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Film / Red Zone Cuba

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"Night train to Mundo Fine
Night train to the end
Running hard and running fast
To meet my future and away from my past
Taking that gamble that cannot last
Night train to the end"
John Carradine, "Night Train To Mundo Fine"

Red Zone Cuba, also known as Night Train to Mundo Fine, is a 1966 American drama film directed by Coleman Francis, who also wrote and co-produced the film, and played the starring role. The movie is about... well, it's hard to say really. The best summation we could say is that it follows the meandering adventures of an escaped convict, Griffin, and two ex-convicts he recruits along the way as they become involved in the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, and a quest to find a hidden treasure in a tungsten mine.

Red Zone Cuba was Coleman Francis's final film as director, and his only starring role; in the other two films he helmed, The Skydivers and The Beast of Yucca Flats, he limited his acting to cameos. John Carradine receives fourth billing in the credits, and was prominently featured in advertising and promotional material for the film, but he only appears briefly, during a framing sequence at the beginning of the film. Carradine also sings the film's opening theme song, "Night Train to Mundo Fine" (pronounced "Finé"), performed by Ray Gregory and the Melmen.

In 1994, the film was brought out from obscurity when it was featured as an episode of the movie-mocking television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, and since then it has become widely considered as one of the worst movies ever made. For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

Red Tropes Cuba:

  • Acrofatic: Griffin is capable of surprising athleticism despite being overweight.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The film attempts to present Griffin's death as this. Needless to say, they failed and got the opposite reaction instead.
  • Arc Words: The phrase "He [Griffin] ran all the way down to hell, with nothing but a penny and a broken cigarette" is stated in the very beginning and in the very end in a way that suggests a huge significance. Griffin is seen smoking heavily throughout the movie, and the penny (which he stole from the diner) could play into his goal of getting rich. Still, it's not nearly as intriguing as the movie seems to think it is.
  • Artistic License History: In real life, the ground troops at the Bay of Pigs were almost exclusively Cuban exiles, and spent several months training in Guatemala. Chastain at least is said to be the grandson of Cuban exiles, but most of the other soldiers look like whitebread Americans, and (judging by Griffin's experience) received maybe ONE DAY of training.
  • Artistic License Military: Apparently the entire process of enlisting, completing training, and being deployed on a top-secret mission only takes 24 hours. Moreover, the US Army is willing to enlist hobos, some of whom have criminal records.
  • Asshole Victim: Even though Griffin's death at the end was supposed to be an Alas, Poor Villain moment, he had done so many heinous things prior that it's impossible to feel any sympathy for him.
  • Author Appeal: Coffee, vigilantism, death, misery, light aircraft, death, misery, the "Yucca Mountain" location (probably somewhere in San Bernardino County, California), death, misery, coffee, big breasts aimed at the camera, death, misery, coffee — it must be a Coleman Francis film!
  • Banana Republic: Cuba is portrayed as this, which makes sense considering this is the way the U.S. government's propaganda portrayed Cuba at the time.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Subverted. Griffin and company participate in the Bay of Pigs Invasion... but are captured almost immediately, and end up having no impact on the invasion one way or the other.
  • Big Bad: Griffin himself is the Villain Protagonist of the movie, and the plot concerns him and his two ex-convict allies attempting to get rich, victimizing innocent people all the way.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Griffin is gunned down and killed, and his two "friends" are both arrested. Chastain, meanwhile, is revealed to be alive and well and is reunited with his wife. Then again, considering the worst antics the three vagrant criminals get into, a somewhat Darker and Edgier version of a Happy Ending would be more accurate.
  • Book Dumb: Cherokee Jack, if the horrid spelling on his sign is any indication.
  • Book Ends: Red Zone Cuba begins and ends with the phrase "ran all the way to hell."
  • The Cameo: John Carradine, who only appears in one scene at the very beginning of the movie, and also he sings the theme song ("Night Train to Mundo Fine"). Despite this he is listed as a "guest star."
  • Chronic Villainy: Griffin announces his intention to "go legit" less than thirty seconds before whipping one of his friends with a belt and robbing him. He seems incapable of passing up the opportunity to commit any crime, even when the act could not possibly benefit him in any way. His response to seeing a man with a blind daughter is to throw the man down a well and rape the daughter. And still he wonders why he can't go legit...
  • Covers Always Lie: John Carradine's character does not share any screen time with any of the main characters. Covers that do appear to show him with Griffin or Landis are actually just behind-the-scenes photos of Carradine with Coleman Francis and Anthony Cardoza during filming.
  • Dangerous Deserter: Our three "heroes", after their escape from Cuba.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Griffin, supposedly. He supposedly pulled off a somewhat clever scheme before the movie began, selling off a massive load of cotton only to steal it back and sell it again. Then again, it clearly wasn't that clever since he got caught, and nothing we see him do on screen is anywhere near that smart.
  • Did Not Think This Through: A regular theme underlining all the antics of Griffin's crew, but the capstone example is when they end up somewhat inadvertently joining the Bay of Pigs invasion.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: John Carradine is not only a "guest star" but he also sings the theme song, "Night Train to Mundo Fine."
  • Economy Cast: Practically every actor whose character dies gets resurrected as another. In one case, a dead soldier comes back as a member of the firing squad who killed him! Cherokee Jack also shows up as one of Castro's aides.
  • The Eeyore: The restaurant owner. Being murdered by Griffin was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • The state trooper who notes there is a $5000 bounty on Griffin's head fails to notice Cook telling Landis, "Griffin will kill ya!" Even if he couldn't hear the loud whisper a few feet away, he fails to notice him whispering at all?
    • During the Bay of Pigs invasion, Griffin and crew are surprised (and captured) by an enemy soldier who emerges from the outhouse right next to them.
    • One of the prisoners keeps a huge painting (of the Virgin Mary and Jesus) under his blanket in the Cuban POW camp. How the Cuban guards missed this stretches belief a lot.
  • Fat Bastard: Griffin. As the various entries on this page show, he is not exactly a nice man, and he is grossly overweight.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: It's a Coleman Francis film. It's inevitable.
    Narrator: He ran all the way to hell, with a penny and a broken cigarette.
  • Framing Device: The whole movie is a flashback being told by the driver of a train that the trio briefly rode on. How he knew all the details of their story (or even knew they were there at all, considering he tells a reporter that he never saw them) is left to the viewer's imagination.
  • Gainax Ending: "Griffin, he ran all the way to hell... with a penny and a broken cigarette."
  • Groin Attack:
    • The dog, on itself, on the barb wire fence.
    • Griffin mashes a fellow enlistee's face on his knee, but thanks to the angle and the blocking, it looks like he is shoving the man's face into his crotch to knock him out. To be fair, the man is probably grateful he didn't choose the latter.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Griffin, who seems ready to completely lose his shit at the drop of a hat. Most notably, he strangles one of his friends for simply saying he read about his wife in a newspaper... and said friend didn't even realize the woman was his wife!
  • The Hero Dies: For certain values of "hero". The movie ends with the protagonist, Griffin, shot dead.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Several "night" scenes, for example in the Cuban POW camp, are clearly shot in the daylight.
  • Informed Ability: It is hard to believe Griffin could be a magnate of anything, much less "The Cotton King of the South". Then again, he's such a sociopath that his claims to be a magnate were probably Blatant Lies.
  • Lady of War: The Cuban guard that Tom Servo identified as Patty Hearst and "Laura Petrie: Revolutionary".
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • After murdering a diner owner who noted that his business was failing, Griffin checks the cash register and finds only a single penny.
    • In the end, Griffin dies unceremoniously (shot while broke and running) for all his misdeeds.
  • Lower-Class Lout: At the end of the day, Griffin is nothing but a thug and drifter with poor impulse control.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: The Army apparently recruits drifters and escaped convicts.
  • Meaningful Name: Baily Chastain (read: chaste) is the character who suffers the most from the communists (they part him from his mine in Arizona) and shows the most capitalism-oriented attitude in the film.
  • Must Have Caffeine: It's not a Coleman Francis film without coffee.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Griffin beats someone up for reading in a newspaper a report that his wife has become a prostitute.
  • Never Trust a Title: Contrary to what the name "Red Zone Cuba" might suggest, the Bay of Pigs invasion is only a brief episode in the movie, and quickly forgotten after Griffin and crew return to America. The alternate title, Night Train To Mundo Fine, makes a little more sense.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Obviously Cherokee Jack isn't supposed to be an actual Cherokee, but there is still no explanation as to why an airplane pilot in the Arizona desert has a Brooklyn accent.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Chastain. Last we saw him he was locked up in a Cuban P.O.W. camp waiting to be executed by a firing squad, then he shows up again in the United States, alive and well, at the end of the movie.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • At one point while driving, Griffin seems to notice that Cook is freezing in their convertible, and he tries (and fails) to put the top up.
    • The trio initially act nice towards Chastain's wife.
  • Random Events Plot: Griffin meets Landis and Cook on the highway, joins the Army with them, gets captured in Cuba, comes back to the United States and murders a restaurant owner, then tries to go mining for tungsten with Chastain's wife... the only thing tying all of these things together are the characters and their quest to get rich.
  • Re-Cut: According to IMDb, this movie has many alternate cuts, most of which involve shortening or removing certain scenes.
  • Red Scare: Like The Beast of Yucca Flats, this movie takes its share in the then popular wave of commie scare movies of the 50s and 60s. However, other than parting Chastain from his uranium mine in Arizona, Cuba (the Communists) is rather portrayed as a Banana Republic. The focus of the story is on Griffin's unscrupulous acts, though.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin:

    - Cherokee Jack-
  • Scare Chord: Following "He ran all the way to hell..."
  • Sick Captive Scam: How Griffin and his cohorts escape their Cuban cell.
  • The '60s: The film takes place in 1961. It was shot in 1965, so they captured the mood... fairly easily.
  • The Sociopath: Griffin. It was probably unintended — but if it was intended, then he is one of the most disturbingly realistic portrayals of a sociopath ever put to film.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Some scenes are set to upbeat, comical music that doesn't fit the dark tone of the film.
  • Stage Whisper: A downright absurd example. After the sheriff reveals there's a reward of five thousand dollars for Griffin's capture, Cook sharply warns Landis "Griffin'll kill ya!" so he doesn't spill the beans; this is done at normal speaking volume, with the sheriff three feet away and staring right at the pair of them.
  • Stock Footage: Francis added in a montage of marching soldiers, since even he knew that a strike team of four would be insufficient for an invasion of Cuba.
  • Stupid Evil: Griffin seems incapable of not committing a crime. Not even when not doing so would be the more intelligent option. To no one's surprise, this tendency is a contributing factor in his ultimate downfall.
  • The Theme Park Version: The way this movie presents the US Army. Apparently, the entire process of enlisting, completing training, and being deployed on a top secret mission only takes 24 hours.
  • Title Theme Tune: "Night Train to Mundo Fine", except the title of the movie was later changed.
  • Uncertain Doom: We see Chastain's wife open her eyes at the end, but don't know if she actually survives or just held on to that point.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Chastain, the dying soldier, whose fever is magically cured and somehow teleports back to the US.
  • Villain Protagonist: Griffin himself. The entire story is nothing but him committing crime after crime, or just being a Jerkass in general, all while (unconvincingly) insisting that he is totally going to go legit.
  • With Friends Like These...: Griffin frequently assaults his "friends", and they all laugh at each other's misery.
  • Worst Aid:
    • Sure, a cup of water is the perfect cure for gangrene. In the film's defense, the prisoner is dying and giving water would be to ease the pain, not cure him.
    • And don't forget to throw the gunshot victim onto a blanket in the back of your pickup truck before driving over a long series of dirt tracks in the desert.