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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining spy spoof set in pre-revolutionary Havana
What a treat! Here we have one of the UK's finest twentieth century actors (Alec Guinness) starring in a story by one of the UK's finest twentieth century novelists (Graham Greene). It also stars Burl Ives, Ralph Richardson and Maureen O'Hara. This is a light-hearted black-and-white comedy (Greene called it an 'entertainment') about Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman,...
Published on 20 Dec. 2008 by Geoff Parkes

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was OK but not brilliant
This film was recommended in a recent BBC4 programme reviewing crime/ spy films. I bought several of these films. This particular one I thought was ok but not brilliant. There were many good actors but Noel Coward still plays his camp style and un-natural behaviour and perhaps this character should have been played by a more straight actor. The film was probably value for...
Published 2 months ago by Niggle Ellenbrook


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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining spy spoof set in pre-revolutionary Havana, 20 Dec. 2008
By 
Geoff Parkes (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
What a treat! Here we have one of the UK's finest twentieth century actors (Alec Guinness) starring in a story by one of the UK's finest twentieth century novelists (Graham Greene). It also stars Burl Ives, Ralph Richardson and Maureen O'Hara. This is a light-hearted black-and-white comedy (Greene called it an 'entertainment') about Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman, recruited into espionage by Secret Service agent Hawthorne (Noel Coward). Wormold needs the money to finance his daughter's expensive tastes, especially with horses, but quickly finds himself out of his depth when expected to find further recruits at his country club. He files false reports and supplies drawings of non-existent secret weapons, based on vacuum cleaner designs. The story takes several darker turns, but by the end we all have a smile on our faces.

It's wonderful to contrast late-fifties Havana with Havana today. The opening credits show a lady doing languid backstroke down a rooftop swimming-pool, then turning to gaze past the twin towers of the Hotel Nacional towards the arc of the malecon and Old Havana - seemingly unchanged. A street hustler approaches dapper, quick-striding Hawthorne and grows increasingly desperate as Hawthorne fails to bite: "Shoeshine? Pretty girl? Dirty movie?...Palace of Art?!" The hustlers are still there, but these days it's more likely to be: "Cigars? Restaurant? Pretty girl?...Viagra?!"

You can watch this film in four different languages, with a choice of 12 languages as subtitles - great! OK, sometimes the subtitles go astray. "Kettle" gets subtitled as "tetera" (= teapot) - not much good for steaming letters open! According to the subtitles, a man found bound and gagged in the gutter (arroyo) is said to have been found in the "puerta" (= doorway) - not quite the same thing! But these shortcomings are amusing rather than annoying. Apart from being great fun to watch, the film supplies an important piece of social history. The timing is critical: the book was written in 1958 about events in 1957, i.e. the end of the Batista regime. But director Carol Reed needed Fidel Castro's permission to film in 1959, after the revolution. Luckily Castro complied. Buy it and enjoy!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining!, 10 Jan. 2011
By 
UK Filmbuff "filmbuff1382" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
A very entertaining film, with fine performances by an excellent cast. Alec Guinness, as usual, plays the lead role impeccably. The addition of Noel Coward puts the "icing on the cake".

A complete farce, when a vacuum cleaner salesman is recruited to be a British spy, although quite why he is recruited leaves a lot to the imagination. Having no experience or interest in his new role (apart, that is, from the money it offers him), he finds it impossible to recruit "agents" to work for him. His charming, but totally irresponsible, daughter wants to live the high-life and who is he to deny her the opportunity to do so, merely because of a small thing called money!

Thus, he cleverly creates completely fictitious, potentially dangerous machines and installations, drawings of which he passes on to the British. They, of course, are most impressed and pretty soon he is paid even more money, because his results have become almost legendary.

Things begin to crumble about him, when he is assigned a secretary. There is some real action, where innocent parties are caught up in the web of intrigue and a murder (Burl Ives' character) is committed and another character is abducted. Hence, there is a slightly tragic, as well as humourous side, to the story.

The conclusion is a typical British farce, but I won't spoil it for you. I found the film enjoyable, very easy watching and definitely one I shall be enjoying in the future.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buyers beware!, 23 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
Let the buyers beware - this DVD version of "Our Man In Havana" isn't quite the film it was when first seen right at the end of 1959. Very nearly, but not quite. It's only towards the end that one notes the little changes. The extremely strange editing of the crucial sequence where Wormold tries to kill Carter - eventually succeeding - has been noted by at least one previous Amazon reviewer. Was this an American censored version, perhaps? It now seems rather more like self-defence on Wormold's part, which is a bit of a cop-out. In a slightly earlier scene, Carter suggests to Wormold that they leave a strip-club because it's "full of girls undressing" - what he actually said originally was "full of tarts undressing". More censorship? And, as Wormold leaves Havana, the scene where he bids farewell to the fearsome Captain Segura has now been slightly trimmed. In this version, Wormold merely accepts Segura's parting gift - the two bullets he killed Carter with - and leaves. We are missing the brief interchange where Wormold assures Segura that he never really believed that the latter's cigar-case was bound in human skin - only to be dumbfounded when Segura very quietly admits that it is, the skin having belonged to the man who tortured his father to death ("He was one of the torturable class"). These very small cuts don't amount to much, but are annoying to anyone (like this reviewer) old enough to remember the complete version, which was still regularly seen on British television up to the beginning of the 21st century. Other than that, it's a terrific movie. Oh, and there's one other change - the opening title sequence now credits the music to Frank and Laurence Deniz, not "Hermanos Deniz", as previously. Perhaps people thought "Hermanos" was a man's name, not the Spanish for "brothers".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to Be Missed!, 14 Feb. 2009
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
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Collaborating for a third time with director Carol Reed ["Fallen Idol"; "The Third Man"], Graham Greene has written a script, based upon his novel "Our Man in Havana," which effervesces like vintage champagne, its humor, both dry and subtle, radiating a brilliance that obscures the fact that this black-and-white film was made in 1957, during the height of the Cold War.

The unlikely plot to which John Le Carré would later pay homage with "Tailor of Panama," is made entirely plausible due to the nuanced performance of the incomparable Alec Guinness, whose portrayal of Wormold, the seller of "Atomic Pile Vacuums" in a seedy pre-Castro Havana, ranges between bemused ineptitude and faux confidence and sophistication as he improvises on the tradecraft of espionage, a profession that has been thrust upon him. Much of the humor, in fact derives from his bumbling efforts to recruit agents. The felicitous combination of Greene and Reed ensures that the humor gradually assumes ominous overtones as Wormold's deception is quickly swallowed whole by one side of the espionage game and slowly detected and regurgitated by the other. Given the fact that the film was made before the Cuban Missile Crisis, the drawings of "secret installations" in the heart of Cuba provides the viewer with a chilling verisimilitude in hindsight.

Burl Ives, who was noted primarily for folk-singing, turns in a more-than-competent performance as Wormold's enigmatic friend, a down-and-out doctor and German First-World-War veteran, whose part in the affair is never completely explained. Although Ernie Kovacs' performance of the dastardly chief of police, Captain Segura, borders on caricature, one cannot imagine anyone else playing the character in any other manner. And while I was never quite convinced by Jo Morrow in the role of the precocious convent daughter--she seems a bit too mature--the rest of the cast, which includes Maureen O'Hara as the skilled secretary that London sends to back up their most valuable asset in the Caribbean, is thoroughly credible.

Only Graham Greene could concoct this deliciously sardonic spoof on the Secret Intelligence Service in which he served during World War II. All the fabled real-life stereotypes are present and accounted for: Noel Coward as an Old Boy who, impervious to the raucous importunings of maracas-wielding street singers, strides stiffly through the steamy boulevards of Havana in a three-piece suit, bowler hat on head and umbrella in hand; Ralph Richardson as "C," the all-for-expedience Director, who hears what he wants to hear (transforming what has been described to him as a smalltime salesman into a "merchant adventurer"); the stammering spy obsessed with his pipe (reminiscent of a notorious mole under whom Greene served--unwittingly of said-mole's true affiliations--in real life), working for the Other Side. All contribute a note of Cold War reality to this tongue-in-cheek tale of espionage. Underlying the humor, however, lurks a question, later asked by John Le Carré: are intelligence services sometimes too willing to believe in expedient scenarios that seem clearly delineated--and therefore too good to be true, when actual events may prove to be other than they seem.

Except for the original theatrical trailer, the extras are lamentably trivial. Ignore them. Presented in letter-box form, to preserve the original Cinemascope presentation, "Our Man in Havana" is not to be missed.

Enjoy!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...and the book's good as well!!, 29 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
Yes, for some, the late 1950s are ancient history, black and white films are anathema and anything less than high tech wizardry involving the spontaneous combustion of entire planets is tedium.

Yet 'Our Man in Havana', produced in 1959, has for me, retained its status as an excellent film.

At the risk of appearing biased, I have to say that nearly anything involving the late Alec Guinness is usually top notch! This witty, humorous film, of one hour 43 minutes duration, based upon the original story by Graham Greene, is no exception. A raised eyebrow from Guinness can communicate more emotion than the chest heaving, tear jerking, gut wrenching 'pathos' of some contemporary dramas.

If you haven't read the other reviews, briefly, this is a spy spoof with Guinness as Jim Wormold, an English expatriate in Havana, selling vacuum cleaners. Needing funds for his beloved teenage daughter's extravagant requests, Wormold reluctantly agrees to be recruited as an operative for the Secret Service.

Having absolutely no experience of espionage, Wormold is forced to invent information for his reports. Needless to say, vacuum cleaner components play a key role. (The idea of spying on secret military instillations in Cuba was said to predict the Cuban missile crisis of 1962)

Fiction is blithely accepted as fact by London. However, soon fictitious agents and creative drawings assume a life form of their own! Two operatives are dispatched from London to assist Wormold and it seems that discovery is imminent.

Although there are many comic moments, the story has its poignancy. Played out against a backdrop of the brutal Batista regime (Soon to be overthrown by Castro), betrayal, deceit and their consequences, particularly for innocent victims, are interwoven themes. Wormald's wife has left him and as a result, his life is literally a vacuum. Wormald's attempts to deceive the Secret Service have tragic consequences, one of which is the death of his close friend Dr Hasselbacher. Agents are not what they appear: someone is a double agent out to kill Wormwold.

Usually the filmed version of a novel I have particularly enjoyed, is a disappointment. This is an exception. The film skilfully manipulates the tension between comedy and tragedy.

Recommended....but do read the novel as well!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sly spy classic, 17 Feb. 2013
By 
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This review is from: Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
Our man in Havana (Carol Reed, 111', 1959)

Our Man in Havana is a 1959 British film shot in CinemaScope, directed and produced by Carol Reed and starring Alec Guinness, Burl Ives, Maureen O'Hara, Ralph Richardson, NoŽl Coward and Ernie Kovacs. The film is adapted from the 1958 novel Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. The film takes the action of the novel and gives it a more comedic touch.
Music by Frank Deniz, Laurence Deniz, Cinematography by Oswald Morris

Plot: In pre-revolutionary Cuba, James Wormold (Guinness), a vacuum cleaner salesman, is recruited by Hawthorne (Coward) of the British Secret Intelligence Service to be their Havana operative. Instead of recruiting his own agents, Wormold invents agents from men he knows only by sight, and sketches "plans" for a rocket-launching pad based on vacuum parts to increase his value to the service and to procure more money for himself and his expensive daughter Milly (Jo Morrow). Because his importance grows, he is sent a secretary, Beatrice (O'Hara), and a radioman from London to be under his command. With their arrival it becomes much harder for Wormold to maintain his facade. However, when they do, all of his imagined information begins to come true. One of his "agents" is killed, and he is himself targeted for assassination. He admits what he's done to his secretary, and is recalled to London. At the film's conclusion, rather than telling the truth to the prime minister and other military intelligence services, Wormold's commanders (led by Ralph Richardson) agree to fabricate a story claiming his imagined machines had been dismantled, bestow honors on Wormold, and offer him a position teaching espionage classes in London.

Casting: Alec Guinness as Jim Wormold, Burl Ives as Dr Hasselbacher, Maureen O'Hara as Beatrice Severn, Ernie Kovacs as Captain Segur, NoŽl Coward as Hawthorne, Ralph Richardson as 'C', Jo Morrow as Milly Wormold, Grégoire Aslan as Cifuentes. Paul Rogers as Hubert Carter, Raymond Huntley as General, Ferdy Mayne as Professor Sanchez, Maurice Denham as Admiral, Joseph P Mawra as Lopez, Duncan Macrae as MacDougal, Gerik Schjelderup as Svenson, Hugh Manning as Officer, Karel Stepanek as Dr Braun, Maxine Audley as Teresa. Eccellent acting throughout.

Production: The film was shot on location in Havana, just two months after the overthrow of the Batista regime, and on 13 May 1959 Fidel Castro visited the film crew when they shot scenes at Havana's Cathedral Square. Our Man in Havana was positively received by film critics; it has a "fresh" rating of 85% (with 13 reviews) at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. While not quite matching Reed's own The Third Man, it is an established long term top of its kind.

226 - Our man in Havana (Carol Reed, 111', 1959) -Sly spy classic - 17/2/2013
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it, 6 Oct. 2009
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This review is from: Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I went to cuba recently and spent time in some of the locations shown in the film

the film itself is whimsical and extremely enjoyable as well as having a truly authentic background

It was made in 1958 but apparently predicted the cuban missile crisis of 1962 ( more on Wikipedia)

Graham Greene would have been proud of the film

for film buffs this is a must!

Nick Farrar
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was OK but not brilliant, 22 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This film was recommended in a recent BBC4 programme reviewing crime/ spy films. I bought several of these films. This particular one I thought was ok but not brilliant. There were many good actors but Noel Coward still plays his camp style and un-natural behaviour and perhaps this character should have been played by a more straight actor. The film was probably value for money but it is debateable whether I should have even spent less than £4 on it. This film could have been excellent like Ring of Spies or Jigsaw.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Our Man In Havana (1959) ... Alec Guinness ... Carol Reed (Director) (2009)", 25 July 2011
By 
J. Lovins "Mr. Jim" (Missouri-USA) - See all my reviews
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Columbia Pictures Corporation presents "OUR MAN IN HAVANA" (1959) (111 min/B&W) -- Starring Alec Guinness, Burl Ives, Maureen O'Hara, Ernie Kovacs, Noel Coward & Ralph Richardson

Directed by Carol Reed

Jim Wormald (Alec Guiness) is an Englishman selling vacuum cleaners in Cuba on the cusp of the 1959 Castro-led revolution. Hawthorne (Noel Coward), a British intelligence agent, is looking for information on Cuban affairs and recruits Jim to act as a spy. Jim has no experience in espionage and no useful knowledge to pass along, but Hawthorne is willing to pay for his services, and since Jim's daughter Milly (Jo Morrow) has expensive tastes, he can use the money. To keep Hawthorne happy (and his paychecks coming in), he turns in reports on the Cuban revolution that are copied from public documents, "hires" additional agents who don't exist, and presents blueprints of secret weapons that are actually schematics of his carpet sweepers. However, Hawthorne and his associate `C' (Ralph Richardson) think that Jim is doing splendid work and encourage him to continue; meanwhile, Capt. Segura (Ernie Kovacs), the corrupt chief of police, has been fooled by Jim's charade into believing he's a real spy - and has also become attracted to Milly.

Great supporting roles for Burl Ives and Maureen O'Hara in this witty comedy inspired by Cold War paranoia and penned by Graham Greene.

BIOS:
1. Carol Reed (Director)
Date of Birth: 30 December 1906 - Putney, London, England, UK
Date of Death: 25 April 1976 - Chelsea, London, England, UK

2. Alec Guinness [aka: Alec Guinness de Cuffe]
Date of Birth: 2 April 1914 - Marylebone, London, England, UK
Date of Death: 5 August 2000 - Midhurst, Sussex, England, UK

3. Maureen O'Hara (aka: Maureen Fitzsimons)
Date of birth: 17 August 1920 - Ranelagh, County Dublin, Ireland (now Ranelagh, Dublin, Ireland)
Date of death: Still Living

4. Burl Ives
Date of Birth: 14 June 1909 - Hunt City, Illinois
Date of Death: 14 April 1995 - Anacortes, Washington

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 4 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 111 min on DVD ~ Columbia Pictures Corporation ~ (February 3, 2009)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great classic, 20 July 2011
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This review is from: Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I had recently stumbled on this film from a recipe book I was reading about cocktails from the movie - strange but true! A great addition to any dvd collection and a good rendition of the novel by Graham Green.
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Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005]
Our Man In Havana [DVD] [2005] by Carol Reed (DVD - 2005)
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