Our three-day tribute to Bernard L. Kowalski continues!
Well, even after the abject failure of the intended, sweeping epic that wasn’t Krakatoa: East of Java (reviewed this week), Bernard L. Kowalski was still in the game with this AVCO Embassy-backed adaption of a Harold Robbins (a big deal novelist in the ’60s and ’70s) novel produced by Joseph E. Levine, who brought us the successful box office epics of Zulu and A Bridge Too Far.
The then A-List Alex Cord, Britt Ekland, and Patrick O’Neal, and an up-and-coming Roy Scheider, six years away from his huge, influential shark-based horror movie, star in this then de rigueur Bond-inspired flick. We also get the familiar character actor skills of M. Emmett Walsh and Charles Durning. Why, yes, that is Raul Julia (Eyes of Laura Mars and The Addams Family franchise) in his film debut. (For me: It’ll always be Frankenstein Unbound for my Raul fix.) And if you’re a fan of Danger: Diabolik (1968), and aren’t we all, Britt Ekland was a last minute replacement for that film’s Marisa Mell as Cord’s co-star. But that’s okay, since we got Marisa in Seven Blood-Stained Orchids.
Count Cesare Cardinali (Cord, of Genesis II fame) has the perfect cover for his secret life as a profession mob hitman-for-hire: he’s a famed jet-setting playboy. Of course, as with all of those hitmen before and after him, he decides it’s time to retire and enjoy the spoils — but when you know too much, you’ll have to be “eliminated” as well.
Courtesy of the Bondness-meets-The Godfatherness of it all, there’s lots of (stylized) scenes in casinos and on yachts with Cord and Elkand in Speedos and string bikinis in exotic places like Puerto Rico. Then the tux and dripping-with-jewels gowns are taken off the hangers for the usual New York penthouse sets. And while there’s an Italian connection in here, Puerto Rico doubles for Sicily — when it’s not being “Puerto Rico.”
Stiletto certainly isn’t awful, but the cops-chasing-robbers set-up is all very TV movie flat, which is why this received an early appearance on CBS-TV. And don’t forget: this all comes from the while successful, but cheesy, melodramatic pen of Harold Robbins. If you’ve never read one of his books or seen a movie based on his books, then maybe you know Robbins as result of his being named-dropped by the English new-wave band Squeeze in the lyrics — “a Harold Robbins paperback” — in their song “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell).” Or, since we are all Roger Corman fans around here, you know Harold Robbins by way of Corman’s 1970 post-apocalyptic Gas! – Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It, as a young couple uses a public library’s copies of the successful but critically-derided collected works of Jacqueline Susann (her books became the movies Valley of the Dolls, The Love Machine, and Once Is Not Enough) and Harold Robbins as kindling to keep warm.
Sadly, there’s no online streams to share, but DVDs are easily available, the best versions are from Kino Lorber, who also issued Stiletto on Blu-ray.