"Alsino and the Condor," a Central American film with two left wings, is a sodden tale of Nicaragua, wrapped in ideologic hyperbole but with a mythic touch that sometimes transcends its revolutionary message. Certainly it arrives here at a politically sensitive hour.
It's saved from oblivion by its poetic cinematography and its eloquent star, Alan Esquivel, as a beautiful peasant boy who wants to soar like a condor. Dean Stockwell, in a maniacal performance, costars as the misguided American military adviser who tries to befriend Alsino by taking him up in his helicopter.
Director Miguel Littin, an exiled Chilean, weaves propaganda with a popular children's story, then suffuses the whole with romanticized poverty and steamy, tropic scenery. He describes the style as "collective conscience . . . the typical narrative style of Latin American literature . . . a multitude of voices."
His dreamy protagonist does indeed hear voices, which induce his flight from reality -- a leap from a tree that leaves him a hunchback. Soon his innocence is as crumpled as his body, crippled by Stockwell and the forces of the Right who take over his village. Because of his twisted shape, Alsino makes a pilgrim's progress through a ravaged countryside, searching for a way to survive, and so awakens politically.
Eventually he becomes apprenticed to an eccentric bird man (Reinaldo Miravalle), a distressing occupation as it turns out. "Why don't the love birds fly away?" asks Alsino, all hunched and crooked. The birdman shows him; he takes a colorful creature from its stick cage, and breaks its little wing.
Meantime, tactics escalate under Stockwell and his Dutch crony (Jan Kees de Roy): Villagers are rounded up and machine- gunned. Their bodies bob in the river like dead nyads; their souls seem to float up into the banana trees. Atrocities mount.
It's a gloomy business, in Spanish with English subtitles, mostly sticks and bones picked at by the outraged filmmaker. But in the end the spirit of man ascends. Alsino and the peasants join the guerrillas in a call to arms, and so the revolution begins.