Sun 28 Nov 2010
CLUB HAVANA. PRC, 1945. Margaret Lindsay, Tom Neal, Don Douglas, Marc Lawrence, Eddie Hall, Renie Riano, Ernest Truex, Eric Sinclair, Gertrude Michael, Paul Cavanagh, Pedro DeCordoba, Carlos Malina, and Isabelita. Director: Edgar G. Ulmer. Shown at Cinefest 28, Syracuse NY, March 2008.
The program notes referred to this as a bargain basement Grand Hotel, with direction by Ulmer continuing his tradition of making sparsely budgeted films look good. (Maybe somebody should do a book on directors who were consistently better than the films they directed.)
The setting is a vaguely Art Deco night club, with a Latin band, and undistinguished musical numbers that add little to the interlocking stories.
The main plot involves a gangster (Marc Lawrence), suspected of a murder but released when a witness goes missing.
Club Havana is his hangout and he learns that a young musician (Eric Sinclair) saw the murder, has called the police and will identify Lawrence when they arrive.
The mounting suspense as Lawrence arranges for a hit on Sinclair is interspersed with music and comic turns (rich, ugly widow Renie Riano agreeing to marry gigolo Paul Cavanagh and both knowing exactly what they’re getting into; Ernest Truex attempting a reunion with his indifferent wife) prolonging the thin plot.
This is entertainment by the ’40s numbers, with a little cinematic gloss provided by Ulmer’s ingenious camera and smooth direction of his competent cast.
Editorial Comment: This somewhat hard to find movie has also been reviewed by James Reasoner over on his blog.