CASABLANCA THE SERIES
FOUR OUT OF FIVE
THE CASHIER AND THE BELLY DANCER
AIRDATE: AUGUST 27, 1983
We've taken a few months off in terms of broadcast of Casablanca: The Series, and you'd think they'd have taken the time to retool and restructure the program.
Far be it for me to show professional how it should be done, but The Cashier and the Belly Dancer makes things worse, with a story that is so nonsensical that Casablanca's few remaining viewers would have thrown their hands up in the air to change the channel.
Things are eerily quiet at Rick's Café Americain, thanks to Senorita Ynez, the exotic and erotic belly dancer*. She excites all the men, including Major Strasser (Patrick Horgan) and the cafe's young cashier, Claude. This doesn't sit well with Claude's wife Babette, who suspects he's having an affair with Ynez.
Ynez, as it turns out, is an old acquaintance of Rick's, whom he knows as Queenie. She was a partisan in Spain, a former ballet dancer who helped Rick escape the Fascists. She is now travelling throughout the world, entertaining men and working for the Underground. Unbeknown to Babette and Rick, Claude is working with the Underground too. He and the other Underground operatives are going to steal the gold of the Bank of Morocco that was taken by the Nazis from the Queen of Holland. As part of the plan, Claude and his fellow travelers have been digging a tunnel from Ynez's dressing room at the Blue Parrot, with her providing cover (in a roundabout way).
Strasser suspects Rick is up to something when gold bars Ynez gave him for payment are found; he orders Captain Renault (Hector Elizondo) to raid the café (making this about what, the third raid on the joint...). Babette for her part suspects Claude has been unfaithful and a fight breaks out. She is injured and Renault orders Claude arrested for three days. Bad timing as they are about to raid the bank.
Things go from bad to worse as the coordinates are located by the Nazis, and Strasser orders the bank to open in the hopes of catching the culprits red-handed. Claude has by this time be released (I think either as a trap or through Rick's influence). Ynez is in danger, and things become more convoluted when Babette manages to sneak past Ynez's large guard to confront her, only to come across the tunnel and Claude. Rick comes to warn them and help them escape as the banker constantly fumbles and bumbles to get any door open. When he gets to the vault door itself, the banker simply can't open it. A bored Strasser orders the men to leave, despite the fierce opposition of his aide Lieutenant Heinz (Kai Wulff).
As Renault and Rick discuss the matter while walking near the bank, they see the banker. He tells Renault, quietly, "Vive la France", and Renault can only wonder what he means by this.
It was at this point that I pretty much accepted that Casablanca, despite itself, really could make things worse for itself. Yes, The Cashier and the Belly Dancer was bad, but worse, it was hopelessly predictable. I don't know whether it was the actor himself or his direction, but the way he kept bumbling and fumbling I figured the guy was on the Resistance's side. All well and good, but then it raises the question as to why the Resistance went through all these hoops to get at the gold when they could have found an easier way.
Also, how was Babette able to get past Ynez's guard when no one else could?
We also have some really dreadful moments. Every time Babette was on screen, you wondered why she had to be almost hysterical. Claude did well but couldn't he be a less bit clumsy when dealing with his wife? I kept thinking how dumb she was. I also thought that in Casablanca, the Germans really did nothing but go clubbing. Not much of a threat.
The Belly Dancer of the title oddly was not a major part of the story. She was a plot device but not an integral part. She could have been anyone really and her connection with Rick wasn't all that important to the story (apart from bringing the gold into the Café).
I know that by now, Casablanca was dead, but somehow The Cashier and the Belly Dancer was bad even for this series. At least the audience can rest easy that this is almost over.
*IMDB has no names for the actors and I didn't write them down. Even they didn't care enough...
Five Out of Five: Divorce Casablanca Style