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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 66.25)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Surround
    English, French, German, Czech, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette
  • Production notes
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Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 138 mins . M15+ . PAL


Director Sydney Pollack has had a most impressive career to date, though his strike rate in the directorís chair has not always been the best. He has hits like The Way We Were, They Shoot Horses, Donít They? and Tootsie to his credit, and in 1985 he scored the Best Director Oscar for the epic Out Of Africa. Yet heís also capable of helming films that seem unnaturally half-baked - the noble but misfired movie version of John Grishamís The Firm, the pointless remake of the classic Sabrina - and the first film he directed after Out Of Africa, the well-intentioned Havana.

Itís Christmas, 1958 in the Cuban city of Havana - a city that has gained a reputation for itself as a carefree, hedonistic destination for people from all walks of life. But all thatís about to change - a revolution is coming, and very soon Fidel Castro will rise to power and change Cuba forever. In the midst of this last gasp of the old Havana, affirmed gambler Jack Weil (Robert Redford) searches for ďthe big oneĒ - the card game to end all card games, one that will satisfy his lust for high-stakes gambling.

But then he meets Bobby Duran (Lena Olin) - a beautiful, exotic woman who he almost immediately falls for. Only one problem - Bobby happens to be the wife of revolutionary Arturo Duran (an uncredited Raul Julia). Suddenly he finds himself facing a choice - should he save the woman he has fallen in love with, or just ignore the whole situation and concentrate on the card game that he came for?

Sounds cheesy, doesnít it? And it is - Havana is essentially a re-setting of the basic story elements from Casablanca, albeit with a different tone. Redford is fairly good as Jack, and Raul Julia (who insisted he not be billed as he considered his part to be relatively small) is his usual solid self as Arturo. Lena Olin, though, simply doesnít click as Bobby, and for much of the film looks as if she would rather be somewhere else. And thatís what many audience members will be wishing as well by the halfway mark of this movie. While itís impeccably shot and designed, and while Redford is as charming and watchable as always, this oneís simply too long. It does fare better at home, where one can pause the action and take a break, but in the cinema Havana seemed interminable, which may explain the critical savaging it scored at the time of its release. Itís actually not as bad as some would have you believe, but Havana will probably go down best with die-hard Redford fans.


Presented in its correct ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer of Havana is not 16:9 enhanced - an almost sure sign that what weíre being offered here is a recycled laserdisc transfer. And the image quality would certainly bear that out - while the source material is clean, the transfer has the look of an older telecine effort. Thereís a bit too much contrast and edge enhancement, with dark scenes often impenetrable and brightly lit moments suffering from whatís best described as ďglareĒ. Some aliasing is evident on edges in the brighter scenes, but generally the encoding for DVD is good. The layer change is oddly placed at the tail end of a quiet scene between Jack and Bobby, but is negotiated reasonably smoothly. Interestingly, the running time on PAL DVD is only about 90 seconds shorter than the stated theatrical running time, implying that either this is a slightly longer version of the film than seen theatrically, or that this transfer could be an NTSC-PAL conversion (though it doesnít look like one).

Audio is provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 - no mean feat considering that this 1990 film was mixed for plain old Dolby Stereo. The film was given a limited 70mm release in the US, though, and this multi-channel mix would have been done for those prints. Itís functional, but not spectacular, with fidelity suffering from the limitations of the day. Donít expect aural fireworks - but then, by and large this is a dialogue-driven movie anyway.

Aside from a typically EPK-style featurette running just under six minutes (which offers little of worth), thereís only some production notes, a handful of bios and filmographies and a theatrical trailer in the extras department.

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  •   And I quote...
    "...will probably go down best with die-hard Redford fans."
    - Anthony Horan
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