Thursday, November 21, 2013

Havana Calling

The Big Boodle (1957) stars Errol Flynn in his declining years, and is set in Havana, in its declining years - two spectacular ruins, together.

Flynn plays a blackjack dealer at a Havana casino. When a mysterious woman loses 500 pesos in counterfeit currency, he gets into a heap of trouble. The crooks are after him, and he gets beaten up and shot. Police colonel Pedro Armendariz plans to either hold him for counterfeiting or use him as bait to get the real counterfeiters. On the plus side, he meets an impoverished banker from a noble old family with a beautiful daughter. But what is his connection to the counterfeiters, and hers?

This is a pretty average semi-noir, with a couple of things going for it. Flynn is far from his matinee idol heyday, but he is still a fine actor with a nice low-key approach (or maybe he's just drunk?). The colonel, Armendariz (Kerim Bey in From Russia with Love) is pretty good, and so are the femmes fatales.

Pre-revolutionary Havana is a big part of the movie's charm, in good old black-and-white. My favorite part is an extended club-crawl, as Flynn trawls a subject through town hoping to shake loose a clue. We get to see a number of musical acts, including a beer bottle percussionist that really gets on someone's nerves.

In conclusion, pretty pedestrian, with some points of interest for fans. We liked it.

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