Monday, January 29, 2007

WEEKEND IN HAVANA (20th Century Fox 1941) Fox Home Video

Walter Lang’s Weekend in Havana (1941) is atypical Fox musical fodder greatly buttressed by its lush Technicolor interpretation of Cuba. The plot begins in earnest when a ship runs aground on a reef in Florida. The owner of the line, Walter McCracken (George Barbier – who vaguely resembles the chicken hawk in the Warner Brothers cartoons) sends his son-in-law to be, Jay Williams (John Payne) to secure affidavits from all the passengers promising not to sue.

The only holdout is Nan Spencer (Alice Faye), a rather prudish department store sales girl who claims that her only vacation in ten years has been irreversibly ruined. To make a recompense for her inconvenience, and get her to sign the waver for the cruise line, Jay departs with Nan on a weekend in Havana – a lavish fairyland populated by plush nightclubs and swarthy caricatures of the roving lothario and lusty hothead.

In this former category, Nan meets Monte Blanca (Caesar Romero) – a slick and no good gambler who erroneously assumes that Nan has money…at least enough to pull him out of his debt to racketeer and club owner, Boris (Sheldon Leonard). He concocts a romantic liaison designed to extort the riches he believes Nan has, all the while under Jay’s watchful eye – growing more roving from his own fiancée, Terry (Cobina Wright).

There’s really not much to recommend the film beyond its lush settings and slick packaging. The songs are awkward and rather clumsy. In his desire to get things off to a quick tropical start – Lang opens the story with Carmen Miranda warbling the sultry title track. She is second billed – which is remarkable, considering how little she has to do in the actual film.

Fox’s DVD transfer is, for the most part, a sheer delight. The original majesty of three strip Technicolor exhibits a rich, detailed and ultra vibrant sheen that makes everything sparkle. Fine details are realized throughout. Contrast levels are bang on with deep solid blacks and very clean whites. There are several occasions where the Technicolor image momentarily falters with slight shimmering. There are also several brief occasions (mostly in stock shots of Havana) in which film grain seems quite excessive. Overall though, this is a very pleasing image that will surely NOT disappoint.

The audio has been remixed to stereo. The original mono is also included. There’s very little difference between the two except during the musical sequences. An audio commentary by Jeanine Basinger, ONE collectible lobby card (not more than one, as the packaging suggests) and the film’s original trailer round out the extras.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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