Shout! Factory // 1994 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // August 18th, 2011
"Castro doesn't stand a chance!"
Red Zone Cuba is another in an ever-growing list of Mystery Science Theater 3000 classics released through the Shout! Factory website. It's an early Michael J. Nelson installment that is glorious proof that the gang floating around on the Satellite of Love doesn't need monsters or aliens in their crappy movies to have a good laugh.
Red Zone Cuba, also known as Night Train to Mundo Fine, is a drama about a trio criminals that join in on the Bay of Pigs invasion, get captured, escape, and go on a frantic crime spree in Southwest America. The schlocky auteur that brought us The Beast of Yucca Flats and The Skydivers (both featured in previous episodes of MST3k), Coleman Francis, offers up Red Zone Cuba as his final opus. He wrote, directed, and stars as Griffin, a sloth-like fugitive with a gravely voice and approximately two facial expressions. Francis spends much of the film barking strange orders, smoking cigarettes, and lounging about...well, unless he's running through the hills of Nevada. There's zero chance this fugitive is seen as sympathetic or intelligent, unless you have a thing for the kind of man usually found sleeping in a booth at your local dive bar.
The film is a boring mess. It's a low budget string of scenes seemingly unbound by consistent time and space. It's also quirky enough to provide plenty of fodder for Mike and the Bots. Coleman Francis receives the brunt of their riffs, and their running gags and gruff impersonations hit every time. Riffs about "Cherokee Jack," the pitiful Bay of Pigs scene ("Fortunately Cuba only has eight guys in it."), Castro's horrendous beard, and the obnoxiously close camera angles keep the episode from ever hitting a dull spot. Even the short at the beginning, "Speech: Platform Posture and Appearance," provides a handful of callback jokes used throughout the episode. Of course, the skits themselves, some of which involve Mike Nelson in drag as Carol Channing, aren't anywhere near as enjoyable...but that all comes with the territory.
Red Zone Cuba is a consistently funny installment worthy of every MSTie's collection. If you missed the episode's original release on the now-discontinued Rhino DVD label, you owe it to yourself to pick up this copy from Shout! Factory. It may be presented in the same barebones fashion as previous online-only releases, but it's worth it for the sheer density of Coleman Francis jokes.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: Red Zone Cuba
* IMDb: MST3K