Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Based on Marvin Albert’s paperback original MIAMI MAYHEM, Richard Breen’s screenplay puts private eye Rome (Frank Sinatra) on a Florida houseboat, where he’s pretty laidback about the cases he takes. Sounds a lot like John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, and I was surprised to learn Albert created Tony Rome four years before the first McGee novel was published.
A favor for his old partner (Bob Wilke, who lost that memorable knife fight with James Coburn in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) embroils Rome in a search for a missing brooch that fell off — or was taken from — its owner, Diana Pines (LOLITA's Sue Lyon), during a night that ended with her drunk and unconscious in a hotel room.
Mysterious strangers with chloroform also want the brooch, and so does an unknown gunman who shoots Wilke dead. More bodies fall and so do some of the red herrings, who include Diana’s wealthy father (PSYCHO's Simon Oakland), her stepmother (Gena Rowlands), her real mother (Jeanne Cooper), and her hotsy-totsy friend Ann Archer (Jill St. John).
Sinatra, who played cops or dicks in four of his last five movies (including the sequel, LADY IN CEMENT), plays it mostly straight in this somewhat square 1940s throwback to movies where private eyes talked tough, drank liquor, smoked too much, and caught passes thrown by gorgeous dames. He has good chemistry with both the knee-weakening St. John and Richard Conte (THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS) as Rome’s ally on the Miami Beach police force. Gordon Douglas directs with not style exactly, but he kept the cameras rolling in the right direction and got Frank off the set by 5:00 pm. Shooting in the Sunshine State and away from the Fox lot helps with the visuals.