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Customer Review

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining spy spoof set in pre-revolutionary Havana, 20 Dec. 2008
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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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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Apr 2009 20:21:59 BDT
Thai-ger says:
Mr Parkes. Did you actually watch this film repeatedly checking the accuracy of the subtitles? How odd!

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Apr 2009 22:12:26 BDT
Geoff Parkes says:
No, that's not what I do. It's just that sometimes the inaccuracy of the subtitling jumps out and hits me like an express train. Thanks for your comment.

Posted on 31 May 2012 02:20:57 BDT
My only dispute with Mr. Parkes would be not giving it 5 stars. It competes with the Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart and Clockwork Orange for being the most perfect adaptation of a novel to the screen. I think it may well be my favorite film and the reason I have bought multi-regional DVD players for years.

Posted on 10 Aug 2016 20:37:40 BDT
ed kocik says:
After the book - this is spot on.
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Location: Hampshire, England

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