Score: the Beard 638, would- be as­sas­sins 0

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

IT’S hard to say which is most alarm­ing: that peo­ple tried to kill Cuban dic­ta­tor Fidel Cas­tro 638 times or that they failed to kill Cas­tro 638 times.

The fig­ure is an es­ti­mate by Cuban in­tel­li­gence and there’s no way of ver­i­fy­ing it.

How­ever, no one de­nies that there have been nu­mer­ous and creative at­tempts to knock off the Beard since he rose to power 50 years ago.

US gov­ern­ment at­tempts hit a peak in the 1960s af­ter the Bay of Pigs fi­asco, but many of the ideas here would sit com­fort­ably in an episode of Get Smart . There are times in this en­ter­tain­ing and some­times dis­turb­ing Bri­tish Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary when you can al­most hear Maxwell Smart say: ‘‘ Not the old ex­plod­ing mol­lusc trick!’’

That par­tic­u­lar idea, to pack a seashell full of high ex­plo­sives and blow up Cas­tro as he in­dulged his pas­sion for scuba div­ing, failed when US spooks couldn’t find a mol­lusc large enough to pro­vide a suf­fi­ciently big bang.

This was de­spite ex­ten­sive re­search that ap­par­ently in­volved buy­ing two books on the sub­ject. Other aborted plans in­cluded a con­tam­i­nated hand­ker­chief, an ex­plod­ing ci­gar and a poi­son pen sy­ringe.

One that al­most suc­ceeded was a plan to re­cruit an ex-lover to poi­son Cas­tro with pills con­tain­ing bot­u­lism. Un­for­tu­nately, the would-be mur­derer con­cealed them in a jar of cold cream and they dis­solved be­fore she had a chance to use them.

Yet her fail­ure was only one among many. Every­one from old school­friends to the CIA and the mafia have

Sur­vivor: An el­derly Fidel Cas­tro, who stepped down as pres­i­dent this year had a crack but some­how failed to hit their mark. At one stage, an as­sas­si­na­tion team had a bazooka ready to blow Cas­tro away but failed to pull the trig­ger be­cause they could not find a way of aim­ing the weapon without giv­ing away their pres­ence.

All of which would be quite hu­mor­ous if it weren’t for the se­ri­ous side of this film and its mes­sage about the US ad­min­is­tra­tion’s am­biva­lence to­wards some brands of ter­ror­ism on its home patch.

Cas­tro-hat­ing Cuban ex­iles pro­vided the main im­pe­tus for the cam­paign to kill the Cuban leader from the ’ 70s on­wards and the doc­u­men­tary raises sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions about their meth­ods, in­clud­ing their sus­pected in­volve­ment with the de­struc­tion of a Cuban air­liner in 1976.

The film in­ter­views sev­eral hard­line ex­iles whose ex­treme ha­tred of Cas­tro ap­par­ently fu­elled their be­lief that all means of de­pos­ing him were jus­ti­fied. They in­clude con­victed ter­ror­ist Or­lando Bosch, con­tro­ver­sially re­leased from prison and granted US res­i­dency by Ge­orge Bush Sr at the re­quest of his son Jeb.

Steve Creedy

Twelve hours of Kylie Kwong? Look, I think she’s lovely, but a whole day of episodes could wear out any­one’s wel­come. I guess one could dip in and out dur­ing the course of the day and make it a yum cha rather than a sit-down ban­quet. No pro­fan­ity here; af­ter all, this is the Hall­mark chan­nel, though pro­fan­i­ties would be the first things to leave my lips if what hap­pened to the di­vorc­ing cou­ple here hap­pened to me. So what four-let­ter thing lurks be­hind the pretty sets and im­pos­si­bly de­cent di­vorc­ing peo­ple? The damn di­vorce lawyers fall for each other. The ef­fron­tery! Th­ese hard­work­ing foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tors get a rough ride, turn­ing up when an­other pro­gram fails, spending time in the vault, then be­ing whipped out dur­ing sum­mer in glar­ing dou­ble episodes. Some day I’d like a tele­vi­sion ex­ec­u­tive to ex­plain to me ex­actly how this pro­motes viewer loy­alty. In any case, tonight’s episodes are from the mid­dle of the 2006 de­but sea­son. In the first, a deadly fun­gus is re­leased when boy ge­nius Zach ( Eric Mil­le­gan, pic­tured) cuts into the bones of a body found in a fall­out shel­ter. In a top­i­cal touch, this causes the team to be quar­an­tined to­gether for Christ­mas. In the sec­ond episode they are at large again, on the case of a woman who has had loads of work done on her face. In the US? Who would have thought?

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