Independent West German filmmaker Werner Herzog has explored military psychology, the irony of revolt, colonialism and the lack of scientific reliability in some of his previous films. Here he has trekked down a river in Peru to resurrect the ancient conquistadores of Spain in a sort of parable on human need for power and warping of the best intentions when they are by the sword or by fanatics.
No preaching here, but a rivetingly shot odyssey as a group of the conqueror Pizzaro’s men are sent to find the fabled city of gold, El Dorado. The head of the expedition tags himself ‘The Wrath of God’ He sets up his own Emperor and pushes on to win power and glory for himself in the name of God. Their trek turns out a voyage to extinction.
The acting is properly larger than life, especially Klaus Kinski as the title character, a lean, driven but imposing man who has heads lopped off when in any way interfered with in his task of destruction and exploration. Visuals are exciting without distracting from the harsh theme.