Potheads who watch this will probably check their stash the next morning to see if any of it’s gone: “No movie could have been that weird — we must’ve been stoned.” No, you weren’t; it was that weird.
In 1560, a group of Spanish conquistadors inch down the choppy, treacherous Amazon on a raft, surrounded by cannibalistic Indians who watch them from the shore and shout “Meat is floating by!” One by one, people die until the maniacal Aguirre (Klaus Kinski at his funniest) takes charge. His speech to his men, wherein he offers precise details of what will befall those who defy him, is an awesome piece of machismo, as is his comment on a potential defector — “The man’s a head taller than me. That can change.”
The climax finds poor, insane Aguirre stranded on the river, stomping around the raft in a religious ecstasy and pushing monkeys out of his way — who wouldn’t want to watch this? This was the first collaboration between the mercurial Kinski and the obsessive director Werner Herzog, who dealt with Kinski’s own potential defection by pulling a gun on him; Kinski finished the role with Herzog’s pistol aimed at his head. The other films they made together were Woyzeck, Nosferatu, the massive Fitzcarraldo, and Cobra Verde. All are worth a visit, as well as Herzog’s documentary about Kinski, My Best Fiend. Anchor Bay put out a DVD box set of all five.
And remember: long arrows are gaining fashion.