This film was almost hooted into oblivion by the critics at the time of its release, so when I saw it on one of the Cinemax channels last night, I was surprised that it wasn't much worse. A few months ago I saw the highly acclaimed docudrama on Fidel on Showtime, and this film, while not as good as the Showtime drama, is not all that much worse either.
First the bad stuff. Jack Palance's portrayal of Fidel Castro must rank as one of the worst performances ever to appear on screen. During the first half of the film, he spends most of the time rolling a lit cigar around in his mouth and making weird facial grimaces, most of which he seems to have forgotten by the second half. Moreover, he makes Castro come across as a dim-witted doofus who is always helped to see the right course by the brilliant Che, rather than portraying Castro as the brilliant strategist and tactician he was. Secondly, although the film is in English, much of the spoken dialogue sounds like a dubbed movie. Maybe that's because one of the principal supporting actors is Italian.
That having been said, the film's history is, quite surprisingly, fairly accurate. It accurately depicts how Castro's forces were almost completely wiped out after the arrival from Mexico, and Castro was left with a force numbering less than twenty. Nevertheless, he survives and gradually wins the support of the peasants, so that eventually he has a guerrilla force numbering in the thousands. The fact that Guevara was unable to pull off the same feat in Bolivia, due largely to his own megalomania that prevented his listening to the Bolivian peasants, is accurately portrayed as well. This isn't available on video and isn't likely to come to a theater, so you can probably see it only on cable. If it comes along, it's worth a watch.
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August 15, 2019 at 02:14 PM