Red Zone Cuba (1966) (part 3 of 9)
A long time later, the truck pulls into a ramshackle gas station and the attendant eagerly asks, “Fill ‘er up?” Uh, yeah, in your dreams, pal. Sure enough, Landis only wants “two gallons! Yeah, and check under the hood!” Maybe he ought to check in the back, too. I think there might be a totally incompetent director back there.
Landis then walks up to the attendant and asks where “a man can find a job.” The attendant wants to know what kind of job, so Landis yells, “A job!” Oh, a job. Why didn’t he just say so? As we see Griffin in the back of the pickup wiping sweat from his forehead, the attendant points out that all the fruit in the area is frozen, so he suggests a different sort of opportunity.
He says that they’re “paying men to train to fight down south!” For the inhuman pleasure of a bloodthirsty queen? He says, “I hear it’s good money! They gon’ invade Cuba! At least that’s what I hear!” Hey, nothing like those top secret invasion plans, huh?
The attendant then pronounces, “Oil’s alright!” and charges them sixty cents. Then Cook hits him up for some “canned goods”. The attendant says his wife runs a general store and has “Bread, salami, cold beer.” This, of course, gets Griffin’s attention like nothing else short of barbed wire being run through the crack of his ass.
Cook goes to walk away, but the attendant stops him, giving him what sounds like a complete and annotated list of the entire inventory of his wife’s store. I’m even originally from the South, and I have absolutely no idea what half of these foods are. It sounds like he says, “Hog jaw, pickle pig feet, cy belly, rib in can syrup, anything.” Next, the attendant will try to con them into buying that old jar of pickled eggs that’s been sitting on the shelf since the Great Depression. In the back of the truck, Griffin gets a truly pained expression on his face. He must really be jonesing for some hog jaw.
Soon, we see Cook walking back to the truck with a paper bag full of groceries. He and Landis get in and drive off, which is followed by a nice, pointless shot of the attendant standing there and watching them leave, and for no reason, we get to see him take off his hat and scratch his head. Okay, whatever. Anyway, the truck heads down the road and we fade to black.
When we fade back in, the truck is parked off the road somewhere. Griffin emerges from underneath his blanket and spots the other two men sitting around eating and drinking out of cans. He’s got his pistol out as he creeps over in their direction. He stands about ten feet from them in the direct sunlight, but for some reason they don’t spot him. The actor playing Cook even accidentally glances over in his direction, but amusingly, he just pretends like he didn’t see him [!]. Christ, this guy is big enough to blot out the sun. How could they miss him?
Then we get to endure a long, loving close-up of Cook shoving beans into his mouth and another of Landis drinking coffee. After five minutes of this, they spot Griffin with his gun, and after what feels like five more minutes, Cook calmly tells Griffin he doesn’t need to point a gun at them, because they’re more than happy to share their coffee and beans with him.
Griffin sits down with them, still not speaking a single word. Cook hands him a plate of beans which Griffin then proceeds to shovel into his mouth with reckless abandon. Cook introduces himself and Landis, and then he laughingly says, “We been up the river!” Uh, nice to meet you, too? Cook then guesses that Griffin jumped into their truck just as they were pulling off. I’m assuming it was the sound of the muffler dragging for the last two hours that tipped him off.
As the camera goes back to Griffin, Cook’s voice suddenly and completely changes to that of another actor as he adds, “Me and Landis got busted back in ’58! Liquor store! Two years of hard labor!” Yes, the labor can be hard at liquor stores. Especially having to check all those IDs. Landis says, “Now we grab at a job anywhere we can find it! No more iron cages! [??]” Iron cages? Where were they imprisoned, Midnight Express?
Landis offers Griffin some coffee, which he eagerly accepts while still not saying a word. He chugs the whole cup, but spills most of it all over his chin and chest. What the hell, has he got a hole in his lip or something? Then we waste some more time watching the three men pass the coffee pot around.
Finally, Griffin spots a car approaching and totally spazzes out. He runs and hides behind a bush with his gun at the ready. A sherriff’s deputy hops out of the car, but how Griffin knew it was a deputy is anyone’s guess, because the car (as we’ve come to expect of films of this caliber) has no markings.
Anyway, the sheriff uses the power of lousy editing to instantly transport himself several yards over to Cook and Landis, and he begins to interrogate them. Oddly, the deputy appears to be wearing a black leather outfit [?]. Are we sure this guy’s a cop and not one of the Village People?
He asks Cook and Landis if they just drove down from the north, and Cook says they did. The cop says, “Mmm-hmmm” and weirdly licks his lips. That’s right, they’re being questioned by Officer Sling Blade. He asks them if they saw a “big fella, about 200 pounds maybe, hitchikin’?” Give or take a ton? Cook says they didn’t and the cop skeptically replies, “Uh-huh.”
Officer Sling Blade takes a moment to stare at the remnants of the campfire and their cooking. “Alright, boys,” he says. “Alright.” Before he leaves, he adds, “Just in case you do, his name is Griffin, and the reward is five thousand dollars!” The best part here is how Landis’ eyes grow wide several seconds before the cop even mentions the dollar amount. Anyway, more emotionless staring follows.
Suddenly, Cook turns to Landis and yells, “Griffin’ll kill ya!” [?] I think Landis was considering turning Griffin in, but honestly that’s just a wild guess. Anyway, Landis stops whatever it is he was about to do, and the cop, thinking nothing of this rather suspicious exchange, just walks off [!]. I’m guessing he went to the Mitchell School of Law Enforcement. He goes over to his car, then takes a weird moment to remove his cowboy hat and comb his fingers through his hair [?].
Griffin climbs out of the bushes as the unmarked “police car” speeds away. Landis yells, “Nothing happened!” and Cook cries, “You got it all wrong!” Who got it all wrong? Griffin? He hasn’t said one damn word since this movie started! After more emotionless staring, Griffin, at long last, speaks his first words of dialogue. Unfortuantely, it’s not quite as exciting as when Harpo Marx finally spoke. He says to the two men, “I’ll be watchin’ you!” Every breath you take and every move you make.
Then we cut to all three of them lying back and smoking cigarettes. Uh, I don’t think I want to know what just happened here. But whatever it was, it looks like it was great for all of them. Griffin lethargically notes, “That kind of money’s worth joining up for.” Referring, I guess, to the invading Cuba thing that the gas station attendant mentioned earlier. I guess when you can’t pick fruit, you might as well go attack Cuba.
Cook reminds them the government will pay a “thousand bucks to join! And a thousand bucks when it’s over!” Landis stares at his cigarette for half a lifetime before observing, “Maybe… it won’t be over.” Yes, I’m beginning to feel that way, too.
“Once we get that money in our hands,” Griffin says, “We’ll grab a looooong freight train.” And on that note, we again fade to black.
When we fade back in, we’re staring at a cheap cardboard sign, where someone has written the following with a Magic Marker:
We see some guy in a Confederate soldier’s cap puttering around inside a small plane. Soon, Landis and Cook drive up to very odd, upbeat classical music that wouldn’t be out of place in Disney’s Snow White. Then we get a look at the truck’s flatbed, and Griffin is lying down back there once again. I assume he’s still trying to evade the police, but if that’s the case, maybe chain smoking at the same time is a bad idea.
The guy in the plane, who looks like the forgotten Stallone brother, walks over to the two men. Landis asks the guy if he’s Cherokee Jack using the flattest monotone I’ve ever heard (and I’ve heard a lot of flat monotones), and as it turns out, he is Cherokee Jack. Landis asks him about where they “train men to fight down in Cuba” and Cherokee Jack says he can fly them down there for fifteen bucks each. Hey, that does sound prettie reasoneble.
Landis blandly says, “We’re about busted. What’ll you give us for the truck?” With or without the psychopath smoking in the back? Griffin crawls out as we hear Cherokee Jack ask, “Runnin’ good?” Cook eagerly shouts, “Let’s look at it!” So we watch the three men slowly make their way over to the truck. Somehow, Cherokee Jack is able to ascertain the Kelley Blue Book value of the truck after standing ten feet away from it for all of thirty seconds. He offers Cook and Landis thirty-five dollars.
In some of the worst acting I’ve seen in a very, very long time, Cook points out they have a third person with them, and Cherokee Jack offers to fly all three of them in exchange for the truck. “When can we leave?” Cook asks, with his eyes darting all over the place. What’s sadder here, that the director didn’t tell the actor where to look, or that the actor didn’t have enough common sense to keep his eyes focused on one spot? Anyway, Cherokee Jack says they can leave “Tonight!”