Director: Gordon Douglas
Writers: Marvin H. Albert and Jack Guss adapting Albert’s 1961 novel
Producer: Aaron Rosenberg
Cast: Frank Sinatra, Raquel Welch, Dan Blocker, Richard Conte, Lainie Kazan, Martin Gabel, Steve Peck, Pat Henry, Richard Deacon, Christine Todd, Alex Stevens, Virginia Wood, Frank Raiter, Mac Robbins, Tommy Uhlar, Rey Baumel, Pauly Dash, Andy Jarrell, Peter Hock, (and uncredited cast members) Lanita Kent, Bunny Yeager, Charlene Mathies, Shirley Parker, Al Algiro, Robert ‘Buzz’ Henry, Joe E. Lewis, B.S. Pully, Jilly Rizzo, Chris Robinson, Maxie Rosenbloom, Coz Serrapere, Dick Sterling
While scuba diving off the Miami, Florida coast, private detective Tony Rome (Frank Sinatra) discovers the naked corpse of a beautiful blonde (Christine Todd) on the ocean floor with her feet encased in a block of cement. Rome reports the bizarre discovery to the police and the autopsy determines that the unidentified woman died of a knife wound to the heart. Soon after this incident, a huge and intimidating man named Waldo Gronsky (Dan Blocker) hires Rome. For reasons he will not divulge, Gronsky wants Rome to find a woman named Sandra Lomax. Rome’s investigations soon have him mingling with go-go dancers, gangsters, and a beautiful boozing and gambling heiress named Kit Forrest (Raquel Welch). More people are found dead of knife wounds and Rome is implicated.
The Flashback Fanatic movie review
Despite 1967’s Tony Rome supposedly being a dud at the box office, the sequel Lady in Cement was made the following year. Frank Sinatra returns to play the private eye, and this time around Marvin H. Albert, the original author of the Tony Rome detective novels, works on the screenplay.
Again we have an approach to the material that is both adult and light-hearted. There is more grim and sleazy stuff going on, but there is always a flippant counterpoint delivered by Tony Rome and the other characters used to the cold, cruel world of Miami’s criminal environment.
The underwater scene at the beginning of the picture is unusual and impressive. Christine Todd as a naked corpse has several sharks cruising around her as the scuba diving stuntman playing Tony Rome is swimming among them. The diver actually kicks away some of the sharks as they get too close for comfort. This is where the expertise of underwater sequence supervisor Riccou Browning came in handy. He had performed the swimming scenes as the monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and its sequels. Browning also supervised the teams of divers for the extensive underwater action in the James Bond epic Thunderball (1965).
Aside from the eerie underwater opening, the rest of the film has an approach that is even lighter than its predecessor. It never spills over into spoof territory, but there is humor throughout. That light touch seems to also influence the look of the film. Nearly every scene takes place in broad daylight or brightly lit interiors.
Despite an even lighter tone in this film, Sinatra’s dialogue isn’t quite as snappy this time around. But he still instills his Tony Rome with the easy confidence that makes him fun to watch.
Some of Sinatra’s best scenes are those with Dan Blocker as Waldo Gronsky. Rome’s mysterious and hulking client is both menacing and likable. Blocker also brings a touch of humor to the role. Of course, Blocker was already famous as Hoss Cartwright in the long-running western television series Bonanza (1959-73). Blocker had to take a hiatus from the series to appear in this film.
A real stand out for this lecher is Lainie Kazan as voluptuous go-go dancer Maria Baretto. She is really good in the one brief scene she shares with Sinatra. You realize that her character is already a bit lit just trying to get through another night of shaking her money maker. Maria knows just how to play a customer for another drink and maybe for something more. I can’t believe it when Sinatra’s Tony Rome later remarks to the club’s manager, “She’s lousy.” I guess Rome is pissed that the magnificent Maria had him order her champagne.
This film is probably remembered as much for ’60s sex symbol Raquel Welch as for Sinatra. Like Jill St. John from the previous film, Welch as Kit Forrest plays another glamorous potential love interest for our hero. Initially, Welch dazzles us with her bikinied beauty that compensates for her introduction that is stiff in more ways than one. Welch loosens up a bit as things go on, and I suppose that her early stilted manner could be due to her character not being immediately at ease with Tony Rome ogling her, yet she never appears self-conscious about what she flaunts.
Tony Rome is pretty sure Kit Forrest is mixed up in this mystery, but he just does not know how. That creates a bit of friction between them and makes Tony Rome seem pretty high-handed. First he disses the delectable dancer Maria, and then his suspicious nature offends the gorgeous Kit. However, it does serve to remind us that Rome is in a dangerous profession and finds trust hard to come by, even with someone who slays a bikini like Kit.
Like the previous Tony Rome flick, the mystery of Lady in Cement concludes in a humorous fashion and our gambling hero really hits the jackpot that he missed out on in the first movie. This is more male wish fulfillment fun and I wish that Sinatra’s Tony Rome could have continued to cruise through a few more cases.