PIER 5, HAVANA
(director: Edward L. Cahn; screenwriters: James B. Gordon/story by Joseph Hoffman; cinematographer: Maury Gertsman; editor: Grant Whytock; music: Paul Sawtell/Bert Shefter; cast: Cameron Mitchell (Steve Daggett), Allison Hayes (Monica Gray), Eduardo Noriega (Fernando Ricardo), Michael Granger (Police Lt. Garcia), Logan Field (Hank Miller), Nestor Paiva (Juan Lopez), Otto Waldis (Gustave Schluss), Paul Fierro (Police sergeant); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert E. Kent; United Artists; 1959)
“It’s worth seeing just to see an American film take sides with Castro over Batista.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Prolific B-movie filmmaker Edward L. Cahn (“The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake”/”Inside the Mafia”/”Gun Fight”) shoots a rarity, a pro-Castro thriller partially filmed on location in Cuba in 1959, the first and I think the last American film since the revolution to use that location site. It was shot soon after the fall of Batista and before the infamous Bay of Pigs incident in April 1961, which made the countries bitter enemies. It’s worth seeing just to see an American film take sides with Castro over Batista and not because it’s a good flick–in fact, it’s only an average Cahn film.
Steve Daggett (Cameron Mitchell), owner of a struggling air freight business in Miami, travels to Havana to investigate the disappearance of his mechanic best friend Hank (Logan Field), someone who saved his life during the Korean conflict, who mysteriously vanished during the Cuban revolt and hasn’t been seen for some time.
Steve is brought from the airport, immediately after landing, to see Police Lt. Garcia (Michael Granger), who is in charge of investigating Hank’s disappearance. Garcia, who knows all about Steve, brings him to the fancy apartment of Monica Gray (Allison Hayes), his former flame now married to Hank. Monica tells Steve she’s separated from the amiable Hank, who is a drunk and can’t hold a job. It’s also learned that Hank worked as a mechanic for boat builder, Gustave Schluss (Otto Waldis), located at Pier 5, before his disappearance. The statuesque Monica is now romantically linked with wealthy plantation owner smoothy Fernando Ricardo (Eduardo Noriega), who is in good with the new communist regime because he gave money to the cause during the revolution.
Hank pulls a Harry Lime, the character returned from the dead in Carol Reed’s classic The Third Man (1949), and after swiping a Jeep to get by his militia guards he arrives at his beach house and points out to Steve and Monica that he was snatched by a Batista group, one that includes the membership of the flunky Schluss, to convert transport planes into bombers to attack Cuba in a counter-revolution attack set for tomorrow.
Though the film is far from a political thriller, as it hardly explores that the U.S. backed right-wing dictator and that the leftist Castro was considered a bad risk to U.S. owned business interests in Cuba. Cahn instead shoots it like a second feature Mike Hammer pulp fiction film, that’s more interested in broads, tough guy talk and fistfights than in uncovering anything serious about foreign affairs. It also has deep holes in the plotline, but briskly moves along with some diverting Cahn embellishments thrown in to keep it properly sleazy.
REVIEWED ON 7/31/2009 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/