Tony Rome/Lady in Cement Blu-ray Review

Two detective yarns for the price of one. 3 Stars

While his buddy Dean Martin was raking in the bucks doing a series of Matt Helm spy spoofs (and earning a spot in the top ten box-office stars for two straight years), Frank Sinatra tried a traditional detective mystery series with two films as Tony Rome, Marvin H. Albert’s private gumshoe from a trio of mystery novels.

Tony Rome (1967)
Released: 10 Nov 1967
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 110 min
Director: Gordon Douglas
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast: Frank Sinatra, Jill St. John, Richard Conte, Gena Rowlands
Writer(s): Marvin H. Albert (novel), Richard L. Breen (screenplay)
Plot: Tony Rome, a tough Miami PI living on a houseboat, is hired by a local millionaire to find jewelry stolen from his daughter, and in the process has several encounters with local hoods as well as the Miami Beach PD.
IMDB rating: 6.6
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Fox
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 50 Min./1 Hr. 33 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: clear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 08/16/2016
MSRP: $29.95

The Production: 3/5

While his buddy Dean Martin was raking in the bucks doing a series of Matt Helm spy spoofs (and earning a spot in the top ten box-office stars for two straight years), Frank Sinatra tried a traditional detective mystery series with two films as Tony Rome, Marvin H. Albert’s private gumshoe from a trio of mystery novels. The two films Tony Rome and Lady in Cement did respectable box-office (especially the first one), but Sinatra’s enthusiasm for filmmaking was practically finished by this period in his career. Still, it’s nice to have these mystery movies, one quite good and one quite poor, in almost pristine shape to see again an era in filmmaking that has long since vanished from the cinematic scene.

Tony Rome – 4/5

Asked to find the whereabouts of a missing diamond pin lifted from young heiress Diana Pines (Sue Lyon) during a drunken spree, private detective Tony Rome (Frank Sinatra) soon becomes entangled in a convoluted plot that involves two unhappy families: the wealthy construction magnate Rudy Kosterman (Simon Oakland) and his wife Rita (Gena Rowlands) and Diana’s alcoholic mother Lorna (Jeanne Cooper) and her current husband Adam (Jeffrey Lynn). There are also plenty of murders afoot when Tony’s ex-police partner Ralph Turpin (Robert J. Wilke) ends up dead in Tony’s office while several fences for the stolen jewel also wind up either murdered or shot by Tony as he defends himself from their attack. Clearly there is more going on here than one missing $5,000 pin.

Based on Marvin H. Albert’s novel Miami Mayhem, the screenplay for the movie was penned by Richard L. Breen who does a very good job hiding the real mystery that Tony is attempting to solve by keeping that McGuffin the diamond pin foremost in everyone’s thoughts. The film is crammed full of characters who seemingly have little in common (this includes a raft of strippers, junkies, pushers, and other low-lifes and also the voluptuous Jill St. John as Ann Archer who actually has no real role in the mystery but serves as tantalizing eye candy for the audience and for Tony himself who’s too embroiled in the case to act on his attraction), but as the film winds its way toward its final passages, things do become crystal clear as to motives, and everyone’s lies come to the fore to provide a very satisfactory solution to the mystery. Frank Sinatra is very at home with his houseboat-dwelling private eye, and great character actors like Richard Conte as his police department pal, Shecky Greene as a limping thug, Lloyd Bochner as an effeminate pusher, and Gena Rowlands as a glamorous wife contribute greatly to the film’s effectiveness. So does terrific location filming in Miami Beach and no-nonsense direction by Gordon Douglas who delivers a taut crime drama without undue muss or fuss.

Lady in Cement – 2/5

After finding an unknown blonde weighed down in the ocean by a block of cement off the Florida coast, private detective Tony Rome (Frank Sinatra) is curious to learn her identity but becomes preoccupied pretty quickly by another case, finding the missing Sandra Lomax (Christine Todd) by her ex-boy friend, the hulking Waldo Gronsky (Dan Blocker). Rome’s investigation leads him to the last person to see her alive, millionairess Kit Forrest (Raquel Welch). But Kit’s memory is foggy since she was drunk at her house party which Sandra was attending, and a group of mobsters including Al Mungar (Martin Gabel) and a strip joint manager Danny Yale (Frank Raiter) don’t make Rome’s snooping around any easier, particularly when Sandra’s roommate Maria Baretto (Lanie Kazan) turns up dead with Rome’s knife sticking in her.

As cleverly constructed as the script was for Tony Rome, that’s how inept the screenplay by Marvin H. Albert and Jack Guss is for this follow-up caper based on the second novel in the series by Mr. Albert. The mystery is pretty unexciting (even with some liberal borrowings from Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely), and the movie is trying so hard to be jokey and hip that it forgets to show real people with real emotions. As forward thinking as Sinatra’s title character was about gay people in The Detective (made prior to this film) and in Tony Rome, too, where he treats a dysfunctional lesbian couple with respect, that’s how supercilious and demeaning he is toward them here, flipping a limp wrist, talking in a lispy high-pitched voice, and making short work of them despite their superior size and strength. Despite this film being twenty minutes shorter than Tony Rome, it seems longer due to the plodding plotting and the execution by director Gordon Douglas who is simply uninspired here (the discovery of the dead woman in the ocean teeming with sharks which opens the film is by far its best sequence). Sinatra seems merely going through the motions and doesn’t even seem all that invested in the brief love scene with Raquel Welch who is otherwise gorgeous but pretty wooden throughout. Dan Blocker brings his husky, pleasing (but potentially malevolent) presence to the movie in fine fashion. Richard Conte offers strong support once again as Rome’s police pal, and Richard Deacon has a one scene cameo that’s the best performance of any of the supporting performers. Lainie Kazan has a nice moment in a form-fitting mirror dress in the early going, too.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The films are both offered in their Panavision aspect ratios of 2.35:1 and are presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Apart from very infrequent little digs and blips (especially in Tony Rome), the images are clear and sharp and quite detailed, and the DeLuxe color is lush without ever going overboard. Skin tones may just occasionally veer toward rosy red, but only sporadically. Black levels are really excellent. Each movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

Audio: 4/5

Both films offer DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtracks. They are very much of their era: clear dialogue, music (by Billy May in Tony Rome and Hugo Montenegro in Lady in Cement) mixed with surety with the atmospheric effects and never overwhelming to the conversations. No age-related problems with hiss, crackle, or hum are present.

Special Features: 3/5

Audio Commentary: Tony Rome offers a commentary by film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Anthony Latino, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo who know quite a bit about Sinatra’s career in music and movies and also give a history lesson about the locations used in the movie which are no longer there. Fans of the film won’t want to miss this even if some of the prominent supporting actors like Jeanne Cooper and Jeffrey Lynn don’t even rate a mention.

Isolated Score and Effects Tracks: both are presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.

Theatrical Trailer for Tony Rome (3:05, SD)

Theatrical Trailer for Lady in Cement (3:12, SD)

Six-Page Booklet: contains a few stills, original poster art for both movies on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s enjoyable essay on the two movies’ similarities and differences.

Overall: 3/5

Both films in this set, Tony Rome and Lady in Cement, present Frank Sinatra in a signature role though only the former is really up to snuff. The transfers of these films, however, are beautiful and worth seeing in high definition. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested in purchasing it should go to either www.twilighttimemovies.com or www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

Published by

Matt Hough

administrator

14 Comments

  1. To me, "Lady In Cement" has always been a comedy. While your points on extreme chauvinism and anti gay sentiment are accurate, the films pacing and comedic set ups make it a very entertaining time capsule of a late sixties period that was progressive, but also stubbornly backward in sexist terms. Unlike Tony Rome, I have never taken "Lady" seriously and find the performances, particularly by Dan Blocker and Martin Gabel, to be a very fun watch.

  2. My grandfather LOVED mysteries, especially the hard-boiled private eye types, so we always watched these movies on TV together when I was little.  I realize NOW that, perhaps, I was TOO little for some of these (I've told the story before as to how I couldn't figure out why the lady from "the Electric Company" was stripping on TV while we were watching Rita Moreno in MARLOWE but I digress) but it was the early 70's so what the hell.  I probably WAS too little but I count the level of sophistication of my TV viewing at the time to my lifelong love of movies so it was a definite win in the long run.

    Anyway, on to LADY IN CEMENT.  This was one of those we watched together on what had to be it's first network TV airing.  I remember NOTHING about the movie beyond the opening sequence.  I don't know if my mother or grandmother ushered me out of the room, it was just unmemorable to me, or that I was so stricken by the opening that it seared into my brain above all else but I have no recollection of any of the rest of it, which doesn't really sound like I've missed much.  That opening sequence, with the camera floating in and around the ghostly pale blonde at the bottom of the water, however, haunts me to this day.  I had NO idea such a thing was possible, no idea that people could be so cruel to one and other, and I had nightmares about it for YEARS, lol.  I haven't seen the movie since, but I can still see it in my mind's eye as clear as day and the thought of it STILL freaks me out today!  Hahah, so that's all I can think about whenever this title come up.  Maybe I'll try to give it a whirl at some point (just to see if I remember any of the rest of it) but it doesn't sound like it's worth going out of my way for.  😉

  3. Thanks, Will, for that great reminiscence. I was seventeen (& a huge fan of the film TONY ROME) when I saw LADY IN CEMENT at the Midway UA theater in Forest Hills in what I think was December 68, for I recall it was snowing. In those days, I was traveling on the subway every weekend with a copy of Cue (which listed all the movies playing in the five Boros of NYC) as my guide, trying to go to as many of the old showplaces (such as the Loew's KINGS & RKO ALBEE & especially the most amazing movie theater I had ever been inside, the Brooklyn FOX.) as I could, before those theaters were felled by the wrecking crane. Though the Midway is still standing, it was turned into a multiplex in the 80's. It was such an ornate and beautiful theater. II remember sitting in the balcony and that the seats were so plush and the sight lines were amazing. In fact, I remember a lot more about the interior of the Midway than I do about LADY IN CEMENT. Just like you, Will, I remember the sharks in the opening scene, and though it was certainly scary, I was a lot older than you were, so it didn't haunt my dreams. And though I know I sat through the whole movie, I don't remember anything about the rest of the film either. I think it's just that kind of a movie. And while LADY IN CEMENT is probably not worth going out of your way to see again, TONY ROME is one of Sinatra's best performances of the 1960's, as well as one of the best hard-boiled detective movies ever made, and, as Matt pointed out, also an amazing documentation and evocation of a Miami Beach and also of the Florida Keys that no longer exists, where everything looks undeveloped and bucolic. I remember there's one image where Sinatra is driving to key West and there's no buildings in sight, just sand and sea, an expanse that seems to extend into eternity. (and I haven't seen TONY ROME since it was released, and yet I remember most of the movie, whereas LADY IN CEMENT…)

  4. Just like you, Will, I remember the sharks in the opening scene, and though it was certainly scary, I was a lot older than you were, so it didn't haunt my dreams.

    Sharks???  See, I didn't even REMEMBER sharks until you just mentioned it!  I was haunted by the idea of someone putting my feet in cement and throwing me in the water while I was still alive.  It STILL gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about it!

  5. Sharks??? See, I didn't even REMEMBER sharks until you just mentioned it! I was haunted by the idea of someone putting my feet in cement and throwing me in the water while I was still alive. It STILL gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about it!

    Will, I remember sharks, but it's been 48 years since I saw LADY IN CEMENT, and it's possible that my unconscious decided to improve the film's mise en scene a bit. No doubt I'll find out for sure when I receive the Twilight Time Blu-Ray.

    btw, Will, it's interesting that your grandfather loved movies and mysteries, for mine did as well. In fact, I still have my grandfather's collection of "Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine." My grandfather's favorite film was OUT OF THE PAST. He also liked serious films. He started taking me to the movies when I was three, and I saw some that were probably a little over my head for a five or six year old, such as PICNIC & ELMER GANTRY, but I'm so glad I saw them was I was a child, because looking at them now, there's a feeling of warmth and familiarity that I probably wouldn't have if i was seeing them for the first time.

  6. In fact, I still have my grandfather's collection of "Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine."

    Wow, my grandfather had a box of those, too!  LOL.  I don't have them but I'm sure my mother still does somewhere in her house. 

    Serious movie watching was with my grandmother more so than my grandfather.  She was the one who introduced me to all the greats as a little tyke, starting with her favorite movie of all time, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.

    The sharks seem to be ringing a bell once you mentioned them, but for whatever reason they didn't scare me as much as fighting for life with cement shoes at the bottom of the bay!

  7. The sharks seem to be ringing a bell once you mentioned them, but for whatever reason they didn't scare me as much as fighting for life with cement shoes at the bottom of the bay!

    You must have been a very well brought-up child. Concentrating on cement or sharks and not even noticing the dead woman's superb breasts! 🙂 For me, not a child then or now, her body is the one truly excellent element in this feeble film.

  8. You must have been a very well brought-up child. Concentrating on cement or sharks and not even noticing the dead woman's superb breasts! 🙂 For me, not a child then or now, her body is the one truly excellent element in this feeble film.

    Well, there may be…and how do I put this delicately?….multiple reasons for that.  I've often said that one look at Christopher Atkins in THE BLUE LAGOON made me irrevocably aware that I was, let's just say, "different" 🙂 from other little boys.  Maybe THAT'S why the breasts (of which I have no recollection) didn't "resonate" (shall we say?)  OR……maybe they weren't there when I saw the movie.  Remember, it was a network TV airing, so I can't imagine (in those pre-ROOTS days) that we would have seen them.  I don't know how they would have worked it out and I've never seen a theatrical print so I have no idea how it was handled.  I would think breasts on TV circa 1972-1973 (ish) would have been highly unusual.

  9. Well, there may be…and how do I put this delicately?….multiple reasons for that.  I've often said that one look at Christopher Atkins in THE BLUE LAGOON made me irrevocably aware that I was, let's just say, "different" 🙂 from other little boys.  Maybe THAT'S why the breasts (of which I have no recollection) didn't "resonate" (shall we say?)  OR……maybe they weren't there when I saw the movie.  Remember, it was a network TV airing, so I can't imagine (in those pre-ROOTS days) that we would have seen them.  I don't know how they would have worked it out and I've never seen a theatrical print so I have no idea how it was handled.  I would think breasts on TV circa 1972-1973 (ish) would have been highly unusual.

    I've just been over to DVD Savant's web page and his review of the film includes one still. He obviously agrees with me!

  10. I've just been over to DVD Savant's web page and his review of the film includes one still. He obviously agrees with me!

    Congratulations (?) :mellow:

    I highly doubt that shot was in the network print I saw.  I can guarantee that even I would have remembered it if it was.

  11. Congratulations (?) :mellow:

    I highly doubt that shot was in the network print I saw.  I can guarantee that even I would have remembered it if it was.

    Not in the network version I saw either. I remember first seeing this shot when the film played on one of the pay-channels one time back in the 80's and was surprised because I had never seen the unedited version before.

  12. Well, there may be…and how do I put this delicately?….multiple reasons for that.  I've often said that one look at Christopher Atkins in THE BLUE LAGOON made me irrevocably aware that I was, let's just say, "different" 🙂 from other little boys.  Maybe THAT'S why the breasts (of which I have no recollection) didn't "resonate" (shall we say?)  OR……maybe they weren't there when I saw the movie.  Remember, it was a network TV airing, so I can't imagine (in those pre-ROOTS days) that we would have seen them.  I don't know how they would have worked it out and I've never seen a theatrical print so I have no idea how it was handled.  I would think breasts on TV circa 1972-1973 (ish) would have been highly unusual.

    So my lighting Prof in college suggested we see The Blue Lagoon, that was currently playing in the theater, as he said there was a lighting instrument used it it that was invented in 1923(?) …I seriously doubt it (because the DP Nestor Alemaendros used mostly natural light.

    I will only say that (as she was under 18) Miss LazyBoy was shown with hair covering her upper frontals when she was on camera  Mr. Atkins lower frontals and buttocks were in clear view on many occasions … There some underwater sequences that showed an adult body double was used for  Ms Shields when upper & lower frontals were shown … Of course you would have all known this if you had the Twilight Time BLURAY of The Blue Lagoon as Ms Kirgo elucidates in the accompanying booklet … Should you not already have a copy Screen Archives still has some available … https://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/22925/THE-BLUE-LAGOON-1980/

    Also of note they have these Frank Sinatra detective movies for sale on bluray as well 😉

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