Red Zone Cuba (1966) (part 5 of 9)
We go outside, and it’s suddenly daylight as every single previous shot of soldiers pacing back and forth is reused. Then we cut to Griffin, and it’s night again. He’s decided to top the stupidity of smoking in a plane by now smoking in bed. He reveals to the other two men that he “always wanted money. A lot of money.” Cook replies, “If we stick together, maybe we can get money. Somewhere!” Two men with a plan. That’s what I like to hear!
Griffin remarks, “If only the boys in the joint could see me now.” Boy, wouldn’t they be jealous. “Going to fight for some peasants in Cuba.” Then we cut to Cook, also smoking in bed. Ten minutes later, he takes the cigarette out of his mouth and laughs for unknown reasons. Then he asks Griffin how he busted out of prison.
After an eternity, Griffin tells him, “Drain pipe. Dug up some dirt. I worked three long months.” Ah, so that’s where his fondness for drain pipes comes from. All of a sudden, the name “Griffin” is starting to ring some bells for Cook. He remembers a guy named Griffin who was known as “the Cotton King of the South!” Well, it beats being the Polyester King of the South, that’s for sure.
According to Cook, the Cotton King of the South would sell a lot of cotton during the day, but steal it all back at night. That’s what we in the business call “markup”. Cook says to no one in particular, “They sent him up for a long stretch. Seems like… a thousand years ago.” After this movie, everything will seem like a thousand years ago. Naturally, since Cook is speaking, the camera is focused on Griffin instead as he silently lies on his cot.
Cook is obviously not very good at determining the right moment to shut up, because he then says that the Cotton King’s wife has “spent all the money and become a street walker!” He then remarks that the newspapers all had pictures of her, and calls her “a beautiful broad!” Ah, those hobos, so refreshingly un-PC.
Suddenly, and quite hilariously, all this “you’re wife’s a whore” talk boils over, and Griffin jumps out of nowhere and starts strangling Cook. Unfortunately, he doesn’t finish the job—the bastard!—and he just gets up off of him and goes back to his cot to lie down. Cook lifts his head up for a second to silently stare at Griffin, but then just lowers his head back down and goes to sleep. Sure, Griffin just tried to kill him, but that’s nothing to get all riled up over. Anyway, we fade to black.
Now it’s time to watch the kind of rigorous boot camp training that’s been set up for our hobos. As you might expect, it more closely resembles a fat farm for teenagers. We see hobos jumping off daunting six-foot cliffs, and scaling daunting six-foot cliffs, while oddly upbeat music straight out of one of those 50’s “Home of Tomorrow” shorts plays in the background. We see hobos fighting each other using some lame judo-style moves, which shall now be known as Hobo-Fu, while supposed military men in extremely nondescript and ill-fitting uniforms scowl at them. Eventually, we learn that these guys do less all day than most people do before nine in the morning.
Then we cut to Landis, since it’s now his turn to jump down all six of those feet. Wheee! Then Cook follows, and he’s still wearing his Savino cap [!]. Damn, I never knew the military was this lax about its dress code. Then we see some guy somehow totally screw up at climbing a rope up that six-foot hill. Yep, these guys are ready to take on Castro tomorrow, alright. Then we see some guy get judo tossed while a nondescript uniform guy watches. When he gets back up on his feet, the guy in the “uniform” sounds pretty much drunk as he slurs, “That was very good, Jimmy.” I guess Jimmy has got some excellent “getting knocked on his ass” skills or something.
Then we see our three main characters wandering through some trees. They mutter to each other for a minute or two before Griffin finally shouts, “Let’s make a run for it!” and they all start hauling ass. And I really don’t know how they went wrong with such a fool-proof, well-thought out plan, but when they get to a big tree, someone yells, “Halt!” and they all immediately stop. They look up and find a guy with a rifle sitting up in the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. The hobos defeatedly turn around and head back into camp.
Now, here’s where some heavy shit starts to go down. Oh, wait, my mistake. Actually, it’s more nothing. We cut to two soldiers playing craps in the dirt next to a trailer. The Three Amigos wander over, and we hear one of the craps players roll the dice and say, “Come on! Treat your daddy right! I need a new pair of shoes!” And, actually, this is not just a figure of speech. He really does need a new pair of shoes. And the dice really are his children.
Anyway, I guess the guy who needs new shoes rolls something good, so the other craps player gets disgusted and walks away. The New Shoes Guy gathers up his money and strolls on over to the Three Amigos, asking them if they “wanna play some gallupin’ dominoes”. Then he clarifies this by asking, “You wanna shoot some dice?” Oh, dice. Thank God, I never would have gotten that.
Griffin takes three quick puffs on his cigarette before grabbing New Shoes Guy by the head [!] and forcing his face into his crotch [!!!]. I guess Griffin’s got his gallupin’ dominoes right here.
After this completely necessary scene, we cut to the men gathered around what looks like a chunk of somebody’s backyard fence. The Big Cocktail Napkin is pinned to the fence, and General Joe has got his pointer ready. He explains that they’ll be leaving at sundown, and then he goes over “what to expect”. The sound quality of his voice totally changes as he tells them they’ll hit the beach at midnight, which gives them “thirty minutes to scale eighty-foot cliffs” before a Cuban patrol boat passes.
Joe says they’ll “only fight if we have to”, which, given the men at his disposal, seems like a wise attitude. He then reveals that their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to “tear down telephone lines, destroy all forms of communication!” By which he means, all forms that are left after Coleman Francis takes care of destroying the cinematic form of communication. Then he reminds them of some guy named Jose who will lower a rope down the cliff for them.
Then Joe claims that an “invasion force” will follow them at daybreak. I’m guessing this will be an American force, but he never says. Joe then asks, “Any questions?” And the men just sit there, stone silent. If it were me, personally, I think I’d have some questions along the lines of, “Um, which country are we working for, anyway?” On that note, Joe winds up this exhaustive briefing and tells them to get ready to “shove off after sundown!”
Then we cut to hobo soldiers loading firecrackers and safety flares… er, I mean, “ammo” into metal boxes. Then we cut to all the men in loose, baggy, Levi’s relaxed-fit fatigues and helmets. They’re carrying rifles, and standing at attention. And of course, by “attention”, I mean one guy in the group is craning his head around and looking at everything in sight.
Finally, they all shove off, and we see the soldiers begin marching. Halfway through the march, they apparently get tired of carrying their rifles on their shoulders, and decide to just carry them at waist level. They all pile into a cigarette boat, and it eventually roars off through a marina that, I must say, is very conspicuously crowded with sailboats. Military sailboats, I’m sure.
Then we get a pointless montage of the soldiers on the motorboat as it cuts across the waves. This goes on for, no exaggeration, a solid minute. I guess they eventually get to “Cuba”, because they all hunker down with their rifles at the ready, taking positions all around the motorboat. This is despite the fact that it’s still broad daylight, and it doesn’t look any later in the day than when they shoved off. I guess Cuba really is a five minute boat ride from Miami.
This goes on for another solid minute, with more shots of the tops of helmets, more shots of the wake behind the motorboat, more shots of the Three Hobos whispering to each other. And then… a very American-looking Cuba, ahoy! The boat runs aground and the men take their own sweet time getting off the boat and running out onto the beach.
We then cut to what looks like an annex building of a junior college. The light is dim, but somebody drives up on a jeep and climbs the steps to the front door. As he does this, two swarthy guys in berets and fatigues stand at attention, including one who’s holding a guitar [?]. So, whoever this guy is, he must be pretty damn important to have a jazz combo guarding his office.
The guy goes inside and sits behind a desk, revealing that he’s wearing a beret and fatigues, along with a really bushy, fake black beard, and he’s smoking a cigar. No one ever comes out and says it, but I think the implication is clear: This guy is actually supposed to be El Presidente himself, Fidel Castro [!!]. And word has it, Fidel is actually being played by the same guy who’s playing Landis [!!!].
Then we jump-cut back to the Bum Brigade running down the beach in broad daylight. They make their way over to a rocky cliff and start climbing up a rope which is conveniently hanging there. I’m guessing there was some level of Jose involvement here, but we never actually see him. I guess they forgot to cast that part.
Then some other [?] military guys come running out from nowhere. Um, didn’t they all arrive on the same boat? Anyway, we see Cook and Landis climbing the rope, but, oddly, we don’t see Griffin climbing up the rope, for reasons that should be obvious. Then we get another pointless shot of the Jazz Combo keeping watch in front of Fidel’s Junior College Annex.
Then another group of Bum Soldiers runs up and starts climbing the most popular rope in the world. Yes, thrill to the rope-climbing scene that lasts for one-third of the movie! And enjoy the completely incongrous public domain classical music that plays as it happens! We see Griffin take hold of the rope and pull on it, but that’s the extent of contact between Griffin and the rope.
We immediately cut to some random shmuck losing his grip on the rope. He briefly turns into a mannequin as he hits the dirt down below. Then, and I’m not sure if this is what I’m actually seeing, but it looks like the guy who fell to the ground is now up and around [!] and tying his rifle to the rope to have it hoisted up [?]. I must be high. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for what I’m seeing right now.