Lady in Cement (1968)
Lady in Cement (1968)

Genre: Crime Drama and Mystery Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: November 20th, 1968 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Gordon Douglas Actors: Frank Sinatra, Raquel Welch, Richard Conte, Martin Gabel, Lainie Kazan, Steven Peck, Virginia Wood, Richard Deacon, Dan Blocker

 


 

F

loridian private eye and gambling addict Tony Rome (Frank Sinatra) is back, now collaborating with pal Rubin (Pat Henry) in search of long lost sunken treasure. When Tony makes his way to the murky depths below his anchored boat, he discovers a dead, naked, blonde woman at the very bottom, her feet stuck in a block of cement. Though the previous film featured strippers, prostitutes, drug addicts, blackmailers, and murderers, this immediate follow-up increases the adult material with visible nudity – something that actually fits right in with the lurid events that seem to plague the down-on-his-luck shamus, who just wants to bet on horses and relax on his boat.

In short time, Rome is caught up yet again in a murder-mystery, though in a roundabout sort of way. He’s initially hired by Waldo “The Mad Russian” Gronsky (Dan Blocker) to track down a missing girl, Sandra Lomax (Christine Todd), who could be the very same blonde at the bottom of the ocean. His investigation leads him to Kit Forrest (Raquel Welch) – another femme fatale who wears skimpy things (“You’d look good in a paper napkin, but that wouldn’t get me any answers”) – as well as retired gangster Al Mungar (Martin Gabel), strip-club manager Danny Yale (Frank Raiter), and longtime cohort Lieutenant Dave Santini (Richard Conte), the lead homicide detective who always stays just a few steps behind Rome’s snooping. And, of course, nearly everyone Rome interviews winds up dead or shot at.

There are still rowdy characters, brief bloodshed, light action, and gun-toting goons, but excessive comic relief also makes a return, numbing the intrigue of the violence and the mystery. Strangely, the faults of the first film reappear here, including slow pacing, an abundance of roles that pop up for only a few minutes – as if solely to complicate an uncomplicated story – and a plot that seems to make things up as it goes. As an unwelcome addition, “Lady in Cement” also includes some ridiculous stereotypes, which serve only to annoy rather than to paint individualistic parts (so as not to tax the memory of obtuse patrons).

The music has become less invasive than before, but the insistence on having Rome interact with lusty ladies imparts a vibe more akin to “Our Man Flint” than the films noir of the ’40s, which the hard-boiled dialogue attempts to emulate. Once again, the crimes and the answers aren’t immersed in twists; the culprits are obvious once a few of the details are explained. It isn’t about crafting an unguessable mystery; it’s simply about withholding information from the audience. The result is fleeting tension and a noticeable absence of surprises. Sinatra’s character might be amusing, but this latest adventure is terribly dull.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10