Thursday, February 6, 2014

Johnny Cool (1963)

Director: William Asher

Writers: Joseph Landon, John McPartland

Composers: Billy May, Johnny Worth

Starring: Henry Silva, Elizabeth Montgomery, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, Joey Bishop, Brad Dexter, Marc Lawrence, John McGiver, Mort Sahl, Telly Savalas, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Albertson, Elisha Cook Jr.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Headline-Hot! The Terror Behind Cosa-Nostra-Brotherhood of Crime!

Plot: Colini, an exiled American gangster living in Sicily, rescues Giordano, a young Sicilian outlaw, from the police. After Giordano is groomed, polished, and renamed "Johnny Cool," Colini sends him on a vengeance mission to the United States to assassinate the men who plotted his downfall and enforced exile. Johnny arrives in New York and quickly kills several of the underworld figures on Colini's list. Meanwhile, he picks up Dare Guiness, a wealthy divorcée who becomes his accomplice, and she is severely beaten by the gangsters as a warning against the vendetta.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Catch this on Netflix streaming while you can before it goes away because it's all kinds of fun.  If you're a fan of OCEAN'S ELEVEN (1960) on any level then you really need to see JOHNNY COOL.  There are a lot of familiar faces from OE and then some.  You've got some nice B&W photography, a cool score by the great arranger Billy May who arranged a lot of Frank Sinatra's best tunes and a whole lot more.  The cast alone is worth the price of admission.  Even if you find Henry Silva's acting a little stiff like me (sorry but the guy could be a little more fluid and throw out some more charisma), just seeing the delightful Elizabeth Montgomery barely pre-BEWITCHED (1964) is fun.  And then there's TONS of cameos and small rolls for greats like Sammy Davis Jr., Telly Savalas (with some hair even), Marc Lawrence, Jim Backus, Elisha Cook Jr., Mort Sahl, Joey Bishop and so on. 

Story wise it's just about the rise and fall of a tough Mafia gangster who kills everyone who gets in his way.  Is he cool?  Not so much, really.  That's the big disappointment.  He's ruthless but he doesn't really show why he deserves the moniker of Johnny Cool.  He's got a moment here and there but he's not cool in the way the audience will like him.  And then there's what Darien (Montgomery) does in the final seconds of the picture.  Maybe it's her guilt that motivated her to do what she did but it wasn't necessary.  I would have liked the ending proposed by the guy on the boat who was ready to tell the 'visitors' when they showed up.    But all of this is nitpicking when compared the fun that's constantly sprinkled throughout this picture. 

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