Thursday, November 11, 2021

Southwest Heritage

The Father Kino Story (Mission to Glory: A True Story
) 1977

Let me admit something right up front. Through most of this film, I was distracted trying to remember which roles various actors in the film played in the original Star Trek series. 

There are plenty of actors in The Father Kino Story (aka Mission to Glory: A True Story) who are familiar faces in films. Richard Egan (who plays Kino) starred in many films according to IMDb, just not things I’ve seen. But other faces caught my attention. Keenan Wynn, a priest in the film, is recognizable for his many Disney comedy villains and as Col. ‘Bat’ Guano in Dr. Strangelove. Cesar Romero, an admiral in this film, appeared in many movies I’ve seen, but I think of him as the Joker on the Batman TV show. John Ireland, another priest, and Aldo Ray, a mine owner, were legitimate movie stars.

But as I said, I was distracted by the guys playing Native Americans who’d been on Star Trek, though neither was a Native American. Anthony Caruso played the chief of a “friendly” tribe in this film, but I knew him first as gangster boss Bela Oxmyx in the “A Piece of the Action” episode of Star Trek. Michael Ansara played the chief of an “unfriendly” tribe, but I knew him first as the Klingon officer in the “Day of the Dove” episode of Star Trek. But best of all is Ricardo Montalban, who plays a general here, but you may well know him as KHAN from the “Space Seed” episode of Star Trek and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Michael Ansara

Anthony Caruso

Richardo Montalban

I should have been thinking about the topic of this blog, how the church and clergy are portrayed in this film, but as I said, I was distracted.

This is a film based on the life of a historical figure, Eusebio Francisco Kino (1645 - 1711) “the Padre on Horseback,” a Jesuit priest and missionary to the natives in what would be Mexico and the southwest of what would be the United States. The film looks at his ministry as he tried to bring peace among the native tribes and between the native people and the Spanish government.

Kino is shown in the film as a defender of the native people. He confronts the manager of a mine who is treating the natives as slaves (and dealing with them very harshly). The man tells him that the church accepts money from the mines. When Kino finds the man is telling the truth, he rallies against the church working with the mines if they continue to abuse the natives.

He also confronts the Spanish army when they attack the natives (leading to attacks on the soldiers, which lead to further attacks on the native people). The escalation continues until Father Kino negotiates a truce.

Kino is also remembered as an explorer and cartographer. It was believed in his time that “Baja California” was an island, and at one time, Kino began to build a boat to travel from “Mexico” to “California.” He wasn't able to make that voyage, but his travels led to the discovery that Baja California was a peninsula.

Primarily though, Kino was a priest who founded at least twenty-four churches in Mexico and the Southwest, and it's fascinating to see him performing the sacraments of baptism and confession without buildings. According to the film, he was greatly beloved by the native people because he loved them. So Father Kino would receive our highest Movie Churches rating, but -- since the Roman Catholic Church is portrayed as an oppressive institution in the film -- the steeple count goes down to just three. 

(Oh, one more casting note. Joseph Campanella, who plays a priest at the San Bruno Mission, played a Federation Arbitrator in Star Trek: Voyager. But I never watched that show, so that didn’t distract me.)



  1. Thanks! We found it on and will watch it tonight.