Red Zone Cuba (1966) (part 4 of 9)

The next thing we see is Cherokee Jack starting up his plane’s propellers. All three drifters climb in for some rip-roaring pointless staring as the plane heads down the runway. After a wildly out of focus shot of Landis, the plane takes off.

And now, God help us, we get a scene that does for flying footage what “Manos” did for driving footage. That’s right, we actually get to watch the entire flight, and most of it from inside the plane. To shots of the wing, we hear a nearly catatonic Griffin say, “If you need any help, my friend here can fly. He’ll spell you.” [?] That must be some 60’s hobo slang I’m not hip to. Either that, or Griffin was bragging that he knows someone who can spell the word “you”.

There’s another radically out of focus shot of Cook and Landis sitting in the back seat of the plane. Suddenly, we hear a thunder clap [?] even though it’s bright daylight outside. Then Griffin lights up a cigarette [!] inside the plane. Something tells me that’s not really a good idea. Anyway, several more overdubbed thunderclaps and outrageously out of focus shots of the pair in the back follow.

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Finally, they arrive at the training camp in, oh, let’s say, Florida. The plane passes over a really cheap “army barracks” set that consists of one guy with a rifle and helmet marching past a jeep in somebody’s driveway. When this guy sees the plane, he goes running off. To amuse yourself while watching this scene, yell out “De plane! De plane!” while the guy hurries away.

The plane then lands on a nearby runway, thus finally bringing an end to the real-time flight sequence. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there were a few shots that could have been edited out here. Namely, everything between “An Anthony Cardoza Enterprise Release” and “The End”.

After this landing sequence, which, like everything else in this movie, goes on way too long, we cut to some bald military-type guy at a desk pounding on a typewriter. We waste more time watching him pick up a mug and drink from it, until finally somebody gets their cue to come in and say, “Cherokee’s here!” The bald guy immediately hurries out.

Meanwhile, the three hobos and Cherokee Jack all debark the plane. The bald guy, who by the way is wearing the most ill-fitting military uniform ever seen, comes out to greet them. Cherokee Jack says, “I brought you some fightin’ men, Joe!” Joe thanks him and has the three men follow him. They all walk off and we’re treated to a lengthy shot of Cherokee Jack staring that serves no purpose. Sadly, this will be the last we see of our illiterate friend here. Never fear, Cherokee Jack, the next time I need someone to “flie” me “anywhere”, your name will be first on my list.

Joe takes them back to the “barracks” where that one soldier is still doing a fine job of guarding the driveway. They all head into Joe’s office, where they all sit, except for Griffin, who nervously stands directly behind Joe.

Joe says, “Gentleman, we shove off in twenty-four hours! [!!!] We haven’t time for formalities!” But apparently, we do have time to watch an airplane fly around for ten minutes. He rips the sheet of paper out of his typewriter and hands it to Griffin, telling him to sign his name. Er, wouldn’t this sort of count as a “formality”? Griffin wants to know what it’s for, so Joe tells him it’s so that “headquarters can make out your checks!” This instantly shuts Griffin up and he signs.

Cook protests that Cherokee Jack said they would be getting paid in cash, but Joe just tells him to sign his name. Well, that was an excellent rebuttal, Joe. We then see the men exit Joe’s office to sound of very badly dubbed-in bird chirping noises.

The three walk through the grass towards… um… somewhere, and they encounter a soldier with huge teeth who introduces himself as “Chastain”. Chastain extends a hand, but the three hobos just leave him hanging. He asks where they’re from and Landis yells, “Up north!” Cook follows this up by turning to Landis and Griffin and saying, “Let’s get something to eat!” and all three just continue walking on. We then waste more precious screen time watching Chastain light a cigarette, shake his head, and walk off. Yeah, those crazy hobos, huh?

We’re now in what looks like a suburban home, but I guess these are supposed to be the accommodations the military has set up for the hobos. The guys get all freshened up from a bowl of water and grab towels. Right. As if. By this point, I think these guys would have to bathe in turpentine to get themselves clean.

Then we cut to Chastain in Joe’s office. They’re both looking at some kind of attack plan, and this has got to be the skimpiest attack plan ever drafted. Basically, it’s a piece of parchment-thin paper taped to a door with five or six lines drawn on it in grease pencil. I swear, I’ve seen more information in a doodle on a cocktail napkin at the Airport Ramada hotel bar. Chastain points at a random spot on the doodle and Joe exclaims that this could be “the logical spot”, and for some reason Joe calls him “Chastine”.

Red Zone Cuba (1966) (part 4 of 9)

“Yes! We’ll land right next to the D in ‘Ramada’! Excellent plan, Chastine!”

Joe sits down at his desk. “We’ll hit the beach… here. I’ll have Jimmy and the three who came in tonight.” What? Five guys? That’s it? No wonder we bungled the Bay of Pigs. Chastain chuckles at the notion of the three hobos being involved. “How much help can we expect from them?” Stop flapping your huge gums, Chastain. You know that if you give them enough coffee and beans, they’ll do anything.

“I don’t know,” Joe says. “They’re probably broke. Hiding from the law.” So I guess that makes them the perfect candidates for this mission. Joe thinks they might be of some help. “How much help, I don’t know.” And, yes, this is exactly what you want to hear from the guy heading up military forces in an invasion of Cuba.

Joe offers Chastain a cigarette, and then mentions how someone named “Jose” will be dropping ropes to them from somewhere. From what I can gather, apparently the sole objective of this mission is to climb a rope. And just wait until you see how badly Griffin and Co. bungle that operation. Then we watch for about a minute as Joe lights Chastain’s cigarette.

Then it’s back to the three hobos in their “barracks” which look more like three cots set up in somebody’s living room. Griffin paces around while the other two lie on their cots being their usual motionless selves. Griffin sedately wonders if there’s a highway or railroad nearby, telling the others, “I’ll do five years to get that Cherokee’s throat in my hands.” Don’t worry, after the acting we just witnessed, I’m sure no jury would ever convict. “Nothin’ I hate more than a liar!” Referring to how Cherokee said they would be getting paid in cash, I guess.

We cut to Landis, as Cook tells Griffin to chill out. (Isn’t it odd how the camera always cuts to the one person who’s not talking?) Griffin lies down in his cot, which reveals that each cot has a totally different blanket than the other two. Okay, I think I figured it out. This isn’t the US Army, it’s the Salvation Army! Then there’s total silence for five minutes, except for some really irritating overdubbed cricket chirping. I’d swear from the sound of things that the entire base was under attack by crickets.

Eventually, Landis speaks up. “I didn’t wanna come down here.” Griffin sits up, looks at him, and yells, “Shut up!” Then he lies back down. He’s a man of few words, that Griffin. But, unfortunately, not few enough.

The next day, we see a soldier pacing around, and I’m getting the notion that he’s in some very old barracks that in reality were probably abandoned shortly after World War II. Chastain walks through camp and runs into Joe. He asks Joe where the three new men are bedding down, and Joe quickly tells him, while still calling him “Chastine”. End scene. Wow! What a moment! Feel the electricity! Oh, yeah, and don’t worry about saluting each other or anything, you chumps.

Chastain heads down to the Living Room and knocks on the door, and Cook replies, “Come in, Chastain!” Um, how in the hell would Cook know it was Chastain? Chastain walks into the Living Room and sits down, and they all stare at him for several minutes before he tells them, “Nice evenin’!” Yep, that bombshell was definitely worth the ten-minute buildup. Landis asks what he wants, and Chastain replies, “I was getting sorta lonely. [!]” If you’re seeking out the company of these three social deviants, then you’re well beyond the “sorta” phase of loneliness.

“I thought I’d get to know some civilization,” he says. “Arizona, maybe.” What? It eventually comes out that Chastain has a ranch in Arizona, and that he got involved with this covert military operation because he has grandparents that live in Cuba. “Their sugar mill was taken away,” he explains. “Oh, I don’t know. I figure they have a right to it.” Spoken like a true man of his convictions.

Griffin asks if he’s gotten paid yet, but Chastain says, “‘Fraid not. This one is on me!” You mean, invading Cuba is sort of like buying a round of beer? Landis, suddenly drunk, asks what the hell that means, and Chastain says he’s only doing this to help his grandparents get their sugar mill back. He asks them, “Sounds sorta… foolish, doesn’t it?” Sorta very foolish. But keep in mind, he’s asking this of three guys who were all too eager to jump in a plane piloted by a guy who can’t spell the word “fly”.

“Yes, I’m a dreamer,” Chastain says. But I’m not the only one. “My wife Ruby says I’m a dreamer,” he says, in order to establish the fact that he’s married, specifically to a woman named Ruby. He says his grandparents paid for his college education, so “I figure I owe ’em something!” Yes, a college tuition is at the very least worth overthrowing a dictator.

Griffin wants to know what Chastain raises on his ranch in Arizona. “Sheep? Gold nuggets?” Chastain starts to explain that in actuality, he has a mine there, but abruptly somebody outside yells that it’s lights out time. Chastain tells the guys that it was nice staring at them, or words to that effect, and quickly heads out.

Multi-Part Article: Red Zone Cuba (1966)

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