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Our Man in Havana
Alec Guiness, Maureen O?Hara, Burl Ives
Ernie Kovacs, Noel Coward
Directed by Carol Reed
Widescreen 2:35
Originally released 1959
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 2009
111 minutes

Our Man in Havana was adapted to the screen by Graham Greene so you know it is faithful to the author. This very black comedy spy movie stars Alec Guiness as Wormold, an ordinary Englishman who sells vacuum cleaners and is recruited to play spy in Cuba B.C. (before Castro). The Our Man in Havana DVD is part of Sony’s Martini Movies collection.

Wormold knows nothing so he starts inventing information to keep his fees coming in. The British sort of spy proves to be very inventive and, eventually, people start believing his information.  Things get very dicey indeed, especially when his own “agents” start paying the price for Wormold’s new lifestyle.

Our Man in Havana is an adroit mix of the spy thriller and absurd black comedy. The writing here is exquisite. After Wormold sends “plans” of an installation: “It couldn’t be a vacuum cleaner, sir. Not a vacuum cleaner.” “Fiendish, isn’t it? The simplicity. The devilish imagination.”

The directing is also superb with lots of subtle bits of humor in the latter such as the scene where Wormold’s daughter is introduced: notice the timing of the wolf whistles to the conversation.

The casting for Our Man in Havana is as odd as Wormold’s inventions. Burl Ives plays the German doctor and Ernie Kovacs is the dangerous Captain Segura, the Red Vulture, who has an unhealthy interest in Wormold’s daughter.

The oddest thing about this Graham Greene story is a modern viewer cannot but think of real events that happened a few years after this movie was first released, such as the Cuban missile crisis, and real events that happened many years later such as Colin Powell’s testimony about ““weapons” of “mass destruction”” in Iraq.

If you are looking for an action-packed spy thriller, this DVD is not for you. If you like smart as a whip movies, Our Man in Havana is a classic.