638 WAYS TO KILL CASTRO (TV)
(director: Dollan Cannell; cinematographers: Petra Graf/Michael Timney; editor: Oliver Huddleston; music: Samuel Sim; Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kari Lia; BCI Eclipse; 2006-UK)
“If you’re in the mood for a quirky talking-head documentary that is both amusing and insightful, this one will do.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A made for British television documentary that in a bemused way tells of all the attempts by the United States to kill Fidel Castro, the president of Cuba, since he seized power in 1959 from the crooked regime of the petty dictator Fulgencio Batista. Fabian Escalante, former security chief for the Castro regime, shares his collected documentations of the 638 plots to end the dictator’s life. The attempts range from poisoned face cream to a deadly LSD cocktail to packing conch shells full of explosives to injecting his cigars and pens with poison. The gist of the film focuses on a handful of assassins who have tried and failed to kill the bearded one. It covers the infamous Bay of Pigs attempt to all the lesser ones. The film takes on a bizarre tone but in seriousness questions the irrational motivations of the United States to be in the business of assassination, something its Constitution and the Geneva Convention forbids.
Director Dollan Cannell mixes archival footage and interviews ranging from President Jimmy Carter to CIA agents to Miami residing Cuban exiles with a hatred for Castro. It only stubs its toe by concentrating mostly upon the comically inept assassination attempts and not spending more time on the substantial political issues raised by America’s ongoing war against the meddlesome Castro, who has survived for fifty years to needle his neighbor throughout his stormy tenure.
If you’re in the mood for a quirky talking-head documentary that is both amusing and insightful, this one will do.
REVIEWED ON 7/9/2008 GRADE: B-