Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Lady In Cement

Old Blue Eyes’ sequel to TONY ROME hits many of the same beats, including an opening title sequence of Tony on his yacht, a script by Marvin H. Albert (who created the character in his novels), and a raven-haired leading lady (Raquel Welch in for Jill St. John). But LADY IN CEMENT isn’t exactly the same film. After all, Frank Sinatra didn’t fight a school of sharks in TONY ROME.

Sharks aren’t all Rome finds on his underwater search for sunken treasure. He also discovers the titular blonde, naked, feet wrapped in a concrete block, and a knife wound in her back. Rome reports the corpse to his cop pal Santini (Richard Conte, also returning from TONY ROME), but that isn’t the end of it. A menacing giant in a too-tight suit named Waldo Gronsky (Dan Blocker, seen watching BONANZA on TV in one shot) hires Rome to track down his missing lady friend. I wonder if the two women are connected.

LADY IN CEMENT takes itself less seriously than TONY ROME did, and the latter film wasn’t heavy drama. Sinatra’s wisecracks are pretty good (Albert was a terrific crime novelist), though most of the humor generates from Blocker, who has nice timing and knows how to use his size to great effect. Director Gordon Douglas (who worked with Frank on THE DETECTIVE and TONY ROME) shot the film in Miami Beach, but plods through it, failing to get the most out of his locations or his star. Sinatra was, of course, a fine actor when he wanted to be, but he didn’t want it as often as his fans wished.

The film’s portrayal of gay characters is typical for the era — uncomplimentary and mocking. What makes it worthy of note is Sinatra’s previous film, THE DETECTIVE, which was considered progressive in 1968 in its views of homosexuals. So it’s somewhat surprising to see Douglas and Sinatra take a step backwards in this regard.


Thomas T. Sueyres said...

Funny, I watched this last night and came away with the same impression. To add insult to injury, I felt that Welch was badly miscast. She was bright, peppy and in perfect health and she was supposed to be a shiftless, alcoholic loser. Also, it was kind of painful watching Sinatra, out of shape, getting old and with an outdated image, causing all the young girls to swoon.

Bill O said...

About his views on homosexuality, Sinatra was on the Tonight Show plugging ASSAULT ON A QUEEN. Asked to explain the title, he said "We go and beat up a ***".

Marty McKee said...

Well. That ain't cool.

Bill O said...

Dan Blocker was going to do Altman's Long Goodbye, in Sterling Hayden's role. The movie's dedicated to him.