Rhino // 1966 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // July 26th, 2002
Make the mistake!
Griffin (Coleman Francis) is a roly-poly convict with a java jones and plans to achieve personal financial independence through murder and bad hygiene. He meets Cook and Landis, two spaced out Sterno bums slowly starving in the desert. Cherokee Jack, another colorless shlub, offers them a chance to be all they can be (which ain't much). Seems he is recruiting capable men for the Bay of Pigs invasion. Mold king Coleman and his unable buddies slightly resemble male members of the species (or at least pigs), so they take the night train to Mundo Fine (or was it LARRY Fine) and catch the redeye on AirBatista. Before you can say "David Ferry," they are climbing ropes up small hills, and jumping off ant mounds with the other four guys who make up the entire elite first strike squadron. They mobilize to defeat Castro, which consists of getting captured and sent before a firing squad. They escape by asking a guard for some water and head back to America to search for tungsten. They end up in New Mexico, and make an elderly diner owner throw himself down a well. Griffin kills a blind piano player because she wasn't taking requests. Their final destination is a dead buddy's ranch, where they regale his spouse with stories of abandoning him to die from gangrene. Since several members of the more intrinsically valuable section of the periodic table are known to dwell on this homestead, our happy band of bandits heads for the hills. The cops track them down and shots are fired. Who lives and who dies? WHO CARES!
Ever wonder what it would be like if the Three Stooges were outlaw fugitives looking to make a name for themselves, and a little cash, by participating in an invasion of Cuba? And what if, for argument's sake, there was no humor or slapstick, just painfully dull dialogue and incoherent jump cuts? And what if the entire mess reeked like the urine-soaked overalls worn by a homeless man with sour, alcoholic flesh, whose breath was a mix of sulphurous eggs, burnt coffee, and cigarettes? Well, this is just one tenth of one percent of how heinous, how unbelievably and undeniably pathetic the film Red Zone Cuba is. RZC makes Plan 9 look like Hamlet, Manos look like Citizen Kane, and humans look like sacks of rotting meat. Admittedly, it takes gonads the size of Guantanamo to make a movie about a secret war against Communism on a budget of $6.50. Well, writer/director/actor Coleman Francis only had $1.25, and that was spent on Brioski. The film looks cheap, cobbled together, and edited by dying ferns. Single celled organisms could devise a better script than Francis, though it's doubtful that they concoct a line as dreadfully priceless as "Griffin...ran all the way to Hell...with a penny and a broken cigarette." Well, maybe really SMART amoebas.
Praise be to the Gods for Mystery Science Theater 3000. Their merciless satirical attacks on this dragging, dramatic dung, make Red Zone Cuba pseudo watchable. They turn an unfortunate "Apocalypse No!" into a tolerable "Hamburger Helper Hill." You have to wonder how they found something (anything) humorous about it. A thousand donkeys using a thousand cameras and shooting a thousand of feet of film for a thousand days would make a more reasonable and entertaining piece of cinema. It's to the credit of MST3K's Mike and the robots that they mold genuine merriment out of mildew and manure. Along for the humorous harassment is a 1949 short subject Speech: Platform Posture and Appearance, which first taught the world the importance, and simple internal pleasures of, the "opens palms on knees" test. Together with Coleman's ode to guerilla warfare and steaming cups of Joe, this one-two psyche punch will leave you dazed, confused, and wondering just who's brilliant idea it was to hire smelly drifters to overthrow a government. The CIA?
Rhino doesn't do very much with this MST3K DVD release. There is no uncut version of the film, though it would have been masochistically intriguing to see Red Zone Cuba: The Unedited Directors Redux. However, the recent government ban on all items that could produce a permanent rip in the fabric of time prevented its inclusion. All we get is the MST3K episode. The image is wonderful. Rhino does an excellent job of translating the video image from TV to DVD. It's a bright, clear picture. While RZC feels like it was processed in a rusty can filled with tobacco spittle in a transient's cardboard garage, the overall presentation is first rate. The simple Dolby Digital stereo sound is also excellent. So the next time your Grandpa brags about liberating French maidens from their underpants in WWII, or your Uncle Biff has a 'Nam flashback and collapses into the corn pudding, you can sit back and smile, knowing that you have seen worse. You have stared deep into the hellish pit of man's inhumanity to man. No, it's not Marlon Brando's soggy interpretation of Colonel Kurtz. You've seen Coleman Francis sitting, legs WIDE open, on the floor of a hut. The Horror! The Horror!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated