Tony Rome & Lady in Cement (Fox) (BLU RAY) original release Nov 10,1967 and November 20,1968 respectively. Blu Ray. Region Free. August 16,2016. Twilight Time. (color) Rated M (now PG). 203 MINUTES. $29.95. Limited to 3,000 print run.
I must admit that I am not a person who is blown away by Frank Sinatra. I know it is nearly blasphemous for anyone who lives next to Hoboken, NJ (Ol’ Blue Eyes birthplace) to admit this. There was always something about him that I just found off putting.
However, as I have gotten older, I am discovering what an amazing natural actor. His performance in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (U.A., October 24,1962) is superb, and he holds his own in this classic political thriller. Sinatra also shows strong acting chops and his own strong persona works in his favor in these two Tony Rome stories, as well as the unrelated THE DETECTIVE (20th Century Fox, May 28,1968), not included in this release. The three films were released previously in nice but frill free DVDs from Fox.
Sinatra had a certain no-nonsense style and weariness when he played detectives, ending with THE FIRST DEADLY SIN (Filmways, October 3,1980), which was also his final starring role in a film. He turned down the role of Dirty Harry due to fibromatosis crippling his hand. It’s interesting to think of how he might have played the part. Another bit of trivia: thee was a sequel written to THE DETECTIVE written by its author Richard Thorp in 1979. It was called NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (W.W. Norton & Co.,1979). Sinatra turned down the idea of the sequel when it was broached to him. It was finally made in 1988 as a film starring Bruce Willis (who had an uncredited bit in THE FIRST DEADLY SIN) called DIE HARD (Fox, July 20,1988).
• Now TWILIGHT TIME has given TONY ROME and LADY IN CEMENT a marvelous 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 single disc Blu Ray release.
• Tony Rome is an ex Miami cop who has seen it all. He now spends as much time as he can on his boat, making money by doing private detective work. His ex-partner Ralph (Robert J. Wilke,an actor who was best known for appearing in westerns, having appeared in films since 1936.He was one of the outlaws from HIGH NOON ( U.A. July 24,1952)) asks Rome to escort a young woman, Diana Pines (Sue Lyons ,the original LOLITA(MGM,June 13,1962) home after she was left passed out in a hotel room.
Her father, Rudolph Kostleman (Simon Oakland, best known as Vincenzo, the boss of Kolchak from T.V.’s THE NIGHT STALKER (ABC, January11,1972) is a powerful rich man who is worried about his daughter. She has been acting strangely of late, and he hires Rome to find out why. Diana and her stepmom Rita (Gena Rowlands, soon to win a well-deserved Oscar nom for her star turn in A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (Cine-Source, November 18,1974) also hire Rome to fins a missing piece of jewelry.
Rome ends up getting beaten up, a murder takes place, and Rita is almost killed as well. Can Rome solve the case, and perhaps end up with the lovely Ann Archer (Jill St. John, who had appeared previously with Sinatra in the comedy COME BLOW YOUR HORN (Paramount, June 5,1963))?
TONY ROME was based upon the novel MIAMI MAYHEM by Marvin H Albert (New York: Pocket Books, 1960.). Screenwriter Richard L. Breen (Oscar winner for his screenplay for the 1953 TITANIC (Fox, April 11,1953)) did a faithful adaptation of the story, with all its little twists and turns.
Director Gordon Douglas was a former child actor who could jump genres with a straightforward no nonsense style (THEM, WB, June 19,1954; STAGECOACH, Fox, June 15,1966; SKULLDUGGERY, Universal, March 6,1970). Obviously, he and Sinatra got along, as he directed TONY ROME, LADY IN CEMENT, as well as THE DETECTIVE.
Extras for this feature include an audio commentary by film historians Lee Pfeiffer, Scarlet friend Paul Scrabo and Anthony Latino. The three keep up a fact filled dialogue about the film as well as director Gordon Douglas (who had directed Sinatra in the comedy ROBIN & THE 7 HOODS (WB, June 24,1964) as well as Sinatra’s film career. They drop little tidbits as that Sinatra was performing at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach at night, and that they used it as a location during the day. That hotel still exists, but it seems many of the other locales are gone.
The original sound track is available to hear on an isolated music and sound effects track. Composer Billy May had worked with Sinatra since his album, COME FLY WITH ME (January 6,1958, Capitol Records), and the soundtrack has that reflects that brassy sound. Daughter Nancy Sinatra sings the title song.
The original Theatrical Trailer is also an extra.
Sadly, some of the behind the scenes documentaries shot at the time are not added as extras, perhaps due to legal reasons or poor source material. They are available to see on YOUTUBE:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-AS1OT-aQA with Shecky Greene, who plays Catleg in the film, is a behind the scene look at filming. Shecky was a comic who played a lot of club circuits.
Also, a brief b&w silent sequence exists:
By the way, future LAND OF THE GIANTS (Fox,1968-1970) star Deanna Lund, who appears on the poster, was so embarrassed by her role that she asked for her name to be removed from the credits.
TONY ROME was successful enough for the studio to make a sequel a year later.
LADY IN CEMENT was based upon Marvin H Albert’s second Tony Rome novel (LADY IN CEMENT, Robert Hale, London, 1961. hard cover) was adapted for the screen by Albert and Jack Guss (this seems to be his only theatrical screenplay, working mostly on television shows like DANIEL BOONE (1964-1970, Arcola/NBC. Arcola was one of the producers of the Tony Rome films, so that may be how he connected to the project. Indeed 70 minutes into LADY IN CEMENT, you see DANIEL BOONE playing on a hotel T.V. set.).
Sadly, this film is a big drop in quality from the previous film. While sexism was more to the forefront of the detective films of the period, LADY IN CEMENT seems to revel in it as well as strong homophobia. The film manages to be sleazier yet less interesting than the first film.
In this one, Rome(Sinatra) and a police man friend go diving from Rome’s boat looking for treasure. What Rome finds is a dead nude blonde woman (Christine Todd, of whom this seems to be her only film appearance) underwater, her feet encased in cement.
He alerts the authorities and think his involvement is done. However, a big ex con Waldo Gronsky (Dan Blocker, best known as “Hoss” for T.V.’ s BONANZA (NBC FILMS,1959-1972)*) wants to hire Rome to find Sandra Lomax, who happens to be the dead woman .Gronsky is a likeable lug, and the plot at times echoes FAREWELL MY LOVELY by Raymond Chandler (Alfred A. Knopf ,1940). Indeed, Blocker is one of the best things in the film, and makes the film worth watching until the end.
Also in the film is tough guy Richard Conte (returning from TONY ROME as Police Lt. Dave Santini),Richard Deacon (known from T.V.’s DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, Sheldon Leonard Productions,1961-66)as a pervy artist, singer actress Lanie Kazan as a stripper who ends up dead after talking to Rome , and the main reason people remember this film, Raquel Welch. Welch was now an international sex symbol, due to her appearances in FANTASTIC VOYAGE and ONE MILLION YEARS BC (both Fox,1966). Here, she is given little to do but look beautiful, which she does.
The soundtrack by Hugo Montenegro (best known for scoring such shows as THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY(Paramount,1970-74), to put it mildly, is grating and repetitive of the level of elevator music ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ywuJh19U5w) and distracts from the action rather than moving it along.
The film just kind of lurches along until the ending with the actors trying gamely to make something of it. The budget was estimated to be about $3,500,000(a bit more than the previous film) and had mixed reviews and middling box office. Due to that, a third Tony Rome novel MY KIND OF GAME (New York, N.Y.: Dell, 1962) remains unfilmed.
The only extra for LADY is the original theatrical trailer.
TWILIGHT TIME’s BLU RAY does a superb job with the two films. TONY ROME looks a bit sharper, with LADY IN CEMENT appearing a bit grainier. The sound is superb and hiss free. Once again, Twilight Time’s subtitles are clear and follow the action precisely.
Limited to only a 3,000 disc printings, I would recommend it mostly because of TONY ROME to fans of hard boiled detectives and Sinatra fans.
–Kevin G Shinnick
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