Sunday, May 15, 2016

Assault on a Queen

TCM aired Assault on a Queen back in December when Frank Sinatra was Star of the Month, and I recorded it back then. It's available on DVD and Blu-Ray, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length blog post on the movie now.

We'll get to Old Blue Eyes in a bit. The movie starts off with a boat coming into port in the Bahamas. Vic Rossiter (Tony Franciosa) owns the boat, although he's being financed by Rosa Lucchesi (Virna Lisi). Unfortunately, the boat has a dead guy on it: Vic had hired a diver, the diver's suit failed, and he drowned. So they need a new diver. And that's where Sinatra comes in.

Sinatra plays Mark Brittain, who captains a small boat that he uses to take rich tourists out on the open ocean to do some deep-sea fishing; he's also an accomplished diver. Vic would like to hire Mark, because Vic has a map which he just knows has the site of a sunken Spanish galleon marked on it. If he can hire a competent diver, he'll find the sunken treasure and make off like a bandit! It's a reasonable movie plot, although you have to wonder how somebody like Vic could be so damn gullible. Mark doesn't want to take the job at any price, since he's smart enough to realize Vic is gullible if he believes in the map. But he's got a business partner Linc (Errol John) to take care of, and a marina bill totaling several hundred dollars in 1966 dollars. So Mark decides to take up Vic on his offer. Rounding out the gang of characters is former Nazi U-boat captain Eric (Alf Kjellin), who makes for a good companion for Mark since Mark served on a submarine in the Pacific theater in World War II.

So they go to the dive site, and they don't find any sunken Spanish treasure. Not that this is any surprise. What they do find, however, is a surprise. Mark finds a sunken Nazi U-boat! Not only that, but whever made it sink didn't seem to cause that much damage to the sub. Sure, it looks like there might be some corrosion after 20 years, but it looks as if it's in a condition where, if they could salvage it, they could sell it to a museum or something and recoup some of their investment. Captain Eric, however, has a more wacky idea: why not use the sub to become pirates! They can approach ships from under the sea and come up on those unsuspecting boats with a great element of surprise.

If you think that's wacky, they come up with an even wackier scheme: they're going to hijack the Queen Mary, of all ships. They could easily walk away with millions from the bank and the bullion room. So to fix up the engines and batteries they hire Eric's old friend Tony (Richard Conte) and set about refurbishing the ship. Along the way, Rosa starts to fall for Mark, much to the chagrin of Vic, who is insanely jealous. But then it's Rosa funding the whole thing....

Assault on a Queen is reasonably entertaining, although it certainly has its flaws. One is that it's terribly slow-paced. It takes forever to get the the part where they're finally going to go after the Queen Mary, leaving too little time for the actual robbery at sea and the aftermath. There's also the score, which is a problem. Frank Sinatra was probably responsible for that; I'd wager he used his musical talents to get Duke Ellington to provide a score. The music by itself isn't bad; it's just that the music really doesn't fit the plot action. As for the plot action, that's where the movie is at its best.

There are better heist movies, and if I were going to recommend the heist genre to somebody who hasn't seen the comic heist movies of the 1960s, there are other things I'd recommend. Sinatra and his Ocean's 11 would come well before this one. But for people who already have seen heist movies and like them, Assault on a Queen is certainly worth a watch if it comes up on TV. I'm not so sure I'd spend the big bucks on a DVD.

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