Blu-ray Review: Tony Rome / Lady In Cement - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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A Frank Sinatra double feature from Twilight Time offers quite a value for fans of old-fashioned detective movies. Both Tony Rome (1967) and Lady In Cement (1968) feature Sinatra as P.I. Tony Rome. The Blu-ray is limited to 3,000 units. The first film is the better of the pair, a Sinatra vehicle that essential offers a late-'60s, Miami-based update of the '40s-era noir thrillers that Humphrey Bogart specialized in. It's not exactly gritty, but the cast treats the material seriously enough to lend the whole film a bit of gravity. Though Gordon Douglas directed both films, Lady In Cement feels like a cheaper knock-off. It's lighter in tone and even more inconsequential than its predecessor. Both films are based on novels by Marvin Albert.

In the first film, Sinatra's eponymous private detective is presented with a case involving a missing $5,000 pin. The pricey decoration was worn by Diana (Sue Lyons) the last time it was seen. Diana was in a drunken stupor when it disappeared and now her father, construction tycoon Rudolph Kosterman (Simon Oakland), wants to know what's up with his erratically-behaving daughter. It's a solidly crafted, if a bit overlong, noir-lite. Gena Rowlands is Rita, Diana's stepmother. Sinatra's straightforward take on Rome isn't revelatory, but he delivers a solid performance. 

rsz_tonyromeladyincement_bdbookletcover.png The same can't quite be said about his second turn as Rome in Lady In Cement. Sinatra phones this one in, as if he was doing the film out of obligation rather than genuine interest. The whole film feels rushed, as if everyone involved was more interested in wrapping things up quickly. Though considerably shorter (93 minutes versus Tony Rome's 110), it's more of a slog to get through due to director Douglas leaden pacing. Tony finds the corpse of a woman underwater during a diving outing off Miami's coast. It's a striking start—plus there are sharks involved. However, as Tony gets involved in the case of a missing woman, Sandra Lomax, it becomes harder and harder remain emotionally vested in a story that no one seemed to care about. Raquel Welch co-stars.

As relics of a bygone era, and as part of Frank Sinatra history, this double-bill definitely retains a certain amount of interest. The second film, Lady In Cement, is mainly interested for its rather lurid strain of homophobia and rampant sexism. This stuff is borderline shocking in its offhandedness when viewed in today's more sensitive climate.

Twilight Time's Blu-ray offers attractive 1080p transfer of each film, along with clean DTS-HD MA lossless mono mixes. In addition to isolated score tracks, Tony Rome includes an audio commentary by film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Anthony Latino, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo.

For ordering information, while supplies last, visit Screen Archives. Alternatively, check out the official Twilight Time website.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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