TONY ROME —-any movie that ends with a zoom-in closeup of Jill St. John’s derriere can’t be all bad, but this 1967 jive doesn’t lack for trying. Frank Sinatra plays Key Biscayne’s ballsiest private dick, and dig it, squares, this cat is a real threat. Groovy!
The plot concerns jewel theft and homicide but this is really just an excuse for a furtive late 60’s foray into the sordid. The cinematography is as lurid as the title tune is leering, Vegas’d at you by Nancy Sinatra.
Too-tough Tony slugs and ad-libs his way through every Dumb Broad, Cheap Thug, Two-bit Bar, Ritzy Hotel, Worthless’Fag’, Sexy ‘Dyke’ and Double-Crossing Punk in greater Miami.* What made prime pulp for hairy-palmed adolescent boys when Johnson was President will seem like sugar cookies to the generations weaned on slasher filth and anyone over thirteen who swallows one minute of its 110 straight needs to seriously lay off the fumes.
For what it’s worth, the performers are all professional and Ms. St. John in a bikini should accelerate some pulses. Directed by Gordon Douglas, who had done for Frank in Robin And The Seven Hoods and would follow this up with a sequel, Lady In Cement and the erstwhile ‘serious’ police flick, The Detective. The $3,480,000 greens dealt out here made like hipsville with enough moo-la to grab spot #26 for the year.
With Richard Conte, Sue Lyon, Simon Oakland, Gena Rowlands, Jeffrey Lynn, Lloyd Bochner, Robert J. Wilke, Shecky Greene, Lloyd Gough, Rocky Graziano, Mike Romanoff, Jilly Rizzo and Joan Shawlee. Music by Billy May–because what the Chairman wants, he gets.
*Tiring as this is, I feel, given the kneejerk p.c. climate we are in, that I must indicate to anyone offended by the two sexual slurs used above—capitalized and in quotes—that they are deliberately there to illustrate not just the slummy silliness of Tony’s interview process, but as a reminder, hopefully with a shot of wry, that back in the groovy 60’s, when love was in the flowers (except those in Vietnam or Watts) and flowers were in hair, homosexuality was treated in movies as an aberration, so portraits of gays or lesbians were generally in the downer end of the revolutionary wading pool. We have, as I forget who said, come a long way, baby. Done today, Tony would be slapping and put-downing his way through racist rednecks, skanky skinheads, pot-gutted gun nuts and street gangs magically composed of dudes from all races. His neighbor would be a handsome, buff, chatty gay who would tell Tony to “lose the tie”; his secretary a tattoo-splattered BDSM millennial with big glasses, green hair and hip boots; his partner a gorgeous 30-something lesbian with a $200 haircut (gorgeous, like every female cop I’ve ever seen). Just like real life! Don’t forgot his boss: either a burly African-American guy who shouts a lot or a sighing middle-aged Latino dude with a headache. Jokes would be at the expense of non-background-specific Asians, a test-audience demographic too immersed in homework to pay any attention to derivative, reality-free scripts written and bankrolled by Hollywood’s century-old, ethnically insulated clavern of Rich White Men. All that off my guilty-over-everything-since-Columbus chest, I doubt very much that if you’re actually reading about Tony Rome that you’re going to be offended by much of anything.