo best from foreign classics such as Breathless and Two Women (both 1960), That Man from Rio will be a revelation. The French star runs, jumps, and swings (literally...on vines) in an incredibly athletic performance. Some of the scenes were likely performed by stunt professionals, but Belmondo does his own share of acrobatics (reminding my wife of Cary Grant in Holiday). He seems to be enjoying himself immensely and that feeling of jubilation leaps from the screen.

Françoise Dorléac as Agnes.
As his flighty companion, Françoise Dorléac can't match the charm of her co-star. Indeed, That Man from Rio is at its best when it focuses on Adrien and his attempts to rescue his girlfriend Agnes. I blame the Oscar-nominated screenplay more than Ms. Dorléac. Incidentally, she was the elder sister of Catherine Deneuve and a rising star in her own right when she died in a car accident in 1967 at age 25. Her final film appearance was opposite Michael Caine in the Harry Palmer spy film Billion Dollar Brain.

Director Philippe de Broca, who co-wrote the screenplay for That Man from Rio, has said it was partially inspired by the Tintin comics that first appeared in 1929. Tintin was a young Belgian reporter who had various adventures with his dog Snowy. Spielberg adapted Tintin for the big screen as The Adventures of Tintin, a 2011 animated film. That's not the only Spielberg connection with That Man from Rio. According to a 2015 New York Times article, Spielberg has reportedly watched That Man from Rio at least nine times.

So, perhaps, That Man from Rio really did inspire Indiana Jones....


  1. Sounds like quite the lark, and a great antidote for the nightly news.

  2. This is a favorite film in our family! I was introduced to Belmondo from That Man from Rio and always associate him with action films and not his earlier classics. His later adventure pictures didn't match the charm of this film, however. The acrobatics he performs and the situations his character gets involved in rival today's action pictures....and without CGI, they are ten times as entertaining! Personally, I thought Dorleac was great in this part and enjoy her scenes with Belmondo; she perfectly captured the nature of the ditzy kind of female that a soldier would love.

  3. "That Man from Rio" is quite entertaining and I have to admit I especially enjoyed the clever shoeshine boy!