When Mayan King Balam (George Chakiris) flees his enemy Hunac Kell (Leo Gordon) by sea, he finds a new land for his people and builds a city, but the territory already belongs to Black Eagle and his tribe. The two factions move through phases of conflict and co-operation, but as much as politics, the driving force behind it all is the mutual interest by the two leaders in a woman, Mayan Princess Ixchel (Shirley Anne Field).
Watching the film today, what is fascinating is seeing how such an historical piece is tackled within the movie conventions and mores of the era in which it was made, reflecting that society, and how the plot lines are shaped so as the whole resembles an offbeat western. There are no difficulties of communication as Mayans and Indians speak the same language (English). Russian Yul Brynner's portrayal of an Indian is very effective, but in addition Caucasian actors Richard Basehart and Barry Morse play Mayan priests, George Chakiris is of Greek extraction and Shirley Anne Field is English, and their mingling with the more ethnically authentic extras does jar to some extent.