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Here's something you don't see every day. A Pro-Castro exploitation picture from B-movie workhorse Edward L. Cahn partially filmed on location in Cuba in 1959 before the infamous Bay of Pigs incident in April 1961 which marked the end of a neutral Cuba-U.S. relationship. Pier 5, Havana (1959) may not merit any other historical importance and among the many low-budget programmers cranked out by Cahn (he made six other films in 1959), it isn't even one of his best. Yet, the movie is worth a look for genre enthusiasts because of the presence of Cameron Mitchell, cult actress Allison Hayes (Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman , The Hypnotic Eye ) and a plot twist cribbed from Carol Reed's The Third Man .
Part espionage drama, part action-adventure, Pier 5, Havana opens with Steve Daggett (Mitchell) traveling to Havana to investigate the disappearance of his friend Hank (Logan Field), who mysteriously vanished during the Cuban revolt (stock footage of Castro and his rebel forces and Batista's defeated regime are integrated into the narrative for authenticity). While his every move in Havana is monitored by local police Lt. Garcia (Michael Granger), Daggett plays detective, following false leads and traps laid for him by an underground organization that may be responsible for Hank's disappearance. Complicating the case is Monica (Hayes), Hank's wife and Daggett's former girlfriend, who may or may not be hiding information. Hank's reappearance in the middle of the story like the missing Harry Lime in The Third Man leads to the discovery that he was forced to convert transport planes into lethal bombers to be used for attack by Batista forces on Fidel Castro's headquarters. This plot detail is particularly intriguing in light of the fact that Batista was a U.S. backed dictator and Castro was considered a threat to U.S. owned business interests in Cuba.
Pier 5, Havana is not a political thriller by any stretch of the imagination, however, and more closely resembles a second rate Mike Hammer imitation with Daggett given to pulp fiction observations like "It was too quiet. All I could see was a bunch of fish and boats. Something about the set up began to smell bad to me and it wasn't the fish." The film also lacks the energy and fast pacing of other better Cahn efforts such as Guns, Girls and Gangsters  or It! The Terror from Beyond Space , but for a 67 minute second feature it has its moments.
Cameron Mitchell, who had once been an A-list actor in Hollywood during the fifties appearing in such prestige pictures as Death of a Salesman , How to Marry a Millionaire , and Carousel , began his descent into a predominant B-movie career with Pier 5, Havana and Cahn's Inside the Mafia (made the same year). While his Hollywood films were probably more distinguished in terms of quality, noted directors and famous co-stars, Cameron's post-fifties films are more famous among film buffs for such international cult titles as Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace , the spaghetti Western Minnesota Clay  and Screamers [1979, aka Island of Mutations].
As for Edward L. Cahn, his next pit stop along the B-movie express lane was The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959). He would knock off another twenty four features before his death in 1963, amassing a filmography of 125 movies in all and that doesn't include Cahn's work as an editor and producer.
Producer: Robert E. Kent
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Screenplay: James B. Gordon; Joseph Hoffman (story)
Cinematography: Maury Gertsman
Art Direction: William Glasgow
Music: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cast: Cameron Mitchell (Steve Daggett), Allison Hayes (Monica Gray), Eduardo Noriega (Fernando Ricardo), Michael Granger (Police Lt. Garcia), Logan Field (Hank Miller), Nestor Paiva (Juan Lopez), Otto Waldis (Gustave Schluss), Paul Fierro (Police sergeant)
by Jeff Stafford