Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Apr 19, 2021
Stiletto — a 1969 potboiler based on a Harold Robbins novel and released here in a shiny new 4K restoration — offers most of the pleasures one expects of a decent late-1960s action thriller. There is no shortage of attractive people engaged in multi-level sexual tensions, plenty of striking sets, a tough-but-tender lead, mobsters, overzealous cops… in short, the works. Of course, and also like most action movies, it has an unnecessarily convoluted plot, dubious attitudes about women, and some action sequences that could have been cut in half. In other words, Stiletto doesn’t transcend its era, genre, or material… but hey, whaddya want?
Our hero, Count Cesare Cardinali (Alex Cord), is a playboy race car driver. At first, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the women chasing him (including Britt Ekland!) are his biggest problem, but it turns out some crafty gangsters are riding his tail, as well. Cardinali has gotten caught up with said gangsters as a hitman, and as we all know, those guys don’t love letting go of a good thing, nor do they usually offer favors out of the goodness of their hearts.
For the most part, you can imagine where Stiletto is headed within the first fifteen minutes, but still, it’s a fairly wild ride with some fine period details. Cardinali lives partly on a sexy houseboat and partly in a penthouse with an indoor pool, and these aren’t even the best of the sumptuous, technicolor interior designs throughout. Barbara McNair is entertainingly catty as one of Cardinali’s paramours, as is Patrick O’Neal as Baker, the hardboiled detective trying to get to the bottom of all this (and who, inevitably, gets in over his head). Cord isn’t the most magnetic leading man, but when the secondary cast includes both Roy Scheider and M. Emmet Walsh in all-too-brief, but scenery chewing, roles, he’s ably buoyed.
Depth and substance isn’t Stiletto‘s strong suit, but if you’re going into a silly action movie expecting Ingmar Bergman or whatever, that’s kind of on you. There are better films out there in this pulpy ‘60s vein, but if that kind of thing is your bag, you could do a lot worse.