Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Ah, Club Havana—always the same; people come, people go, nothing ever happens. Oh, wait, that's the Grand Hotel. Still, a lot happens in one night at the Club Havana in Miami. Among the people gathered there: Isabelita (aka Lita Baron), the club singer who is in love with Eric Sinclair, her pianist; Paul Cavanagh, an entrepreneur who is out of money and desperate for a cash infusion; Renie Riano, the wealthy widow whom Cavanagh is meeting for dinner in order to talk her into investing in his latest  business scheme; young and handsome doctor Tom Neal who is on a date, taking a much-needed break from a busy schedule; newly divorced Margaret Lindsay who is finally rid of her husband and ready to marry Don Douglas; Ernest Truex, on his first date with his wife with whom he has just reconciled after a separation. Finally, Marc Lawrence arrives; he's an underworld figure who was arrested on suspicion of murder but who has just been freed for lack of evidence.  But Sinclair saw Lawrence leave the scene of the crime, so he calls the police to say he has testimony to give to them as soon as Lawrence is put back in custody. With the cops on their way, Lawrence discovers who the snitch is and puts in place a plan to have Sinclair killed when he leaves the club.

As I've noted already, this clearly drew its inspiration from the 30's classic GRAND HOTEL, following  the woven plotlines of a fairly large cast of characters, but it also put me in mind of  CASABLANCA with its single nightclub setting. However, this is strictly a Poverty Row affair in terms of budget. It's directed by Edgar G. Ulmer so it has its moments of interest, but its ambition exceeds its grasp. The acting is generally of a high caliber: Tom Neal, whom I normally like, has a boring role, but Cavanagh, Lindsay and Lawrence are fine and Riano is great fun as the widow who knows exactly what she wants (the three bespectacled children she brings with her make for a pleasant running gag). There are a couple of so-so musical numbers, the best being "Tico-Tico," and the club setting is cheap and not nearly as atmospheric as it needs to be. It's only about an hour, but it lacks tension until the last ten minutes—Sonia Sorel, as the switchboard operator, has a nice scene at the climax, which also includes a somewhat startling death. A must for Ulmer fans and B-movie buffs. Pictured are Cavanagh and Riano. [YouTube]

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