‘Our Man in Havana’ on TCM

I wrote a feature review of Sony’s DVD release of Carol Reed’s Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guinness as a meek vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana who concocts fictional intelligence reports for the British Secret Service, for Turner Classic Movies.

Alec Guinness and Ernie Kovacs
Alec Guinness and Ernie Kovacs

Our Man in Havana, the third and final collaboration between director Carol Reed and writer Graham Greene, makes a sardonic post-script to their great success, The Third Man. Like that film, it deals in espionage in an exotic hotspot (in this case, Havana, just as revolution was brewing in Cuba’s jungles) where numerous world powers had interests, and features an innocent who manages to get in the middle of international scuffles. The difference is in the tone. Our Man in Havana is a dryly witty satire of the spy game.

There’s a deft wit to Greene script, which Guinness and the cast play perfectly, and plenty of humor at the expense of gullible intelligence officers. But the film takes a darker turn when the fantasies spun by Wormold take root in the spy community. His phony agents are based on real people, and one of them turns up dead. His apolitical best friend and drinking buddy, the world-weary German expatriate Dr. Hasselbacher (Burl Ives), gets caught in the middle of the intelligence turf war. And Wormold himself becomes a target of enemy agents and, out of necessity, becomes the real life espionage player he’d been posing on paper all this time. He’s almost too good and confident in the transition, belying his amateur status and everyman vulnerability. But like Wormold himself, the film gives in to the fantasy to let him be a hero.

Read the complete review here.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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