Frank Sinatra and Raquel Welch in Lady in Cement.
Lady in Cement is a detective mystery set in the seedy world of Miami, Florida in the 1960s. Frank Sinatra roams a world full of gangsters, go-go dancers and homosexuals. All the while an annoying soundtrack blares some swinging 60s music that would be better suited to a romantic comedy than a detective story.
While diving off the Florida coast, private dick Tony Rome finds a naked broad wearing cement slippers. Soon afterwards, a big goon hires him to find his lost sweetheart, Sondra, who sounds strikingly familiar to the soggy corpse. This leads him to a go-go club full of mammary endowed dancers and the suspicious gay owner and his bartending boyfriend. From there he goes to meet Kit, who hosted a party that Sondra was last seen at.
The scene where Frank first comes upon Welch is her best. She is wearing a bikini and climbing, all wet and glistening, out of a pool. Or as Sinatra says, "You'd look good in a paper napkin." For the rest of the film she has bigger hair than King Kong and speaks lines. Definitely not Welch's strongest trait, although she does have one of the funniest lines in the movie. A policeman knocks on her front door, and after she opens it, tells her, "I don't want to alarm you, ma'am, but there's a killer on the loose." Welch responds nonchalantly, "Oh, well if I see one, I'll call you."
And there lies the problem with Lady in Cement. At one moment it is trying to be a tense detective story and the next it is a whimsical comedy. People get killed and Rome often finds himself in tough situations but then that damn music plays and the movie becomes light weight fluff. Blocker plays a big tough guy who may or may not be bad. In one scene Sinatra finds him hiding out in a massage parlor watching Bonanza, in which Blocker played Hoss.
Lady in Cement is politically incorrect, and could never be made today without changing its attitude. All of the women are just around for cleavage sake and one nude scene if you count the good looking dead corpse. In one scene a woman wearing only a strategically placed scarf begs a man painting her to let her go to the bathroom. After pleading several more times, Sinatra finally tells her to go. Thank God a man was around to "let" that woman do her business. The movie also features several gay characters. Sinatra spares no expense in belittling and condescending to them. He even slurs some words mockingly. Granted, two of the homosexuals are possibly bad guys, so it's okay.
Lady in Cement is only memorable for its cast. It demonstrates that Raquel Welch was a hot babe who could not act to save her life. It also shows that even a truly great and talented star, like Sinatra, cannot save a poorly conceived movie. As a last note, Lainie Kazan is probably best known as the overweight Greek mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In this film she is a HOT go-go dancer. Who knew?
Photos © Copyright Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (1968)