Pier 5, Havana (1959)
Lesser known “B” titles need love to so when I see the names Cameron Mitchell and Allison Hayes starring in a low budget effort from Edward L. Cahn, I’ve just got to check it out and hope for the best. In the end it’s not overly memorable but it does offer a short 67 minutes of escapist fare with plenty of plot holes and continuity gaffs. But then I don’t know many classic film fans of the male species who wouldn’t have wanted to switch places with Mitchell on set in order to have a couple of love scenes with the stunning Miss Hayes.
I’ve no idea to the time line of Castro’s sieging control of Cuba but as of this film’s production he was already in command as that’s made clear when Mitchell arrives in Havana looking for a friend apparently gone missing during the country’s political upheaval. Mitchell narrates the opening stanza to set up the drama that is too follow. Passing through customs he’s pulled aside by security and as he’s just witnessed a man shot down attempting to flee he’s most agreeable to follow instructions.
Mitchell will soon find himself in front of a local police inspector played by Michael Granger. The Inspector wants to know if Mitchell can add anything to his search for the missing American and suggests the pair go to further question the man’s wife. BANG! In classic Noir fashion it turns out Mitchell had no idea that his old pal Hank was even married let alone to his one time flame, the sexy Allison Hayes who is about to don the first of her many outfits in the film’s brief running time.
Nothing much comes of the meeting and Mitchell is left on his own to trace the whereabouts of Hank. With a plot shoehorned into just 67 minutes, Mitchell, makes fast work of learning that Hayes and Hank were on the outs and she’s now swinging on the arm of the very wealthy Eduardo Noriega. Born in Mexico, Noriega, freely moved from Mexican productions to Hollywood efforts over a career that lasted from 1941 through to 2005.
Not only will he accuse his one time lover of following the money but he’s manhandled by a pair of thugs who tell him he’s too leave on the next plane out of Havana. It’s at this point I really began to notice the continuity girl/guy was either taking a break or the producers just didn’t give a damn. The thugs leave Mitchell face down in a pool of water along the docks. His suit looking rather soggy or shall I say soaked. Not to worry cause in the next scene after coming to his senses and following a lead that I’m not sure how he scored, he’s looking as if he’s ready for the cover of GQ.
Skipping ahead he’ll find himself in a cellar and unbeknownst to me was carrying a gun as well because he ends up exchanging gunfire with the same goons who left him face down in that pool of water that never stuck to his suit. O.K. so I’m having a little fun here at Cam’s expense but let’s bring Miss Hayes back into the picture in a skin tight leotard for the male members of the audience who paid there two bits at the gate. “Sleep tight, baby.” Says Mitchell at their next meeting as they continue to verbally spar before realizing each still carries a torch for the other.
Just as things continue to go nowhere Hank’s body turns up. The problem is it’s charred beyond recognition. This can only mean one thing to those enlisted in “film watcher’s clubs” the world over. If you said that old Hank isn’t really dead then you’d be correct. Turns out Hank is about to re-enter Hayes’ life as played by Logan Field. He’s on the run from revolutionaries and is about to blow the lid off a coup being attempted by nationalists looking to overthrow Castro.
Again not being an expert on the history of Cuba and just who the good guys are, I have to assume that this film is casting the revolutionaries as the villains and Castro’s regime as the good?
So in essence the race is on to prevent the gun runners and goons that roughed up Cam from launching an airstrike on Havana. But just how is our leading man going to get the girl with her hubby back in the picture and her wealthy escort still heavily mired into the plot? Don’t worry yourself with these minor details in screenwriter Robert E. Kent’s storyline. Considering Kent wrote everything from Charlie Chan in Reno to Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome and The Siren of Bagdad, I’m sure he’ll figure it out.
If I may make one suggestion, be sure to watch a handgun move around or even disappear from the screen and then suddenly reappear on a dock as Mitchell slugs it out with (I’m not telling) in the film’s climatic battle. I’m not one to usually notice these slights in logic but in this case it was all too obvious and led me to the rewind button to ensure I wasn’t seeing or perhaps I should say “not” seeing things.
Despite making some fun of the film it’s an easy watch and one I’d rather sit on again then to be put through a good many “A” budget titles of the period and I’m sure I’m not alone in that statement as we look back to “B” flicks that played the lower half of double bills versus the top line productions with stars to match in some cases.
Again my interest in seeing this one was strictly due to the two leads. Miss Hayes has long been a cult favorite thanks to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and a number of other low budget efforts like The Disembodied. As for Mitchell, I’ve always been a fan going back as far as what is probably my earliest memory of the actor, Garden of Evil, that saw him opposite Gary Cooper, Richard Widmark and Susan Hayward in a first rate western. While his career often turned to lower budgets and schlocky efforts towards the end that never blurred my judgement on the Pennsylvania born actor. Bottom line is I’ll always give a movie a shot that he starred or appeared in. Good or bad.
For the record I caught up to this title thanks to an airing on TCM.