Cuban Rebel Girls

CUBAN REBEL GIRLS occupies a footnote in movie history as Errol Flynn’s final movie, debuting in New York City for on Christmas Day, 1959, a little more than two months after Flynn’s death, worn out by his adventurous life at the age of 50. Almost every mention of this bare-bones 68-minute stinker includes the word sad at some point, and it certainly is pathetic in almost every respect save perhaps one: an essential audacity, part and parcel of the its legendary star’s rascal appeal. So, because we’re a Flynn fan, we’ll allow it at least a salute (in the form of a raised glass of whatever firewater is handy) to the spirit of rebellion, even if reeks ¡Aycaramba! in normal elements like acting, writing, direction, casting, photography, editing…

Flynn, haggard, puffy and tired, plays himself, posing as a Hearst correspondent, reporting on the 1958 Castro revolution that toppled Cuban dictator Batista. While covering some action and later the victory parade in Havana, he encounters two American girls who’ve brought guns into the country to aid the rebels and then end up fighting as guerrillas.

Also shown as Assault Of The Rebel Girls (it doesn’t help), it was born of several intentions, variously financial, cheesy, convenient, romantic and ideological. Flynn had been living in Cuba, and had become enamored of the rebel cause, which seemed a natural for a quick adventure pic done on a budget, and grabbing some real footage to splice into the story. He also coincidentally needed a tax break. Errol came up with the story, wrote the script and acted in a few scenes (absent any of his old verve), while Barry Mahon produced & directed: he was a WW2 air ace who’d become Flynn’s private pilot. Generously (and unwisely) he then cast his 17-year-old girlfriend, Beverly Aadland, as one of the rebel girls, with the other main dame played by one Jackie Jackler. Neither could act their way out of an elevator. The action scenes are lame, the dialogue poor, pretty much everything is capital-L-Lousy. Mercifully, Flynn missed the bad reviews and poor receipts (it grossed around $100,000). *What is of some interest (beyond wondering what the hell he saw in the inanimate Aadland) is some footage of Castro and Che Guevara, who were being celebrated for toppling the corrupt and brutal Batista. Flynn’s natural impulses toward rebellion and against authority saw something in the underdog victory (he wasn’t alone) and how many actors can you recall putting their own face on the line (even if it was in a turkey like this) to support a revolution? The movie ends with the star offering “Well… I guess this about winds up another stage in the fight to rid Latin America of tyrants, dictators. But the spirit started by this handful of wonderful rebels is spreading and growing stronger every day. And to all you men and women fighting for political freedom and your own beliefs everywhere – I wish you good luck.”

* Aadland’s film career went dead-stop; a rocky life ended in 2010 at age 67. Drinking buddy- turned filmmaker Barry Mahon went on to direct dozens of exploitation pictures, outfitted with hilarious titles: we urge you upon his credit list at the Internet Movie Database: laughs await.

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