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CUBA (director: Richard Lester; screenwriter: Charles Wood; cinematographer: David Watkin; editor: John Victor Smith; music: Patrick Williams; cast: Sean Connery (Maj. Robert Dapes), Brooke Adams (Alexandra Lopez de Pulido), Jack Weston (Larry Gutman), Hector Elizondo (Capt. Raphael Ramirez), Denholm Elliott (Donald Skinner), Martin Balsam (Gen. Bello), Chris Sarandon (Juan Pulido), Wolfe Morris (General Batista), Lonette McKee (Therese Mederos), Danny De La Paz (Julio Mederos), Walter Gotell (Don Jose Pulido), Stefan Kalipha (Ramon, Cigar Factory Foreman), Alejandro Rey (Corrupt Police Chief); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Arlene Sellers/Alex Winitsky; MGM Home Entertainment; 1979)
“Incoherent look at life for the upper-crusts during the turbulent last days of the corrupt Batista regime.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Richard Lester’s (“Help!”/”How I Won the War,” also written by Charles Wood) political love story, as played out in Havana, Cuba, in 1959, on the brink of Fidel Castro taking power, fictionalizes these revolutionary days to the point that “Cuba” looks like the setting for an old-fashioned Hollywood melodrama. This incoherent look at life for the upper-crusts during the turbulent last days of the corrupt Batista regime is bent on restating the obvious–the country suffers from widespread poverty, everyone is on the take, there’s vast class differences, apathy, and declining values.

Major Robert Dapes (Sean Connery) is a principled British mercenary hired by General Bello (Martin Balsam) to kill Castro and rout the guerrillas hidden in the mountains. But he arrives too late to be of any help, so instead turns most of his attention to romancing a married woman who was his former girlfriend, Alexandra Lopez de Pulido (Brooke Adams). She married five years ago into the blue blood wealthy Pulido family, where she runs the money making cigar factory while womanizing playboy hubby Juan (Chris Sarandon) is boffing factory worker Therese Mederos (Lonette McKee). Startled at seeing Mapes she soon agrees to a one-night stand, but ultimately decides she likes being married to wealth and leaves him fleeing the country as Fidel parades through Havana. Also around are crude New York businessman Larry Gutman (Jack Weston), trying to buy a number of businesses on the cheap due to the crisis–including the cigar factory and Skinner’s (Denholm Elliott) crop-spraying one (which doubles as a gunrunning operation for the commies).

Besides the weak script, the acting was never convincing. Adams can’t make us understand why she presently has so little feelings for Connery and still clings to a loveless marriage; Connery seemed more like a tourist taking in the local color (the film was shot in Spain) rather than acting as if he believed in the script, which calls for him to be alarmed that he becomes chosen as a target by the rebels. The film’s main theme is unfortunately too muddled for us to see that Lester is trying to say capitalism will collapse on its own when it becomes too corrupt and the revolution will also collapse when it gets entrenched in power and the people no longer believe in it. A noble viewpoint against the need for war to change things that’s never realized in the weak story line, but the dazzling photography by David Watkin has some potency to stir the imagination.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”