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Frank Sinatra made two detective films in which he played the hip,
Miami Beach private-eye Tony Rome.
Lady in Cement was filmed in the mid 60s when Miami Beach still had that hip-cool reputation. The movie takes place in the now gone Jilly's Nightclub which belong to Frank's pal, Jilly Rizzo. Other neat spots are the old mansion (now gone) of Panama dictator General Trijullio, the Fontenbleau Hotel and houseboat row(also a memory).
Dan Blocker steals the show as a 2nd rate hood named Bronski. Richard Conte gives his typical good performance, and Old Blue eyes shines in this type of hipster role. The biggest scene stealer is the ultra hot Raquel Welch. Raquel was in her prime and her swimming pool scene is steaming. The funny thing is that this bombshell could act. Look for South Florida "cult" legend Chris Robinson in a minor part as a gay funeral home director.....he's fantastic in his 3 minute part.
Sinatra once again plays the Miami based private eye he originated in
Rome" a year earlier. He was pretty effective the first time around, but
that one didn't have a script as silly as the one he has to contend with
here. Of course, scripts never meant much to Frankie, anyway. If the
Chairman of the Board WAS bored, or just tired, he'd rip a few pages out
the script to keep things moving. When the movie was something like "Lady
in Cement," it probably didn't matter, anyway. Besides, with a more
stunning than ever Raquel Welch in the cast, I mean, who really
Wherever Ol' Blue Eyes went, his entourage of goons and sycophants were sure to follow, and one such unfortunate, Pat Henry, a comedian of little talent, is along for the ride as Frank's buddy. Richard Conte, the fine actor from such interesting film noirs as "The Blue Gardenia" and "Cry of the City," shows up, as he often did in Sinatra films ("Ocean's 11," "Assault on a Queen") and provides the mostly mediocre film with his usual competence. The best performance, however, belongs to TV's "Hoss" (Dan Blocker).
Follow-up to 1967's "Tony Rome" is saddled with a tired plot concerning a murdered blonde in Florida and the investigation led by detective Frank Sinatra. Movie gets a much-needed shot in the arm from sexy Raquel Welch as a wealthy woman indirectly involved (she makes her entrance emerging from a swimming pool--bikini clad of course!). Sinatra himself looks rather weary and impatient, tossing off jaded quips without any subtlety, but there are two great supporting performances: Dan Blocker as a shady character fond of twisting heads around and Lainie Kazan as a go-go girl (she has just one smoky sequence, and it's a killer). Otherwise, pretty rote. **1/2 from ****
As far as a vintage detective thriller, "Lady in Cement" has enough wit
and charm to make it memorable. It takes itself just seriously enough
to get the job done. Sinatra's second turn as Rome doesn't quite have
the bite of the first film but it's clear he's enjoying himself. The
weary cynicism of Rome suits him well. The late Dan Blocker's
delightful as Gronsky. The recent DVD reissue looks sharp and has
plenty of trailers but is a bit light on extras.
Director Gordon Douglas ("In Like Flint") keeps the action moving and Raquel Welch looks terrific. Her first appearance is emerging from a swimming pool. I was a bit surprised to see nudity in a mainstream Hollywood feature in 1968 but, well, this was the late 60's after all.
It's unfortunate that the genre of Privae Eye/Caper films is dead. Comtempary flicks of this ilk are vapid and weak compared to this flick and the reason is that the new stuff lacks in "coolness". Sinatra is 'cool'. Dan Blocker, Raquel Welch and Lainie Kazan are real actors not tabloid/celebrates making movies between their appearances on awards shows and Saturday Night Live. The dialog is hip and snappy. Their is no political correctness to be found. There is only the hardcore, survival instincts of people living on the underside of society. The set designs are intense in its detail and the world that is created by this filmmaker is believable despite its garishness. The array of different personalities have not be seen since Gordon Parks' Shaft and the rest of the Black Exploitation films. The person that has come close in recent history has been David Mamet (Heist, House of Games) and the adaptation of James McElroy's novel.
To begin with, though it didn't do well at the box-office and is
clearly inferior to its predecessor, this isn't that bad a sequel to
TONY ROME (1967). The mystery this time around is more clear-cut
because it starts off with a body (the titular figure); eventually, the
hero (once again played by Frank Sinatra) himself is incriminated –
leading to him falling out with his cop friend Richard Conte!
The female roles aren't as effective, however: Lainie Kazan makes a good impression as a go-go dancer but, despite her high billing, is restricted to just one sequence!; as for leading lady Raquel Welch, she's okay but no match for Jill St. John from the original (the script relies a bit too much on Welch's glamorous presence alone to carry the role) – and there isn't even that much chemistry between her and Sinatra! With this in mind, the star strikes up an unlikely alliance throughout with beefy and imposing Dan Blocker (from the Western TV series "Bonanza") – which gives a humorous vein to the generally hard-boiled proceedings and immediately reminds one of the Philip Marlowe/Moose Malloy partnership in MURDER, MY SWEET aka FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1944).
Again, most of the suspects in the case are unsavory characters – from former mobsters (now ostensibly leading a respectable life) to homosexuals (remnants perhaps from Sinatra's previous collaboration with director Douglas, THE DETECTIVE ). Incidentally, while the mystery in the original led to an unexpected revelation, the clues here point to either Welch or Blocker but – predictably – the identity of the real culprit is much more obvious; for what it's worth, the script was co-written by Marvin H. Albert, who created the Tony Rome character in the first place on the written page!
Miami – in all its aspects – still acts as an alluring yet dangerous backdrop to the sex and violence going on; however, Rome even gets to fight the inhabitants of the ocean as a number of sharks are attracted to the 'lady in cement' in the opening sequence! Similarly, the bouncy score supplied by Hugo Montenegro emerges to be a definite plus. One final thing: apparently, Joe E. Lewis – the singer-turned-comedian played by none other than Sinatra in THE JOKER IS WILD (1957) – puts in an appearance here as himself!
The Lady in Cement is a veritable course on social anthropology of the late 60's. The writing, not the acting, is at center stage. Did I say - pure camp! Prepare to be offended if you are female or gay. Broad and dame are standard terms and gay baiting and bashing are represented for what they were in the day (camp- wise). Most of the lines are tossed off although there are wonderful performances by a very few outstanding character actors. The action scenes are mundane but it is fun to see Dan Blocker play a tough guy who likes bashing toughs. And Lanie Kazan and Racquel Welsh are at the voluptuous peak of their careers. Amazing to note they were both 28 years old and Mr. Sinatra was 53. The musical score, wait . . . was there a score? Well, you get the point. Watch it with friends who want a good laugh. it's full of them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Arguably more entertaining than predecessor TONY ROME...if only for the oddball casting (Raquel Welch, Richard Deacon, Lainie Kazan, Dan Blocker...as Waldo Gronsky!). After a pretty creepy opening scene, Frank Sinatra is hired to find some missing jewels and runs into mafioso Martin Gabel and his goons. Sinatra is dynamite and has a lot of chemistry with Welch. Gabel is certainly the most unlikely & shortest mafia don imaginable. Directed, with his usual lack of style, by Gordon Douglas but highlighted by a priceless Hugo Montenegro score. It's a lot of fun and does manage to capture Sinatra at his most swinging. He lives on a boat, drive a convertible, is afraid of no one and is very mouthy. Longtime Sinatra crony Richard Conte (taking things very seriously) returns as the crusty yet benign Miami cop who helps Rome out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
LADY IN CEMENT (1968) ** Frank Sinatra, Raquel Welch, Dan Blocker, Richard Conte, Martin Gabel, Lainie Kazan, Christine Todd. Sinatra reprises his Tony Rome gumshoe character in this other-wise routine detective yarn as he comes across the titular character (Todd), an ehtereal beautiful blonde at the bottom of the sea, while scuba-diving off the coast of sunny Florida, where he finds himself embroiled with the mob, the cops, a love interest in the comely form of heiress Welch - at her most bodacious, and the formidable Blocker as his client Waldo Gronsky, who may or may not have killed her. The on-location vibes and the honeys -including the buxom (and svelte!) Kazan, as well as a few cameos (i.e. Richard Deacon - "DICK VAN DYKE SHOW"'s Mel Cooley - as a beatnik artist! and BS Pully - the original Big Jules from Broadway's GUYS & DOLLS - as a peep show attendee) liven things up in this stagnant slice of pulp fiction.(DIR: Gordon Douglas)
While playing tag with a pair of sharks Frank Sinatra as Tony Rome
discovers the body of a woman with cement overshoes at the bottom of
the ocean. As he says it was obvious someone did not want this body to
be discovered. Which begins the tale of Sinatra's second Tony Rome film
Lady In Cement.
Sinatra as Rome is still living the good life on his boat and betting whatever he does earn on horses. He still has a good in with the Miami Police in the person of Richard Conte as Lieutenant Santini, but the in only goes so far as we see when Sinatra is framed for a murder and Conte has to go after his good friend. Of course in a rather long chase sequence toward the end of the film Frank does get the better of Conte and half the Miami PD.
In order to appreciate Lady In Cement and Tony Rome you have to really dig Sinatra's whole hipster, Rat Pack shtick from the times. If you don't both films will leave you cold. But Lady In Cement was far worse in that Frank attacked the nascent gay liberation movement with a few well chosen imitation lisps mocking the gay characters in the film. After the Stonewall Rebellion a lot of establishment figures even in the entertainment world mocked the movement and Frank Sinatra was no exception. Interesting because in The Detective Sinatra played a detective who got a coerced confession of a gay suspect in the murder of a gay man and then when evidence showed New York had executed the wrong man took it upon himself to get justice applied rightly.
A few in jokes for wannabe swingers abound in Lady In Cement, the strip club where the deceased woman worked was called Jilly's after Sinatra favorite eatery in New York. And at one point Frank remarks to leading lady Raquel Welch that he 'once knew a broad who collected bull fighters' a reference to former Mrs. Sinatra, Ava Gardner. I've got to wonder what Ava must have thought of that.
Even more important how did Richard Deacon who was a closeted gay man and had a small part in the film must have felt about some of Sinatra's lines in the script?
Still the smarmy lisps of mockery really have made Lady In Cement not wear well over the years. Definitely for die-hard Sinatra fans.
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