Film Length: 206 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame
In selecting which title next to review, I looked
at the pile of DVDs that sat on my desk and decided
to pick Fidel. Though nearly 3.5 hours in
length and not even anamorphic, I felt the need
to watch this in order to learn something about
a man I knew very little about. As usual in cases
like these, I walked away thoroughly amazed.
Originally premiering last January on the Showtime
Network, Fidel received critical acclaim.
Based on the books "Guerilla Prince" (Georgie Anne
Geyer) and "Fidel Castro" (Robert E. Quirk), this
is the story of Fidel's political rise in 1949, to
his country's continued economic decline of today.
The film begins in 1949 Havana as we see a young
Fidel cruising the streets with his friends. He is
concerned about the corrupt political climate of
his country, which is under the control of General
Batista. Fidel is also angered by the power of
American corporations that he sees as exploiting
the Cubans. By 1952, Fidel starts organizing an
army, planning the liberation of Cuba. Though
initial attempts end up disastrously, he takes
to the mountains where he engages in guerilla
warfare, slowly drumming up support from the public.
By 1959, Fidel valiantly marches into Santiago
shortly after Batista flees the country.
The film continues showing Fidel's reign through
the 60's, including Cuba embracing communism and
the politically unstable U.S. Bay of Pigs incident.
Through the 80's, with Fidel is still in power,
we see him losing touch with his people as many
take their chance in fleeing by boat to the United
States. Though shot in color, the film often turns
to black and white for short periods of time to
integrate itself with original footage from the
historical moments being represented.
Actor Victor Hugo Martin makes his English language
debut, in a remarkably stunning and convincing
portrayal of Fidel Castro. Through the 3.5 hours
of this film, we watch this actor age 50 years.
It's one of those performances that keep you glued
to the screen.
How is the transfer?
Originally produced for television, Fidel
is presented in full-frame. This will initially
bother widescreen set owners, but trust me, it's
the film itself that is more important. The
transfer also slightly suffers, looking only as
good as broadcast quality. Though colors are
quite vivid, there is a noticeable amount of video
noise present throughout. You never get the sense
that you are watching anything theatrical film quality.
The sound is presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital.
I would have hoped that even a cable network
would prosper from a film like this being heard
in full surround, but alas, it just wasn't meant
to be. Fortunately the soundtrack sounds very
robust, with a nice presence of bass from the
front speakers -- especially in scenes involving
There really isn't much anything of great interest
presented here when you consider what *could* have
First of all, shame on you Artisan for not
providing subtitles for the hearing impaired.
I cannot stress enough how important subtitles
are to home entertainment.
Though the DVD box indicates the inclusion of
John F. Kennedy's Speech on the Cuban Missile
Crisis, do not be fooled into believing (as
I was) that this would be video footage. It is
simply pages of text of the entire speech.
There are also Production Notes and
Cast Biographies included.
None of Showtime's promotional featurettes are
even included here.
For anyone who has ever wondered who Fidel
Castro is, and what made him become the man he
has become, ought to watch this riveting film.
His story of struggled uprising is an amazing
one. The film remains hard-edged, well paced,
and features a stellar cast.
For under $15 online, this is a DVD worth taking
purchase risks on.
Release Date: May 21, 2002