Red Zone Cuba (original title Night Train to Mundo Fine) is one of the most pointless, poorly made, mind numbingly boring pieces of garbage ever put on film. It has no production values, no plot to speak of, no scenes that create excitement, fear, suspense, or humor, and no reason whatsoever for existing. This is a film with no target audience, little hope of making a profit even given its $30,000 budget, and no sign that director/writer/producer/star Coleman Francis had any aspirations for this project beyond finishing it.
You probably have never heard of Coleman Francis, and with good reason. Francis was a third rate actor who snagged minor roles in B-movies and TV during the fifties, then somehow got it into his head that he was capable of directing. Let me make something clear: He was not. He had no business directing films, writing films, appearing in films, or holding any job in the film industry beyond that of theatre usher. I?m not saying that Francis was one of the worst directors ever; I?m saying that he was THE worst director ever. I have seen infinitely better movies made in a week by a group of twelve and thirteen year old Boy Scouts for a merit badge class. Army training films public service announcements from the fifties are on a higher plain of existence than anything that Coleman Francis has ever produced.
Roger Corman will never be considered a great director, but his films were at least good enough to gain cult status. Michael Bey may not have any insights into plot, characterization, or working with actors, but at least he knows how to film good explosions. Ed Wood was hopelessly inept in everything he did, but there was such earnestness to his work, such a cheesy feel and a desire to please that his films have become classics of unintentional comedy. None of this can be said for Coleman Francis. His movies are dead zones of monotony and idiocy that suck all joy from the room and the very life from the viewer. Sitting through one of them is like watching paint dry in slow motion while getting a root canal in the lobby of the DMV.
By now you?ve probably noticed that I?ve yet to say what Red Zone Cuba is about. I must admit that I have been putting it off as long as possible, for my sake and yours. If you?re still reading by this point, Red Zone Cuba is about an escaped convict and two drifters who get conned into joining the Bay of Pigs invasion, which in this film involves about eight people on each side, including a white Fidel Castro. The three are captured, and spend just enough time in a Cuban prison to overhear a fellow inmate talk about his wife and the tungsten mine he owns.
After escaping and returning to the US, they kill an old man for no discernable reason, meet the wife of the guy they left behind in Cuba, and are caught by the authorities just before reaching the tungsten mine. In the film?s only bright spot, Francis?s character is gunned down as he tries to flee. If you have any idea why someone would use this as the plot for a movie, please tell, because I am utterly baffled. Why, in a story that begins and ends with three destitute losers in the American Southwest, did Francis decide to include the invasion of Cuba? This must be one of the most aimless, meandering storylines ever filmed, with nothing holding this string of events together, save for the presence of the three central characters.
So like I said earlier, there?s no real story. There?s also no real acting or dialogue. Francis and his costars are as wooden as cigar store Indians, reciting their handful of lines with no more emotion than an answering machine. At least there?s no baffling narration in this one. Seeing John Carradine?s name in the opening credits gives us brief hope that someone in this disaster will know what they?re doing, but alas, he only appears in the first two minutes. I am somewhat at a loss to explain his presence in this film. I know he needed the money by this point, but how much could he have been paid out of a thirty thousand dollar budget? However much it was, it must have broken the bank, because I can?t see where else the money went. In a move of almost unparalleled cheapness, Francis actually used Nevada as a stand in for Cuba.
So if you haven?t figured it out by now, the whole point I?m trying to make is do not watch this movie under any circumstances. There is absolutely nothing to recommend it. The original cut will scar your very soul, and even the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version will leave you struggling to stay awake. I find the very act of making and showing anything this cretinous so despicable that I can only give it zero stars. The fact that Red Zone Cuba is not the worst film Coleman Francis ever made is less a compliment to the movie than a source of unending shame to the director.