BR: Lady in Cement (1968)

September 28, 2016 | By

TonyRomeLadyInCement_BRFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras (double-bill set): Excellent

Label: Twilight Time

Region: All

Released: August 16, 2016

Genre:  Crime / Detective

Synopsis: Detective Tony Rome is hired by a convincing thug to investigate the death of a woman, sending him into the lairs of several seedy low-rent and upscale characters.

Special Features: Audio Commentary on “Tony Rome” with Cinema Retro’s Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo, and film historians Eddy Friedfeld and Anthony Latino / Isolated Stereo Music Track with some Sound Effects for both “Tony Rome” and “LAdy in Cement”/ Theatrical Trailers for both films / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment and





Frank Sinatra’s follow-up to Tony Rome has him reprising the titular character in the same Miami environment, but with a less traditional detective plot in spite of author Marvin H. Albert taking a crack at adapting his novel, with prolific TV scribe Jack Gus (Daniel Boone, Medical Center, Trapper John M.D.).

While treasure diving (!), Rome stumbles upon a woman’s cadaver anchored to the ocean floor in (what else?) a block of cement. Hulking goon Waldo Gronsky (Bonanza star and scene-stealer Dan Blocker) hired Rome to find more info, and what follows is an initially fun but ultimately unfocused series of wanderings that have Rome interacting with oddballs and sleazebags before a rather tepid wrap-up in which he finally gets the girl (Fathom’s Raquel Welch).

Although a smaller cast, Rome still gets entangled with his old boss Lt. Santini (Richard Conte), a doomed go-go dancer (Lainie Kazan!) and a misogynistic painter (Richard Deacon!), and Martin Gabel (Marnie, The First Deadly Sin) clearly has fun playing Al Mungar, a mobster really peeved that the tools of his trade – murder, broken kneecaps, and other fun motivational maneuvers for annoying interlopers – can’t be used in his new legit incarnation.

Gabel is a perpetual Uncle Grumpypants, while his son eggs him on to use his traditional skill set, but Mungar is ultimately a wandering character meant to break up the initial romantic attraction between Rome and Mungar’s new neighbour, Kit Forrest (Welch), a newly minted $30 million socialite who spends her entire time swimming and augmenting perhaps the biggest mountain of hair in cinema history. Mungar’s recurring interruptions become more annoying that amusing, and it’s only Blocker who enlivens the film as a human bulldozer who thinks aloud.

The dialogue isn’t as consistently sharp as Rome (the best lines happen in the tight opening third), but the film shares the same level of frank language, unvarnished innuendo, and stark nudity (the titular corpse is very topless) which shows how even studio productions were taking advantage of the newly revised Production Code designed to ostensibly swap censorship for ratings.

Hugo Montenegro’s score is more lounge jazz, but his cues have the right bounce and oddness, giving the film a suitable loopy veneer. Some of the action and suspense cues (especially the dead girl’s discovery) are moody, and a particular track underscoring a car chase between Rome and Lt. Santini was clearly appropriated as the central theme for the Italian produced crime thriller Un uomo dalla pelle dura / The Boxer (1972), with composer Carlos Pes reworking Montenegro’s theme and instrumentation into something unexpectedly superior.

The weirdest conceit of the two-film franchise remains Santini always doing Rome’s bidding; he never tells Rome he’s not obliged to let a former cop lead an investigation (nor give him a straight ‘piss-off’), and yet the private dick is often the one calling the shots for Miami’s finest.

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, glimpsed in the opening shots of Goldfinger (1964), makes a strong appearance in a great chase scene that has Sinatra running all over the place, while Montenegro’s source cues are cheesy versions of Sinatra hits, including “You Make Me Feel So Young” the eponymous title track of the first pairing of the star and Cement director Gordon Douglas.

Although there’s no commentary track – the recorded discussion for the headlining Rome covers the scope of the franchise – Montenegro’s score is isolated in stereo with some music & effects tracks.

While a disappointment, Cement isn’t a dud nor disaster, but a rather typical sequel that gathers popular elements with less artistry, focus, and a primary goal to meet a release date instead of working the material into something mature and memorable. There’s also a sense Sinatra was getting tired of managing multiple careers, so it’s no surprise the next decade offered just two feature films: the critically panned Dirty Dingu Magee (1970) and The First Deadly Sin (1980).

Gordon Douglas directed Sinatra in Young at Heart (1954), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), Tony Rome (1967), The Detective (1968), and Lady in Cement (1968).



© 2016 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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