BR: Tony Rome (1967)

September 28, 2016 | By

TonyRomeLadyInCement_BRFilm: Excellent

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: Excellent

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released: August 16, 2016

Genre:  Crime / Detective

Synopsis: Tony Rome uncovers a complex web of deceit when he’s hired by a wealthy builder to initially find missing jewelry.

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




Between 1965-1970, Frank Sinatra appeared in 10 films, moving from comedies, thrillers, and war films, ultimately settling on the detective genre which resulted in a tight cluster of Tony Rome (1967), The Detective (1968), and Lady in Cement (1968), and although he would also star in two more genre efforts – the TV movie Contract on Cherry Street (1977), and his silver screen swan song The First Deadly Sin (1980) – it’s the first two films in which he left an indelible impression on the genre.

The character of Tony Rome debuted in Marvin H. Albert’s novel Miami Mayhem (1960), and spawned two follow-ups, The Lady in Cement (1961), and My Kind of Game (1962), giving Sinatra at least three original novels from which to build a franchise, should the interest remain.

The lore behind Sinatra’s move to playing an ex-cop reportedly stems from him turning down Dirty Harry, choosing to play a more familiar screen persona – the boozing, smoking, girl-loving good guy a la Tony Rome – versus a cold, rebellious Harry Callaghan, who uses his badge to exact vengeance, but augment disgust among colleagues and the department as a whole.

Tony Rome isn’t a nihilistic political statement on the era, but it’s not exactly a nice film, either. The film’s edge is rather magnificently tempered by a dry sense of humour, but as Twilight Time’s quartet of historians opine in their solid commentary track, the script by Richard L. Breen (Niagara, 1953’s Titanic, The FBI Story) retains the tropes of a classic hardboiled detective thriller, especially the death of a partner a la The Maltese Falcon (1941), and the P.I.’s moral code in putting the case before romance and any entanglements that would jeopardize his life (and when his life is clearly in danger, there’s a smart-ass, devil-may-care attitude that puts his tormentors at ease just long enough for Rome to initialize an escape).

The trio of film historians on Twilight Time’s The Detective disc pointed out Sinatra’s gradual trajectory from working with tough, risk-taking directors who challenged actors and didn’t take crap to aging hacks, meh TV directors, or reliable filmmakers like Gordon Douglas who still possessed good instincts but followed Sinatra’s ‘one take only’ working method.

Rome is definitely one of Douglas’s better Sinatra efforts, but that’s perhaps due to a perfect mix of stars, superb character actors, a slick jazzy score by Sinatra’s then-arranger Billy May, and beautiful Miami locations. More importantly, there’s the bulletproof screenplay: it’s a beautifully structured, no nonsense drama where no scene slows down or indulges in trivialities. Every screen moment’s been pared down to its essence, and while one could single out a few extra quips, bits of titillation, and one hysterical bit in which Rome and a old lady discuss a search for her missing pussy, this is a perfectly constructed detective entry that keeps facts and clues fuzzy but the mystery steady until the finale. (Even then, like a good detective or giallo thriller, you forget the plot and big revelation, and remember just the good bits, prompting a not-too-distant re-watch.)

Rome’s plot more or less centres on the former cop being hired to retrieve a diamond-studded broach by a spoiled brat (Lolita’s Sue Lyon), only to uncover a mass of former wives, thuggish husbands, meathead, exotic dancers (unbilled and very sexy Land of the Giants’ Deanna Lund), bar hookers (namely “Fat Sally”), an effete drug dealer (Detective’s Lloyd Bochner), and other colourful figures.

The cast of billed and unbilled actors is ridiculous: Simon Oakland (Dirty Harry, Psycho) and Gena Rowlands as the brat’s parents, Jill St. John (Come Blow Your Horn, Diamonds Are Forever) as a boozing ditz, Richard Conte (Call Northside 777, House of Strangers, Ocean’s Eleven) as Rome’s old boss, and bit parts for heavyweight champ Rocky Graziano (playing a tie salesman named “Packy”), comedian Shecky Greene, Hollywood personality Mike Romanoff, Tiffany Bolling (Wicked Wicked) as a smacked-around photographer, and future soap stars Jeannie Cooper (Young & the Restless) and Linda Dano (Another World) in her film debut.

Cinema Retro’s Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo plus Sinatra historians Eddy Friedfeld and Anthony Latino provide an affectionate analysis of the film, plus some details on Albert’s novels, and the sequel that followed a year later (and is included in Twilight Time’s disc). The trio bandies facts and opinions on Sinatra the singer, actor, producer, and hard-working entertainer who made movies by day and sung at night; and short bios on the cast and locations which more often than not no longer exist.

Film productions that chose Miami clearly benefitted from the warm light that yielded warm, saturated colours, and TT’s HD transfer is a really gorgeous presentation of movie that seems largely shot at real locations, plus actual night scenes. Another bonus is May’s previously unreleased score that features stereo and music & FX tracks.

Whereas other filmmakers attempted to reinvent the hardboiled detective genre with contemporary updates like Marlowe (1969) and The Long Goodbye (1973), Douglas and screenwriter Breen stuck with the rules; even the humour echoes the banter of The Thin Man (1934), albeit more sparse, cynical, and dry.

Buried among Sinatra’s busy sixties output, Tony Rome is among the most satisfying of the lot because its construction is so seamless. Lady in Cement, Rome’s second and final cinematic outing, wasn’t as lucky.



© 2016 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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