(1960)4Lucia BozzolaOne of British director Carol Reed's lesser-known films -- due in part to its unavailability on video -- Our Man in Havana (1960) nevertheless sports the dry wit, intrigue, and visual beauty that distinguished his most famous work. Scripted, like The Third Man (1949), by Graham Greene from his own novel, Our Man in Havana keenly satirizes the British espionage system, awash in absurd bureaucracy and even more absurd code names, as Alec Guinness evocatively named Havana vacuum cleaner salesman Wormold is enlisted by Noel Coward's hysterically obvious spook to go undercover. Reed, Greene, Guinness, and an international cast, including Ernie Kovacs as a corrupt Cuban police chief, mine humor out of Guinness' various ruses, including a judicious use of his vacuum designs to bilk the Brits for all they're worth. The tone turns jarringly dark once events force Guinness to tap his inner 007, but Reed manages to pull off the film with aplomb, assisted by the fascinating backdrop of Havana itself shot on-location (despite the political instability) in luminous widescreen black-and-white. Rather than greeted as a return to form for Reed, however, Our Man in Havana's poor reception only compounded his late-'50s decline.