Che! 1969 ***

One for the so-bad-its-good file, Richard Fleisher’s 1969 drama about Che Guevara (Omar Sharif) and his tortuous friendship with Fiedel Castro (Jack Palance, yes, really, Jack Palance) thoroughly deserves its reputation of a terrible film, but it does have considerable entertainment value. The presumable intent was to glorify Che and ridicule Castro, but the results are far too silly to have any political power. Sharif glowers like a fashion model and struggles to deal with long speeches about the nature of socialism, while Palance gives an astonishing performance as Castro. The Cuban leader famously survives several assassination attempts, of which Palance’s characterisation could be considered to be one. With huge spectacles, rolling eyes and a half-chewed cigar in his mouth, Palance gives one of the most memorable performances of his career, wildly out of his depth but lashing out at all around him. As a film, Che! is a bust, but as a demonstration of how political propaganda can backfire, it’s an interesting film politically in terms of its failure.


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