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This is one of the fabulous early Alec Guinness films. It is based on the enticing novel by Graham Greene. It makes a mess of and fun of the British Secret Service. Great lines, comedy, suspense, brilliant. Wonderful scenes shot in early Havana too. I hope that it is never "remade" because nothing could top off this production.
We were recently gifted with a few film channels and are looking forward to revisiting Guinness's "Lady Killers", "Man in the White Suit", and "The Horse's Mouth". Those are my favorite, top four films mostly because of the unique, brilliant characterizations that Guinness brings to these great scripts, and the fabulous, ridiculous scenes and characters that the directors and writers weave with and around Alec and into the story. Actually these four films do rival my other top favorite, Dr. Strangelove, and this confession gives you an insight into my sense of humor about human nature and our potential (or real) screw ups. And a bonus: no 'suspension of disbelief' is required for these films as the ludicrous human misbehavior is quite believable.
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Top Contributor: Mangaon January 5, 2013
The expression: Our Man in Havana is the something of a way to invoke the cynicism of and around the world of intelligence. As such it is not a universal expression but it is a rare case of a writer capturing the mood of an era. The movie: Our Man in Havana is based on the book by the same name with the screenplay written by the same author: Graham Greene. Note that Graham Greene did have experience as a reporting agent for MI6. He was one of several well-known British writers selected for this role in part according to the story, because they could travel to unusual places without drawing attention; but also because they could write witty, readable reports.

By turns cynical, blackly humorous and one suspects too close to the truth this movie is very worth your time.

Jim Wormold played by Alec Guinness is a British ex-patriot selling vacuum cleaners in prerevolutionary Cuba. His daughter Milly is coming-of-age, perhaps a little too sophisticated in her tastes and is aware that she is caught the eye of an important Police Captain Segura played by Ernie Kovacs. Into this mix comes the obvious British spy Hawthorne played by Noel Coward. (Under the heading of just how small the world is or was Noel Coward's neighbor on the island of Jamaica was his friend writer and one time spy Ian Fleming.)

Hawthorne recruits Jim to be our "Man in Havana" for the British secret service. Hawthorne however is a nobody with no contacts and no influence. Between the pressures he is under as a family man and as Hawthorne's agent, Jim begins to fake intelligence. Cobbling together information from the newspaper, Time Magazine and whatever rumors he can hear, he begins feeding "information" to MI6. Over time he becomes more creative and concocts an obviously elaborate story. This obvious fiction causes British intelligence to decide he is an agent of such importance that he needs his own staff. At about the same time Capt. Segura begins to roll up the otherwise innocent people named as agents by Jim. It is at this point where, what has been a dark comedy reveals itself as a cynical comment on the spy business.

It is a cliche to say that the book is better than the movie. In this case both are excellent both should be enjoyed for the advantages in each media. Alec Guinness fully captures the bumbling, desperate and creative drafted spy. Ernie Kovacs, not known as a serious actor completely inhabits the role of a police captain more than willing to use torture and who has an eye for teenage girls. Burl Ives as a burned out German ex-patriot lends pathos and heart to this story. The smaller roles played by Noel Coward Ralph Richardson and Maureen O'Hara are star quality.

While some will conclude that this is a strictly Cold War era movie with no relevance to our age; 25 years later, John le Carre'would lift the plot outline and place it into his book the Tailor of Panama.

This is an excellent movie. The cast performs as you would expect this level of actor to perform. The movie stands well against the original book. Black humor is not always an easy laugh but in this one the smiles can be quickly followed by the sad realization that real people become the tortured victims of even the innocent mistakes by the intelligence community.

My copy of the DVD performed well. Both picture quality and sound quality were to my satisfaction.
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on April 18, 2010
In this rather peculiar story, the British government has concerns about Cuba and wish to employ a British subject who already resides in Cuba to set up a spy network. Their recruiter arranges to meet a likely prospect: Mr. Wormold, a local shop owner.

Mr. Wormold makes a modicum of money selling vacuum cleaners, but not enough money to support his grown daughter's love of horse riding and his desire to send her off to a safer part of the world. So, when the Secret Service recruiter promised him significant money, he agrees to become a part-time spy.

Mr. Wormold has a problem: there is simply nothing, that he is aware of, in Cuba worth reporting on. At the suggestion of a friend, he begins making up outlandish reports from his fictitious Cuban sources on a revolutionary weapon being built in the rebel-controlled mountains. It would make the H-bomb look like just a conventional weapon.

Mr. Wormold soon has another problem: others are beginning to take notice of his activities, and unfortunately for Mr. Wormold, they don't deal in make-believe weapon systems, but in guns, poison, and accidental murders ...

Some movies are like forgotten time capsules. This 1959 film gives us a glimpse of life in Cuba before Fidel Castro. Havana was no paradise, but a thuggish police-state where intimidation, torture, and death were the razor-edged tools of the state.

Overall, I found this movie interesting. It is difficult to categorize. Although it has comic elements, it is not a comedy, but perhaps you could call it a comic film noir.

Extras: Movie trailer and Martini Minutes: two brief films which start with a hodgepodge of movie clips, an ingredients list for an alcoholic drink, and finally a plug for several movies.

Picture (DVD): good.
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on April 19, 2012
The premise behind this movie is great - and when Guiness, pretending to be a spy who has to show his "superiors" that he is legit sends them "secret" blueprints for what is really an early electric vacuum cleaner (yes, apparently old world Cuba did get dirty), it is a small piece of absolute movie magic.

The film has a lot going for it, with a great cast and some beautiful scenes, but despite some great moments is still overall about a 3 1/2 star effort. I love old movies, and enjoy slow pacing, but this one was a little too slow, Guiness wasn't used to his full potential, and the subplot about his daughter in my mind proves to be a distraction as it serves as a mere plot device that could have been satisfied in much better ways. If you can get this cheap it's not a bad pickup, but from time to time it sells for some reasons at over $50.

Considering how many movies are being remade these days that shouldn't have even been made in the first place, this film was an above average effort that, if done right, could be a homerun.
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on June 12, 2017
I saw this when it was released, and I was in high school... This is a remarkably fine-grained digital transfer.
Can't believe it's only now available on Blu! If you're planning a Havana vacation now, be sure to see this first...
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VINE VOICEon February 14, 2009
Collaborating for a third time with director Carol Reed ["Fallen Idol"; "The Third Man"], Graham Greene has written a script, based upon his novel "Our Man in Havana," which effervesces like vintage champagne, its humor, both dry and subtle, radiating a brilliance that obscures the fact that this black-and-white film was made in 1957, during the height of the Cold War.

The unlikely plot to which John Le Carré would later pay homage with "Tailor of Panama," is made entirely plausible due to the nuanced performance of the incomparable Alec Guinness, whose portrayal of Wormold, the seller of "Atomic Pile Vacuums" in a seedy pre-Castro Havana, ranges between bemused ineptitude and faux confidence and sophistication as he improvises on the tradecraft of espionage, a profession that has been thrust upon him. Much of the humor, in fact derives from his bumbling efforts to recruit agents. The felicitous combination of Greene and Reed ensures that the humor gradually assumes ominous overtones as Wormold's deception is quickly swallowed whole by one side of the espionage game and slowly detected and regurgitated by the other. Given the fact that the film was made before the Cuban Missile Crisis, the drawings of "secret installations" in the heart of Cuba provides the viewer with a chilling verisimilitude in hindsight.

Burl Ives, who was noted primarily for folk-singing, turns in a more-than-competent performance as Wormold's enigmatic friend, a doctor and German First-World-War veteran, whose part in the affair is never completely explained. Although Ernie Kovacs' performance of the dastardly chief of police, Captain Segura, borders on caricature, one cannot imagine anyone else playing the character in any other manner. And while I was never quite convinced by Jo Morrow in the role of the precocious convent daughter--she seems a bit too mature--the rest of the cast, which includes Maureen O'Hara as the skilled secretary that London sends to back up their most valuable asset in the Caribbean, is thoroughly credible.

Only Graham Greene could concoct this deliciously sardonic spoof on the Secret Intelligence Service in which he served during World War II. All the fabled real-life stereotypes are present and accounted for: Noel Coward as an Old Boy who, impervious to the raucous importunings of maracas-wielding street singers, strides stiffly through the steamy boulevards of Havana in a three-piece suit, bowler hat on head and umbrella in hand; Ralph Richardson as "C," the all-for-expedience Director, who hears what he wants to hear (transforming what has been described to him as a smalltime salesman into a "merchant adventurer"); the stammering spy obsessed with his pipe (reminiscent of a notorious mole under whom Greene served in real life), working for the Other Side. All contribute a note of Cold War reality to this tongue-in-cheek tale of espionage. Underlying the humor, however, lurks a question, later asked by John Le Carré: are intelligence services sometimes too willing to believe in expedient scenarios that seem clearly delineated--and therefore too good to be true, when actual events may prove to be other than they seem.

Except for the original theatrical trailer, the extras are eminently trivial and not worth watching. This fact, however, should not prevent one from buying this DVD, which, presented in letter-box form, to preserve the original Cinemascope presentation, is not to be missed.

Enjoy!
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on April 8, 2013
Based on the book by Graham Greene that was filmed in Cuba just before the revolution. Great acting by Alec Guinness and Burl Ives. Ernie Kovacs is in it, too, but his character and lines are sadly limited by the script. (Best Ernie Kovacs is in Bell Book and Candle!) The surprise of this film for me was Maureen O'Hara, who simply shines as a British secret agent. The story closely follows the book and the plot is very funny and clever. Aside from the actors and good plot, just seeing Havana right before everything was changed is worth the cost of the DVD. There are a lot of good reasons to buy this one.
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on August 10, 2016
Funny, light hearted story of Hoover salesman recruited to spy. Set and shot in pre revolution Havana it is a document to a time and place that has been out of reach for most North Americans ( USA ). Great cast including the breathtaking Maureen Ohara. Masterful direction by the Great Carol Reed.
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on November 13, 2014
The book to screen interpretation is excellent, perhaps because Graham Greene also wrote the screenplay. The acting is excellent with the smaller roles of Maureen O'Hara and Ernie Kovacs somewhat overshadowing Alec Guinness' lead, although he's superb. Noel Coward was an unexpected treat as were all the lovely 50s cars in the streets of Havana and London.
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on October 11, 2014
An all-star cast, a spy story set in Havana, a light-heartedness that reminds you not to take the dark things seriously, all to the accompaniment of Cuban jazz. A great recipe for a very enjoyable film. Hollywood today can't make moves this good any more.
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