Val Verde (fictional country)
Val Verde is a fictional country or city used by Hollywood writer/producer Steven E. de Souza when his stories require a South/Central American locale that won't get the studio into legal or diplomatic disputes. The name translates as "Green Valley", as "Val" is the Portuguese and Spanish apocopic word, the old-fashioned French word, and Friulian, Galician, Piedmontese, Romansch and Venetian words for "valley". This country resembles Panama or Nicaragua. Val Verde, Texas is also the name of the town in Andrew V. McLaglin's 1968 movie "Bandolero" starring Dean Martin, Jimmy Stewart, George Kennedy, and Raquel Welch.
A fictional country carrying the name of Val Verde has appeared in a number of films, television programs, and comics by de Souza:
- Commando (1985), Arius (Dan Hedaya) is the former ruler of Val Verde and sends John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to kill the current president but he escapes en route. In the movie, the country is an 11-hour flight from Los Angeles International Airport, which places it approximately 5500 miles from California and is likely to be near Chile, Paraguay or Brazil.
- Supercarrier, Episode 5 "Rest and Revolution" (1988) the USS Georgetown commanded by Capt. Henry K. 'Hank' Madigan (Dale Dye) docks in Val Verde just as civil war breaks out.
- Die Hard 2 (1990), General Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero) is from Val Verde.
- Adventure Inc. (2003), Episode 10 of Season 1 was titled "Plague Ship of Val Verde".
- Sheena (2015). a Devil's Due comic book, is set in Val Verde.
Outside of de Souza's own work, there are other appearances, either linked by shared personnel, or as a direct reference. For example:
- According to the novelization of the 1987 film Predator, Alan "Dutch" Schaeffer's (Arnold Schwarzenegger) rescue team is sent to Val Verde ostensibly to rescue an American politician. (However, in Predators (2010), Isabelle (Alice Braga) states that the events of the original film took place in Guatemala.) Predator, like Commando, was produced by Joel Silver and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- Broforce, a 2015 video game, which has characters that parody action heroes like John Matrix from Commando (as well as Dirty Harry, John Rambo, etc.), uses Val Verde as one of its settings.
Steven de Souza explained his reason for using Val Verde in his Sheena comic:
|“||It's something like Guyana, a country which encompasses lush Caribbean resorts popular with tourists, an unexplored mysterious rainforest, and a mix of Anglo, Spanish, African, Creole and indigenous cultures. This is a country of the imagination I've used in several films and TV programs, which I thought was my little inside baseball joke, but Eric Lichtenfield, the author of 'Actions Speak Louder,' recently sent me a Wikipedia page on it! Seriously, my Dad's family is from that part of the world and it's something I can write about with some familiarity.||”|
Val Verde has principally been used as a plot device or location in place of real Latin American countries in action and adventure movies, as a particular result of the United States' rocky relations with many nations in the region during the 1980s.
When glimpsed in Commando, it appears to be a poor nation, where subsistence agriculture (i.e. livestock) is side-by-side with military propaganda and constant military presence. Inhabitants appear poor but happy, and there is evidence of a trade embargo reminiscent of that placed on Cuba in the presence of battered but functional vintage 1950s cars.
In Commando, Val Verde is presided over by President Velázquez, an apparent puppet leader installed by an American-backed revolution assisted by Colonel John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) and Captain Bennett (Vernon Wells), during which the nefarious General Arius was deposed. Bennett later aligns himself with Arius when Matrix discharges him for disregard for order, and they force Matrix to help him reinstate Arius' dictatorship, but are thwarted when Matrix fights back and kills them all.
In Predator, the country is described as being invaded by communist inspired revolutionaries. The rebel camp attacked by the team has at least one "Russian Advisor".
In Die Hard 2, General Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero) is a General in exile, awaiting trial in the United States. He is aided by former special forces members to escape from his prison plane (prior to landing, Esperanza himself strangles his prison guard and steals his handcuff key and gun, then shoots both of the pilots and takes the controls). Esperanza is wanted by the U.S. government for drug trafficking, but the leader of the rogue special forces unit, Colonel Stuart (William Sadler), wishes to free Esperanza because he "stands up to communist aggression", and takes over Washington Dulles International Airport's air traffic control systems to rescue Esperanza. Police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis), whose wife is on one of the planes, thwarts their plan by destroying their getaway plane, killing Esperanza, Stuart and everyone else aboard, and using the fiery wreckage as a makeshift runway for the remaining planes.
In Supercarrier, a US Navy carrier is present in Val Verde when civil war breaks out and is forced to step in; this violation of Pentagon protocol, though entirely fictional, precipitated the withdrawal of Navy participation from the series.
As well as studio shots, other locations have been used to portray Val Verde on film:
- The entrance to Long Beach Airport's passenger terminal was used for Val Verde's main airport in Commando.
- San Pedro, California was used for the port of Val Verde on Supercarrier, while Valencia, California stood in for the countryside.
- Puerto Vallarta had previous appeared in The Night of the Iguana and was used as the principal filming location for Predator, despite the objections of John McTiernan and Donald McAlpine. The early beach shots were taken at Puerto Vallarta and jungle scenes were shot slightly further inland. When more money was released by Fox, McTiernan was able to shoot in his preferred location around Palenque (including the Misol-Ha waterfall) and about half of the final film came from this round of shooting.
- Word in Priberam Portuguese dictionary
- "Diccionario de la lengua española" (in Spanish). Real Academia Española. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- "Commando". fast-rewind.com. 1985-10-04. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "Plague Ship of Val Verde" at the Internet Movie Database
- Return of the Queen: de Souza Talks "Sheena", Comic Book Resources, January 7, 2008
- Beautiful Monsters: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to the Alien and Predator Films (footnote 34, page 148, by David A. McIntee, Telos, 272 pages, 2005, ISBN 1-903889-94-4)
- Brescovit, Bonaldo, Santos, Ott & Rheims, 2012 : The Brazilian goblin spiders of the new genus Predatoroonops (Araneae, Oonopidae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, n. 370, pp. 29-31. Page accessed on January 12, 2013
- Edward Snowden Calls Around For Asylum, Youtube.com