I won’t be seeing the new one, believe me, but today I sat through the old one on DVD.
The major selling point of Che! (1969) is the casting: Omar Sharif is Che and Jack Palance is Castro. So you’re thinking, Oh man, will this ever be hilARious!!
Che! is a workmanlike production burdened with blaring “dramatic” 1970s soundtrack instrumentals that are “bigger” than the scenes they accompany. Jack Palance’s ubiquitous cigar is the only physical trait he and Castro have in common. Shariff as usual only has one facial expression (this time, it’s “earnest”.)
It will remind most viewers of Woody Allen’s Bananas, which came out two years later, and intentionally looks & feels exactly like Che! with the added bonus of being entertaining. Bananas remains a fine spoof of radical chic stupidity, btw, if you have about 90 minutes to kill.
I was looking forward to writing a really fun, scathing MST3 takedown of Che! but it doesn’t even deserve that. I actually fell asleep at one point. Having seen his name on the opening credits, the only thing keeping me awake was that pastime of 60s/70s B-movie buffs around the world: “Sid Haig Watch”. He finally showed up around the 3/4 mark, in the Bolivian sequences. And was one of the best things about the movie.
Which reminds me:
This film’s only redeeming feature is the mini-monologue delivered by the Bolivian peasant who turned Che in, which went, in part:
Ever since your men arrived, my goats have refused to give milk. You frightened my goats. And vultures follow you wherever you go. You reek of death. The only think I want to be free of is men like you…
Oh, and because Che had asthma, Sharif punctuates his delivery with these high pitched gasps that sound like a wimpering puppy. That’s kinda cool.
Anyway, Che! is not exactly a love letter to the idiotic “revolutionary hero.” He’s rightly portrayed at the end as a ruthless turd. Omar Shariff and a bunch of other Muslims think it was “produced by the CIA” and “defames” the great Argentinian jackass.
Roger Ebert wrote at the time:
The amusing thing is that the right wing has mobilized against “Che!” without seeing it. A theater in New York was bombed the other day, and a Chicago letter-writing campaign urges me to denounce this film “glorifying” Guevera. The movie was scheduled to open on Memorial Day, but local vigilantes prevented that with threats of picketing: The opening would be an insult to every veteran, etc. Now that they’ve seen “Che!,” I imagine they’ll start raising money to get it on TV. All this movie inspires toward the Cuban Revolution is excruciating boredom, accompanied by nausea.
Better by far to read Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, by Humberto Fontova.