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Our Man In Havana [DVD] 
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Recruited by the British Secret Service, vacuum cleaner salesman Jim Wormold (Alec Guinness) becomes an unlikely agent in Cuba. To avoid working while cashing the checks, Wormold spins a web of lies about foreign government secrets. When the locals coppers decode his fake messages, all hell breaks loose in Havana and Wormold must become the spy he dreads in order to survive his own swindle. Oscar-winning screen legend Alec Guinness (1957, Best Actor, The Bridge on the River Kwai) stars with Burl Ives and Maureen O'Hara in this classic film noir directed by Carol Reed and penned by Graham Greene.
Graham Greene wrote this witty comedy inspired by Cold War paranoia. Jim Wormald (Alec Guiness) is an Englishman selling vacuum cleaners in Cuba on the cusp of the 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 paycheques 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 associate "C" (Ralph Richardson) think that Jim is doing splendid work and encourage him to continue; meanwhile, Capt. Segura (Ernie Kovacs), the elegantly 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. Our Man in Havana also features Burl Ives and Maureen O'Hara in supporting roles.
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Top Customer Reviews
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!Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Indeed very god classic film with Alec Guinness super playPublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Disappointed - not a patch on the book! Even with a splendid cast it just didn't zing like the book did, and the subtleties and irony were lost in the attempt to up the comedy.Published 7 months ago by Mike Blake
I was struck by the similarities in looks between Alec Guiness and Kevin Spacey. The whole thing is marvellously dated and none the worse for that. Read morePublished 7 months ago by DaveyDoo