• U.S.

Cinema: Rotten Tooth

2 minute read

There are two reasons to see Stiletto: Actors Joseph Wiseman and Patrick O’Neal. It is a rococo and frequently incoherent gangster yarn extracted like a rotten tooth from an old Harold Robbins novel. Stiletto seems to have been written only to take a share of the profits made by such stylish thrillers as Point Blank and Bullitt. And it quickly becomes obvious that Director Bernard Kowalski (who also made Krakatoa, East of Java) is not up to that sort of competition. Judged on sheer acting talent, however, Wiseman and O’Neal are equal to almost anything.

Usually assigned to play custom-tailored Manhattan executives, O’Neal appears in Stiletto as an elegantly sadistic New York detective named Baker, who is obsessively dedicated to the proposition that Mafioso Emilio Matteo (Wiseman) must be destroyed. O’Neal turns treacherous and vicious with gusto. Wiseman, his eyes dead cold, his face frozen into a mask of menace, looks like a Krafft-Ebing case history.

Ever since his appearance as the hysterical junkie in Detective Story (1951), Wiseman has portrayed a memorable gallery of characters: the reporter in Viva Zapata, the crazed Civil War veteran in The Unforgiven, the sardonic, long-suffering father in Bye Bye Braverman and The Night They Raided Minsky’s. If he only made more movies, he might prove himself to be one of the best character actors around.

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