Cleaning Out The DVR: Tony Rome (dir by Gordon Douglas)


The 1967 film, Tony Rome, is about a detective named …. can you guess it?

That’s right! Tony Rome!

Tony works out of Miami and, because he’s played by Frank Sinatra, you can be sure that he’s a tough guy who knows how to throw a punch but who, at the same time, also knows how to have a good time. He’s got a bottle of liquor in the glove compartment. He’s got his own boat. He’s got a snappy quip for every occasion and a properly cynical sense of humor but at the same time, he also cares about doing the right thing. He says what’s on his mind and if that hurts your feelings, tough. Again, none of this should be a surprise, considering that he’s played by Frank Sinatra and Sinatra could play these type of sentimental tough guys in his sleep.

That’s not to say that Sinatra sleepwalks through the role, of course. Far from it. As played by Sinatra, Tony comes across as an authentic tough guy, as someone who has seen it all and who, as a result, understands that importance of stopping to have a drink and appreciate the world around him. Tony Rome might be a Rat Pack-style private investigator but that doesn’t mean he can’t solve the case and, even while Tony’s having a good time, Sinatra never lets you forget that he takes his job very seriously.

As for the film, it’s a story that beings when Tony is hired to drive a passed out rich girl back to her home. This leads to him investigating a jewelry theft and eventually discovering an extortion plot. Sue Lyon plays the rich girl. Gena Rowlands plays her stepmother while Simon Oakland (the psychologist at the end of Psycho) plays her father. Richard Conte, who played bad gangster Barzini in The Godfather, plays Tony Rome’s best friend on the police force. (Every good private eye has a best friend on the police force.) Jill St. John plays Ann Archer, who helps Tony out with his investigation. Ann is recently divorced. Will Tony claim her heart or will she go back to her husband? It wouldn’t be a Sinatra film without a little heartbreak. (To a large extent, St. John’s performance here feels like a slightly more serious version of the performance she would later give as Tiffany Case in Diamonds are Forever, which is perhaps as close as we’ll ever get to a Rat Pack-style James Bond film.)

The story itself is surprisingly easy to follow. This is not one of those detective stories that will leave you shocked over who turns out to be the bad guy. For a film that often takes something of a light-hearted approach to Tony’s efforts to solve the mystery, it’s also a rather violent film. More than a few people get killed. Tony gets kicked in the ribs at one point and the sound of the 50-something Sinatra groaning in pain is disconcerting. Of course, Tony recovers quickly and immediately gets his revenge. When you watch the scene, you think to yourself that anyone who would try to beat up Frank Sinatra has to be a fool. That’s largely because Tony is Sinatra and Sinatra is Tony.

It’s an entertaining film, one that works well as a time capsule of what it was like to cool and swinging and middle-aged in 1967. Tony Rome is smart enough to focus more on Sinatra’s charisma than on trying to impress the viewers with its own cleverness. If I ever have to hire a private detective, I hope he’s like Tony Rome. I hope he gets the job done. I hope he has a good time while doing it. And I hope he comes with his own Nancy Sinatra-sung theme song. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.7 “The Devil’s Platform” (dir by Alan Baron)


Tonight’s episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker is a fun one!

In this episode, Kolchak investigates a series of mysterious deaths that seem to involve one very ambitious politician (played by Tom Skerritt).  Kolchak’s investigation leads him to believe that not only has the politician made a deal with the devil but that the politician also has the ability to transform himself into a killer dog!

Agck!

That’s Chicago-style politics for you,  I guess.

This episode originally aired on November 15th, 1974.

Enjoy!

A Movie A Day #149: The All-American Boy (1973, directed by Charles Eastman)


Vic “The Bomber” Bealer is an amateur boxer who appears to be poised to escape from life in his dreary hometown.  He is such a good fighter that he is on the verge of making the U.S. Olympic Team and he is so good-looking that everyone, from his teenage girlfriend (Anne Archer) to his gay manager (Ned Glass) to a woman he meets at a gas station, automatically falls in love with him.  However, after his girlfriend tells him that she is pregnant, Vic abandons both her and boxing.  When she leaves town to have an abortion, Vic starts boxing again but then he learns that she may not have actually had an abortion and Vic leaves for Los Angeles, to see both her and his son.

Sadly, there is something about boxing that has always brought out the pretentious side of some filmmakers and that is the case with The All-American Boy.  This episodic film (which claims to portray “The Manly Art In Six Rounds”) tries to present Vic as being an anti-hero but mostly, he just seems to be vacant loser.  Vic sulks through the entire film, despite not really having much to sulk about.  When one of his conquests asks him what he is thinking, Vic replies, “I ain’t thinkin'” and the movie provides no reason to doubt him on this point.  I was not surprised to learn that The All-American Boy was filmed in 1969 and was deemed unreleasable until the combined success of Midnight Cowboy and Deliverance made Voight into a star.  On the plus side, when he made the film, Jon Voight looked like he could actually step inside the ring and throw a few punches.  On the negative side, the boxing scenes go heavy on the slow motion which, when overused, just looks stupid.  Raging Bull, this film is not.

When it comes to The All-American Boy, Duke has the right idea:

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 1.3 “Mr. Denton on Doomsday”


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On tonight’s episode of The Twilight Zone, Al Denton (Dan Duryea) used to be a notorious old west gunfighter. Now, haunted as the result of killing a teenage boy, Mr. Denton is just the town drunk. However, a salesman subtly named Henry J. Fate (Malcolm Atterbury) comes into town and gives Denton the chance to once again be great. Of course, it all comes with a price and a lesson.


Originally aired on October 16th, 1959, Mr. Denton on Doomsday is one of the earlier episodes of The Twilight Zone. Today, it’s perhaps most interesting for its message of anti-violence. Myself,I just like it because I went to college in Denton, Texas.


A Blast From The Past: Red Nightmare (directed by George Waggner)


Hi there!  Happy Labor Day!

Now, I have to be honest.  I’m not really sure what the point of Labor Day is.  I have no idea what we’re supposed to be celebrating today.  I’ve got the day off, which seems kind of unfair when you consider that people who have far worse jobs than me — i.e., the actual laborers — are having to work.

Like many Americans, I spent this weekend hanging out with my extended family.  On Sunday, I did a poll of every cousin, aunt, uncle, sister, niece, and nephew that I could find and almost every single one of them agreed with me that Labor Day sounded like something tedious that Jesse Myerson would come up with and then demand that everyone celebrate.  In short, it sounded communistic.

So, with that in mind, I think the best way to start out Labor Day would be by watching this educational film from 1962.  In Red Nightmare, Jerry Donavon (Jack Kelly) takes his freedom for granted.  So, Jack Webb shows up and casts a magic spell, which causes Jerry to have a dream about what it would be like to live in a communist society.  In fact, you could even say that Jack Webb gives Jerry a red nightmare!

So, there’s two ways to review a film like Red Nightmare.  We can either debate the film’s politics and get into a big discussion about economics and policy and all that crap and OH MY GOD, doesn’t that just sound perfectly tedious?  Or, we can simply enjoy Red Nightmare for what it is, a histrionic but sincere time capsule of what was going on in the psyche of 1962 America.

Red Nightmare!  Watch it before getting brainwashed by Labor Day!