STILETTO is a Lackluster Bit of 60’s Trash Cinema

Mafia, police, gambling, and beach-side action should be more fun than this

The word that looped through my mind while watching Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray for 1969’s Stiletto is…jaunty. I didn’t care much for the movie, but it has an infectious bounce to it. There are long stretches without dialogue where the movie leans heavily on its music, which alternates between a jazzy detective show score and Cuban music playing at a beach resort. It’s catchy and makes you want to get out of your seat and move a little. I thought a lot about what it would’ve been like had the filmmakers forgone dialogue altogether and just let the music lead the way. I suspect it would’ve been more endearing than what Stiletto has to offer otherwise.

Ostensibly Stiletto is about a guy named Count Cesare Cardinali, played by Alex Cord, who splits his time between bedding beautiful women and being a hitman for the mob. It’s a fast-paced life for Cardinali. Looking for a change, Cardinali decides to give up the life (the killing, not the beautiful women), thus turning himself into a liability to the mafioso who used to employ him. With that, Stiletto bounces around Puerto Rico as Cardinali ties up loose ends.

It didn’t take for me to realize that the plot doesn’t really matter here. What does matter, is the vibe of the film. When the music is going and good looking people onscreen are having a great time, the movie finds its groove. Between the mob stuff and some interloping detectives, Stiletto has a hard time sustaining its momentum. I think that can be attributed to Bernard Kowalski’s flat direction. Stiletto is a trashy story that needs some snap to it to make the whole thing sing. Instead, the pacing is disjointed and it makes for a lackluster experience. Honestly, Stiletto isn’t really worth your time. By and large it’s a slog and the few moments of solid entertainment aren’t enough to redeem it.

However, what’s really worth doing is playing the movie with the commentary track Kino put on here. The disc’s only special feature pairs filmmaker David DeCoteau and film historian David Del Valle for a lively chat about Stiletto, and their frequent digressions from the film are great. There’s lots of talk about trashy movies, novelist Harold Robbins (whose book the movie is based on), the various cast members, and a bunch of other topics. Del Valle and DeCoteau have great energy and their conversation is significantly more entertaining than the movie itself. Among the highlights of the commentary: all the talk about Harold Robbins’ wild lifestyle and a brief story about actress Britt Ekland being the reason for The Rocky Horror Picture Show making its way to America. While I can’t recommend shelling out for the Blu-ray, but I do heartily endorse the commentary track, should you ever have the chance to hear it.

Stiletto is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber

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