Frankie goes to Miami.
Ring-a-ding-ding, swingers: Twilight Time serves up a tasty double-dollop of Sinatra, operating in the sun and fun capitol of the world. Tony Rome (1967) and its sequel Lady In Cement (1968) casts the chairman of the board as one Anthony Rome, a down-at-the-heel ex cop turned private investigator. Rome survives on a steady diet of cigarettes, gin martinis and beer, calls his tiny houseboat home and just manages to scrape by, financially speaking–more as the result of a nasty gambling addiction than a shortage of employment opportunities.
Looking to score some quick cash, the gumshoe agrees to help out an old pal by driving home a drunken debutante (Sue Lyon, Lolita) in the first flick, and armed with a treasure map, our man Tony goes full frogman in the second, only to discover the body of beautiful Sandra Lomax (Christine Todd) among the reeds–nude but for concrete shoes.
There’s really not much point in further delineating the plots of either film. I’ve been mixing them up for years–despite repeated viewings of each on various Late, Late Shows, VHS and DVD transfers, et al.–without any consequences. Both were directed by Gordon Douglas (Them!), both traipse through the famous Fountainbleu Hotel (where the legendary crooner was performing nightly while shooting both features) and both feature good turns by Richard Conte (The Godfather) as the stalwart Lieutenant Dave Santini, Tony’s best buddy in the precinct–not to mention cameos from several Sinatra pals, including comedians Shecky Greene and Pat Henry; prizefighters Rocky Graziano and “Beau Jack” Walker; and saloon owner Jilly Rizzo.
And dames? This double feature is lousy with ’em! It turns out that–despite his bad habits and a severe allergy to commitment–the buxom babes can’t help from throwing themselves at Ol’ Blue Eyes, then in his mid-fifties. Besides Ms. Lyon, there’s Jill St. John (Diamonds Are Forever) and Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence) in one; Raquel Welch (Fuzz), Lainie Kazan (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Bunny Yeager (Harry & Son) and Virginia Wood (A Guide for the Married Man) in the other. What is it about this guy that gets these young lovelies so hot and bothered? His sausage link physique? The fact that his hair came with a receipt? The mind boggles.
Presented in their original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratios and betraying only the least bit of wear and tear, this Twilight Time Blu-ray limited edition collection (3,000 copies only) presents Tony Rome and Lady In Cement in the best shape we’re likely to see them, short of taking a time machine back to their respective premieres. Ditto the DTS-HD audio tracks, which are serviceable, if not spectacular. English SDH subtitle options are available for both films, as are Isolated score tracks (with some effects), original theatrical trailers and in the case of Tony Rome only, an audio commentary track by a round table of certified Frankophiles, who’d have you believe you were witnessing cinematic genius.
Not quite. While clearly superior to Elvis Presley screen vehicles of the same era, this pair of parboiled detective programmers isn’t likely to make anybody forget The Maltese Falcon or The Long Goodbye. Consistency isn’t key or even the point here. In Cement, for instance, Mr. Frank “I’ll do no more than ONE take!” Sinatra can’t seem to decide whether or not he’s investigating the murder of “Sah-ndra” or “Sand-ra” from scene to scene.
Of course, Sinatra more than established himself as a first-rate actor on several occasions in loftier film projects, but truth be told, if I were banished to a desert island and only allowed to bring one disc of his screen work along, this kitschy two-fer would be my choice. As the man himself once said:
For nobody else gave me a thrill
With all your faults, I love you still
It had to be you, wonderful you
It had to be you.
Guilty–as in pleasure, baby!