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Christopher Columbus: The Discovery: reviews

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Aug. 20th, 1992 | 10:00 pm

Roger Ebert in Chicago Sun-Times: August 24, 1992

"Christopher Columbus: The Discovery" makes a voyage of its own, back through time to the 1930s and 1940s, when costume dramas were made with energy and style. Something seems to have gotten lost in the years between. This movie takes one of history's great stories and treats it in such a lackluster manner that Columbus' voyage seems as endless to us as it did to his crew.

French actor George Corraface stars in the title role, which he occupies as if it were a Ralph Lauren ad. He looks great and has a terrific smile and sure fills out a breastplate, but where is the anguish and greatness that Columbus must have possessed?

Corraface is not helped by a peculiar supporting cast, headed by Marlon Brando's worst performance in memory. As Torquemada, the inquisitor, Brando sulks about the set looking moody and delivering his lines with the absolute minimum of energy necessary to be audible. He's phoned in roles before, but this was the first time I wanted to hang up ...

Once Columbus and crew sail to the New World, the movie breaks down into routine travelogue shots and vignettes of shipboard life ...

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Rita Kempley in the Washington Post August 22, 1992

When Marlon Brando makes his entrance in the bloated epic "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery," we know how Ahab must have felt when he first laid eyes on Moby Dick. Like the Cap'n said, "Ahoy, he blows." Swathed in clerical robes that wardrobe doubtless made from the mainsail, Brando plays the Spanish Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada, but he would have been better cast as the Nina. Brando is that wooden, which is nothing unusual when it comes to this creaking old tub of a motion picture ...

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411 Mania

… Timothy Dalton was initially selected to portray Columbus, but walked away three days prior to the start of production. He was replaced at the last minute by Georges Corraface, who struts around in cheap period garb like a Columbus aching to be on the cover of 15th century GQ. He has the shiny dark hair combed back and a pompously big smile as he exudes confidence in every frame. He would be right at home with Errol Flynn in the dashingly adventurous department …

Tom Selleck is King Ferdinand II, looking and sounding very un-Magnum P.I.-ish … Mark this down as one of the worst portrayals of a King. Selleck's primary responsibility is to walk in giant strides and look intimidating.

Marlon Brando shows up as Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada, who does not support Columbus' theories or plan. Brando tries to hunker down in his mammoth black robes so no one recognizes him and speaks his lines with as little effort as humanly possible. Granted, Brando's fraction of oomph is normally better than the best afforded by many, but at this stage of his career, Brando was notorious for "phoning in" his performances. This is one of his weakest. He received top billing and $5 million for a part than is a smidgen more than a cameo. After all that, he requested his name be taken off the film even before it was released. He was allegedly upset that The Discovery did not accurately display Columbus' complicity in the genocide of Native Americans …

John Glen … foolishly tries to bring an action-geared atmosphere to what should be a historical epic. What we're left with a chronicling of Columbus' journey in the guise of a swashbuckler.

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Brian Orndorf

“Superman” producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind arrived on the scene first with “Christopher Columbus: The Discovery,” while Ridley Scott’s glossy “1492: Conquest of Paradise” (a pretty but painfully glacial feature that’s strangely achieved a reputation as some type of unheralded classic) would arrive in October.

To the surprise of no one, both efforts tanked at the box office. Why? Well, would you want to sit through two movies about Christopher Columbus? No, of course you wouldn’t! How about just one? No, of course you wouldn’t!

… Brando’s casting didn’t exactly create the waves of publicity the Salkinds were aiming for, but it certainly presented the film with an eye-catching marquee opportunity it didn’t otherwise possess …

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Clayton Trapp

One of the most bizarre casts in the history of Hollywood isn't entirely wasted, but John Glen sure didn't get out what he should have out of these people. Tom Selleck is hopelessly miscast as a Spanish king, but if the contracts are signed and you're stuck with him, why not ham it up? …

It takes about five minutes for Georges Corraface (Columbus) to get in a bunch of fights, buy a map, get it ripped off, get cheated in a confusing bit about Portugal, rush to Spain where he makes some kind of impression on Rachel Ward, get in a bunch more fights, and impregnate Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Besides the pace (it takes them about twenty minutes to cross the Atlantic, most of which time is spent complaining about how long it's taking), Corraface is much of the problem. He never shows the slightest glimpse of anything resembling authentic heroism, in fact he rarely shows the face of anything besides a young actor astonished as his good fortune to be cast as the lead …

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Grann-Bach from Denmark

… This flick is simply put one of the best arguments for why you should not base viewing choices upon the cast alone. There are *amazing* actors in this, and they are utterly wasted.

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