Havana (1990)

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Released 13-Jun-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Web Links
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 138:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sydney Pollack

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Robert Redford
Lena Olin
Alan Arkin
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Dave Grusin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, end titles over beach scene

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Havana is set in Cuba in December 1958, in the last days prior to the coup where Fidel Castro overturned the government. There is palpable tension in the air and big fortunes could be made or lost overnight. Professional card player Jack Weil (Robert Redford) arrives in search of the ultimate card game. Every card game he has ever played has been but preparation for the one he is anticipating will happen here - a game involving high stakes and no limits amongst people who are willing to risk everything on the eve of a revolution.

    On the ferry to Havana Jack meets Roberta ("Bobby") Duran (Lena Olin) and they are both strongly attracted to one another. After an incident involving Jack making a quick buck by claiming to own a gun found during a ship search, Bobby puts forward a proposition to Jack: if he is willing to switch cars with her upon landing she will pay him a huge sum of money.

    Jack accepts, reluctantly, and searches Bobby's car to find out what is being smuggled. He easily locates some two-way radios hidden within a car door. On landing, we see the police tailing Bobby and wondering why she's driving a different car. Jack manages to get past customs with a little bit of difficulty.

    Jack soon discovers that Bobby is married to one of the wealthiest individuals in Cuba - Arturo (Raul Julia) - who is well-known as a revolutionary but is supposedly "untouchable" due to his wealth. When Arturo is captured by the police and reportedly killed, Bobby is arrested and tortured. Jack manages to somehow free her and falls in love with her, but she continues to support the revolution bringing her and Jack into mortal danger.

    What will happen to Jack and Bobby? Will Jack have to choose between his love for Bobby and his commitment to the upcoming card game?

    This is a film directed by Sydney Pollack and seems like an uncomfortable cross between the languid pace of his older films like The Way We Were and Out of Africa and the newer thrillers like The Firm and Random Hearts. It is too slow to really capture the attention of action freaks and the central characters are not convincing enough for it to work as a love drama. I was glad when the film was over.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 but unfortunately with no 16x9 enhancement.

    There are no real issues with the video transfer, but nothing special either. Sharpness and shadow detail are acceptable but not striking. The colour balance is slightly muted but consistent with films of around the same age. Many of the outdoor scenes seem slightly yellow-tinged.

    Fortunately, the film source seems relatively clean and free of grain. I did not detect any annoying instances of MPEG artefacts.

   This disc features a number of subtitle tracks, none of which I engaged.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL) and the layer change occurs at 66:24 in Chapter 12 right in the middle of a scene, so it is fairly noticeable - but at least it does not break up any dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are no less than five audio tracks on this disc: an English audio track remastered into Dolby Digital 5.1 at the bitrate of 384 Kb/s, and French, German, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround tracks at 192 Kb/s. I listened to the English audio track.

    The audio transfer seems to be somewhat like the film: it tries hard, but turns out to be patchy, insubstantial and unconvincing.

    The track seems badly equalised - with rolled-off high and low ends and dialogue levels that fluctuate throughout the film.

    I was looking forward to the original music score by Dave Grusin (who also composed the score for some of Sydney Pollack's other films such as The Firm and Random Hearts). Unfortunately, the low quality of the audio transfer pretty much robbed the vitality of the music.

    Some attempt has been made to use the surround speakers - for example the traffic noises and PA announcements in Chapter 5 (around 12-18 minutes into the film) are directed to both front and rear speakers creating a nice enveloping effect. The bomb from the plane around 94:39 as well as the plane engine are also nicely distributed around the surround speakers.

    The subwoofer is very rarely utilised, if at all, and on my system the subwoofer actually switched off about three quarters into the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    I get the feeling that the producers of this DVD searched high and low for extras but didn't come up with much. What we do get is pleasing but not very substantial.


    The menus are static and in 1.33:1.

Featurette (5:45)

    This is a short "making-of" featurette presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0. It features brief extracts of the film (in pan & scan), behind the scenes footage, and interviews with Sydney Pollack (director), Lena Olin ("Bobby"), Alan Arkin ("Joe Volpi"), Terry March (Production Designer), Bernie Pollack (Costume Designer), and Thomas Milian ("Menocal"). I was intrigued to discover that they essentially built a replica of a Havana street scene from the 1950s in a disused air force base at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Some of the scenes in this featurette seem to be somewhat pixelated.

Production Notes

    This is a set of 6 stills containing a mini-essay about the film.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    This features a set of stills containing brief biographies and filmographies for the following:

Theatrical Trailer (3:19)

    This is also presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0. The transfer for this is rather soft and blurry.

Web Links

    This contains two image and an HTML file. When opened with a browser, this gives you a pretty basic web page containing a link to the Universal Studios Home Video page.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can tell, both Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this title have identical content apart from trifling details such as foreign language tracks, and subtitle tracks. Therefore I would say both versions are about equal, apart from NTSC/PAL formatting and PAL speedup.


    Despite featuring Robert Redford and the directorial talent of Sydney Pollack, Havana is a pretty disappointing film presented on a so-so DVD. The video transfer is non-16x9 enhanced and the audio transfer is below average. The extras are not really all that exciting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, July 16, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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