Tintin and the Blue Oranges (Consortium Pathé, 1964)
- Image © Hergé/Moulinsart.
- Tintin et les Oranges Bleues (English: Tintin and the Blue Oranges)
- Casting details:
- Tintin – Jean-Pierre Talbot, Captain Haddock – Jean Bouise
- Production details:
- Music – André Popp
- André Barret
- Colour, 74 mins.
Calculus receives a package from Professor Zalamea, a Spanish scientist, containing a blue orange. There is no letter or card with the parcel, but Calculus remembers that the Professor has been working on the adaptation of plants to desert soils. That evening, Haddock tries to see what Calculus’ reaction will be if he asks Nestor to bring the orange in to eat. The result is not exactly what he expected – the orange is luminous in the dark! Later that night, two men try to break into the house. Thankfully, Snowy alerts Tintin, who in turn wakes the rest of the house, all except Professor Calculus! Unfortunately, the Captain trips on a step and the intruders manage to escape. They discover that the blue orange has been stolen. Haddock breaks the news to the Professor the next morning, who is overcome with distress. The Captain tries to reassure him, but Tintin believes that if the intruders were so eager to obtain the blue orange, Professor Zalamea may be in grave danger.
They arrive in Valencia that evening and head straight for the house of the Professor. Unfortunately, he is out, and they are greeted by his cousin, Don Lope, who invites Tintin and company to stay with them. The evening wares on, without any sign of Professor Zalamea. Don Lope becomes more and more anxious. Calculus goes to the laboratory, while the others have coffee. A muffled bark from the back of the house alerts Tintin to the fact that Snowy has been chloroformed. On the floor, amongst shattered apparatus, is Calculus’ hat. Tintin recognises that both professors must have been kidnapped.
Next morning, the area is full of policeman and reporters. Don Lope orders a thorough search of the grounds, led by his steward, Estensorro, a shifty-eyed, moustached fellow. Meanwhile, Tintin and Snowy decide to walk around the estate. An old truck enters the courtyard and a smiling man and a young boy step out. The boy introduces himself as Pablito. The Captain appears and Pablito takes them both to meet his friends, who have information regarding the kidnapping of Professor Zalamea.
Meanwhile, Professor Calculus is taken to a ruined abbey, where he is told that he will work with Professor Zalamea to produce what they require. He is pushed through a doorway and it is quickly secured. Calculus looks around him. Next to a makeshift bench stands Professor Zalamea. He quickly takes Calculus on a tour of his laboratory. He explains to Calculus that he sent a blue orange to Calculus, but it was intercepted. He explains that his discoveries could be worth a fortune, but his work is not for financial gain, he wants to feed the world, with millions of blue oranges that will grow in the desert. Unfortunately, there is one small catch – the blue oranges are salty, and not fit to eat. Professor Calculus takes a look at the other pieces of equipment, but is told that they are just a blind to keep the guards quiet.
Tintin and Haddock are learning a lot from their newfound friends. The blue orange was given to Pablito to send to Calculus. He was attacked, and the letter was snatched from him. Fortunately, the parcel was safe, so Pablito decided to send it. Tintin asks Pablito what the attacker looked like. Pablito is vague; it happened so fast. A dark man, average height, with a moustache. He had a tattoo on his wrist above his watch – a dragon biting its own tail. They decide on a plan. They will search for a man matching the description, then ask him for the time. If his wrist had the tattoo, some of the children would follow him, while others would telephone Tintin.
Next morning, the children ask dozens of men, but to no avail. Then they notice one more person matching the description. The man looks at his watch while having his shoes shined and sure enough, there is the dragon, snaking around his arm. One of the group follows, while the other telephones Pablito. Tintin and Haddock follow Pablito in hot pursuit. The Captain ends up in a fountain, but even so, they reach the café at which the man was spotted. Unfortunately, the man jumped onto a bus and the group couldn't follow him. Tintin has an idea. Pablito takes a key to the shoe-shine man, tells him the customer dropped it and asks for the address of the man. Sure enough, all is revealed. The man lives at an inn, El Asno Rojo – The Red Donkey. His name is Fernando.
That evening, Tintin and Captain Haddock visit ‘The Red Donkey’. They try to blend in – ordering a drink and playing a game of dominoes. Tintin then strolls up to the bar and asks for Fernando. The barman touches the board at No. 7, but no key is there. Leaving the Captain downstairs, Tintin slips upstairs and opens the door of room seven with a skeleton key. He looks around him and picks up a diary. Footsteps sound outside and a key turns in the lock. He rushes into the wardrobe. From behind some coats, he observes Fernando, who drags out a suitcase from under the bed. Inside is a radio transmitter. Fernando plugs in a microphone and starts speaking to someone called Jefe. Then he hides the suitcase and walks out of the room, locking the door behind him. Tintin decides to leave via the the window, rather than risk meeting Fernando. However, on their way home, Tintin and Haddock are knocked unconscious by two men with coshes.
Back at the house of Professor Zalamea, the Thompsons have arrived. They are shown up to their rooms. About half an hour later, each of the Thompsons appears at the other’s door. These ‘colleagues’ carry coshes, and as the real Thompsons soon discover, they have been kidnapped, and securely cooped in a henhouse.
Meanwhile, Tintin and Haddock have been imprisoned in an underground grain silo. High above them, a small hole is the only way out. Tintin hears Snowy, outside, on the street, and calls to him for help. Snowy manages to find a rope attached to a weight, and pushes the rope into the hole. Tintin and Haddock manage to scramble up the rope and out of the opening. They decide to go back to the hideout of Pablito’s friends. Unfortunately, they become entangled with a furious brawl. The civil guards start to follow them. Luckily, they spot a place of refuge, a performance of ‘Faust’, featuring Bianca Castafiore! Tintin drags the Captain, protesting violently, to her dressing-room. The Milanese Nightingale is delighted to see them. They explain the situation to her, and she disguises the Captain as a character from Faust. The guards pass, uninterested. A few moments later, two Arabs enter with a bouquet of roses for Castafiore. She explains that they are from the ‘Emir Sadek el Benzine’ – whose yacht is currently in the town.
The Thompsons are being taken to the old abbey where the professors are being held, but the guards are ambushed by Arabs with sub-machine guns, who take the Thompsons with them. In the abbey vaults, the professors have built a large metal cylinder inside which Calculus, safe from the interfering guards, is building a radio transmitter.
Tintin is starting to examine the diary he picked up at the ‘Red Donkey’ and notices that Estensorro’s name is listed in it, along with ‘Bello Horizonte’ – the town in which he lives. He and Haddock decide to search his room. They discover a radio, a twin of Fernando’s, along with an envelope addressed to Professor Calculus. It contains information about the Professor’s research and details about how his life is being threatened and a small riddle; “Go to my laboratory; Kelvin will help you …” Tintin and the Captain rush into the laboratory. Haddock remembers that Lord Kelvin had something to do with making ice, so they decide to check the refrigerator. They find some ice, which the Captain puts into a glass of whisky. A voice starts to emit from the glass. It is the voice of Professor Zalamea. He explains that two organisations are after his work: Associated Oranges and an unknown organisation, headed by the Emir of Sakali. They decide to leave the room, narrowly missing Estensorro. A car radio is on in the distance, and from it they hear a plea for help from Calculus. They now know where the professors are being held. Estensorro grabs a motorbike and roars away, while Haddock removes the chauffeur from the car, and jumps in, with Tintin. Estensorro leads them straight to the abbey. They follow him on foot, through the ruins and into the vaults. Estensorro turns and starts to fight Tintin. Thankfully, Tintin knocks him out, just as the Spanish police arrive. The Thompsons have been found and the gang has been arrested. Unfortunately, they are too late to rescue Calculus – he has been kidnapped by the Emir Sakali – who they discover is the same man who gave flowers to Castafiore. They decide to find his yacht.
They hear music coming from an open porthole, look inside, and see Calculus and Zalamea! Unfortunately, Calculus shouts with glee, and the alarm is raised. Tintin and Haddock are escorted to the Emir, while Snowy is told to find Pablito, and hurries off. The Emir announces that he has decided to hold them both prisoners. The Captain starts to rebel, lashing out as much as possible. Suddenly, over the side jumps Pablito and his gang. Tintin throws a cushion at the Emir’s dagger, leaving him covered in feathers – helpless. A siren sounded the arrival of the police, and the end of the mystery of the Blue Oranges.
This was the second Tintin movie using actors to play the characters. Although Haddock is more convincing in this sequel, the whole production just doesn't match the standards set by its predecessor. Jean-Pierre Talbot is starting to show his age, and the storyline lacks the depth of The Golden Fleece. The scenery, although interesting, isn't quite as mysterious and exciting as the Greece/Istanbul flavour of the first movie. Worth watching, but I can see why this wasn't a hit at the box office.
- Movie book:
- Tintin and the Blue Oranges, Editions Casterman, Tournai, 1962.
Text © Oliver Battrick. Used by permission.