Adventure Time in Havana, Honduras, and Burma!

March 26, 2017 | By

Carol Reed’s Our Man in Havana is one of the director’s lesser-known espionage films, and there’s a sense critics in 1959 may not have warmed up to Reed’s dry satire of the genre, especially since he’d tackled shadowy spies so skillfully in The Third Man (1949).

The minimally seen Orson Welles was the main source of wit, stealing Third Man from co-star Joseph Cotton (and arguably, Reed’s direction) with his improvised cuckoo-clock line, but Havana, also based on a Graham Greene novel, is all satire, filmed months after Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.

Reed’s film also represents Hollywood’s fixation on dangerous adventure tales set in exotic locales, and nothing’s better than heat, jungles, and deadly critters that can devour heroes, hence film titles with capital cities or far-off countries.

Havana‘s tone might not be easy to grasp at first, given the dryness of the humour. I started the film in the morning, stopped after 20 mins. and opted to re-watch in the evening, moving from disappointment to delight on the second try. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray sports a gorgeous transfer that flatters Oswald Morris’ stunning B&W cinematography.

Moving further south of Cuba, Appointment in Honduras (1953) is a Jacques Tourneur-directed adventure film starring Glenn Ford as a murky character who leads felons through the jungles, braving fire ants and tiger fish to reach Honduras. VCI paired the film with Escape to Burma (1955), directed by Toronto-born Allan Dwan, where Robert Ryan evades the law and hides out as a site manager for teak plantation matron Barbara Stanwyck.

Both films were grouped by VCI in a RKO Adventure double-bill, and were part of several Benedict Bogeaus-produced films released on DVD in the early 2000s. Some of those VCI releases are now OOP, although the label has moved over to digital and MOD releases, of which the RKO Adventure set was re-issued not long ago.

Coming soon: detailed review of the newly restored 3D treasure hunt thriller, September Storm (1960), from KINO and the 3-D Film Archive.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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