This truly revolutionary motion picture is certainly the only film in history to star both Errol Flynn and Fidel Castro! Back in the 1950s, Errol Flynn and producer Victor Pahlen owned a movie theater in Havana. They happe... more »ned to be there when Castro's revolution broke out around them, so they took to the streets with their cameras to document history as it happened, at ground zero. The result was a unique documentary of Castro's uprising, hosted by Flynn, featuring unrivaled footage of the conflict and Castro himself. Circumstances outside their control shelved the film for nearly fifty years; "Cuban Story" has never been screened, never seen, never released--until now. All Day Entertainment is proud to have worked with the Pahlen family to restore this landmark documentary from the only surviving negative materials, stored in England for nearly a half century. Includes an introduction by producer Victor Pahlen's daughter, Kyra Pahlen.« less
"The expression "Better late than never" is a truism about the discovery of forgotten films. But in the case of the discovery of "Cuban Story" one could defensibly assert "Better later than sooner."
Errol Flynn had been a frequent visitor to Cuba during the last years of the Batista regime, his primary interest being Cuba's then notorious nightlife. Flynn acknowledges as much in the film and even provides us with samples of scenes from casinos. But he also provides us with scenes from the "other Cuba," the Cuba that was the experience of most Cubans at the time: the Cuba of extreme hardship, poverty, illiteracy, and rampant worker exploitation. All these scenes are fittingly coupled with scenes of Batista military reviews and parades.
But Castro, the revolutionary challenging the regime in the mountains, captures Flynn's imagination and he travels at some personal risk to meet Castro and to film him. It is at this point that Cuba becomes for Flynn more than an opportunity for wild nights in Havana. It becomes the story of the struggle for justice and Castro becomes its quintessential expression. From there the film records the early victories of the revolutionaries in Cuba and their eventual triumphal march into Havana after Batista's abdication.
Of course, that Cuba story is well known and much discussed. Yet Flynn provides us with information that is not nearly as well known--in some cases nearly forgotten--which makes the discovery of Flynn's film now arguably better than if it had been discovered sooner. Flynn's film offers some information that corrects some of the disinformation we have heard about the revolution for years:
1. Contrary to the revisionist claim that the Cuban people didn't consider Batista a tyrant at the time of the revolution, Flynn shows us the wounds of Batista's torture victims and the bones of some of the murdered 40,000 discovered in unmarked graves.
2. Although we often we read of the exodus of Cuban elites and Batista human rights abusers after the revolution, we have heard next to nothing about the numerous Cubans returned from exile to Cuba after Batista had been deposed. Flynn shows them to us disembarking from planes.
3. Flynn attended and recorded many of the notorious trials of the former Batista regime criminals. The trials come off less unsavory than as they have been depicted in the past. The trials were open to the public and the international press, they were broadcast on television, the defendants were afforded free defense attorneys, and defendants could appeal decisions based on the discovery of new evidence.
But these are not the only gems this movie affords. Others include footage never seen before of the early days of the revolution, making the film definitely worth the purchase."
This is NOT "Cuban Rebel Girls," it is a far better movie.
Tom Webb | Tokyo Japan | 05/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I would give it four stars. It is an odd, but fascinating look at the Cuban revolution, and, I think, accurately reflects the attitudes of the time in regards to Castro, before he aligned himself with the Soviet Union. It was made at about the same time as Flynn's notoriously bad "Cuban Rebel Girls, and I would say that it is kind of a sister film to that picture. It is a fairly serious documentary about the revolution, whereas "Rebel Girls" is a silly sort of docudrama (with an emphasis on "silly"). When I finished watching "Cuban Story," I watched "Cuban Rebel Girls" again, for comparison. They have some things in common. I have a feeling they may have shared documentary footage for both films, and some of the music is the same- particularly a rebel marching song that is played extensively in both films. Flynn has more to do in "Rebel Girls"- in "Cuban Story," he merely introduces the film, and then appears again in the middle (following two still photos of him with Castro), and then at the end, when he makes the comments the former reviewer alluded to. He can also be seen in footage near the beginning, when he arrives at George Raft's nightclub in Havana. He pulls up in a late '50s White Cadillac- one of the bathtub jobs with the tail fins, and then enters the club, along with Beverly Aadland, his teenage flame, and some others. He is quite frisky in these scenes, and seemingly charms a couple of young women he meets in the club. They play roulette and blackjack, and watch a show. Interestingly, Flynn appears sans mustache in these nightclub scenes (though not in the intro), and looks somewhat younger than usual for this period. For Flynn fans, these scenes are well worth seeing. They are kind of depressing, though, as he mostly looks like hell, and seems to have trouble focusing on the subject at hand, appearing to lose his train of thought at times. The office set used in the intro is pretty cheesy, and it looks like his scenes were filmed in an hour or two.
I would say that for students of history, and for Flynn fans, the film is well worth seeing. It has its quirks, but contains footage of Cuba, Castro and the revolution that are unique. The narration is apparently by Victor Pahlen, but is occasionally written to imply that it is Flynn who is speaking, as when he refers to "my colleague George Raft." It is a better film than "Cuban Rebel Girls," and makes an interesting comparison with it. My only gripe is with the liner notes. I would give them 0 stars. Whoever wrote them obviously used Charles Higham's terrible book about Flynn as source material, and repeats Higham's untrue, and illogical, assertions about Flynn. That he was a lifelong fascist; that at one point he was part of a plot to assassinate Castro; that the film crew had to flee Cuba in fear for their lives; that Flynn abandoned his girlfriend, Beverly, and that she had to ask Raft for help to get out. These are outrageous fabrications, and detract from what is otherwise an interesting film. But forget the notes, and buy the DVD. It is an amazing thing to find after all these years."
A lost gem...
Mark Webb | Chorley,UK | 06/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lost for many years this short film, just over one hour, is great for students of Cuban history and Flynn fans. Loads of long lost footage of the revolution in Havana and beyond. As a journalist resident in Havana from 1993-1999 it hold special interest to me as I can see my old apartment building there!
A great buy for those interested in the subject or the film maker - less so for the general viewer."
An Interesting Glimpse
Brian Berry | 11/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film would mostly of interest to Fans of Errol Flynn. Flynn later changed his mind about Castro but at the time of this film was one of those enamored of the revolutionary and his promise for Cuba after the excesses of the Batista regime. There is some interesting footage of the events and of Havana nightlife. However the film is really a strange mix and somewhat naive about Castro. The liner notes are despicable in their attack on Flynn, simply rehashing charges brought forth in Charles Higham's highly fictional biography. They also seem to be written by someone who has not the slightest real knowledge of the film or it's participants. For instance the writer mentions that Flynn's then girlfriend is "conspicuously absent" from the film. If the writer (also the producer of the dvd) had any knowledge of Flynn's girlfriend Beverly Aadland he would recognize her in one sequence arriving at a casino with Flynn and then standing with him at a gaming table. Also the narration of Cuban Story is once again mistaken. The writer states it is of a "more sober Flynn". Anyone who has seen an Errol Flynn film knows that the voice of the narrator is not the voice of Flynn. It is a lame attempt carried forth with a phony British accent. Most likely because Flynn wasn't around to be involved in the narration. The writer mentions the background of the film as being shrouded in mystery with "little more than supposition and speculation on which to go." Remember that phrase when reading the notes. As piece of film work it is odd but certainly interesting all things considered. "
Intersting snapshot of Cuban Revolution
Milkweed | BeerTown | 03/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you're thinking about buying this because of Errol, forget it. He only appears briefly, and indeed he is not the narrator. Also, if you love him, you might find it painful to see him in his later days of poor health. No, the real reason to buy this is because it has some unique footage of the Revolution and expresses a point of view you seldom encounter in media of the time. It was interesting because of that and worthwhile in its obviously subjective-historic narrative."