Director: Jack Donohue
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Virna Lisi, Tony Franciosa, Alf Kjellin, Richard Conte, Errol John
Music: Duke Ellington
Based on a novel by Jack Finney (and has a screenplay by Rod Serling)
Assault on a Queen is a caper film from Frank Sinatra, and let’s be honest, although we all enjoy Frank’s legacy of cool, in general his caper films weren’t too good. Ocean’s Eleven is almost impossible to sit through, and Robin And The Seven Hoods is only slightly better. Assault on a Queen starts off fairly promising. For the first hour of it’s running time, I’d even say it’s the best Frank caper yet, BUT somehow the story, which has a great premise, falls off in the middle and just does not deliver.
The film, which is set in the Bahamas, opens with a boat racing into port, with an ambulance racing to meet it. On board the boat are Victor Rossiter (Tony Franciosa) and Rosa Lucchesi (Virni Lisi); two fortune hunters, who have been searching for a sunken galleon carrying gold off the coast. Their deep sea diver’s, diving suit has burst while searching for the galleon and he has drowned. The ambulance and doctor arrive at the port, and the doc pronounces the diver dead.
Later that evening at Blackbeard’s Tavern, Mark Brittain (Frank Sinatra) and his partner, Linc Langley (Errol John) are seated at the back, drinkin’ gin and playin’ gin. Entering the bar are Rossiter and Lucchesi. They are looking for a new diver and have been recommended Brittain. They approach him and make him an offer. Rossiter and Lucchesi believe they have a map that shows them the exact location of the sunken galleon. Brittain has heard all the stories before and is not interested. Brittain and Langley are fishermen, not treasure hunters. Rossiter and Lucchesi leave still requiring a diver.
After the tavern is closed, Brittain and Langley return to their boat, only to be blocked by the harbour master. He will not allow them on their boat as they owe over $600 in dock fees and for other supplies.
The next day, to get his boat back, Brittain goes to Rossiter and Lucchesi he agress to take the diving job. At this time, Brittain also meets Rossiter’s other partner, Eric Lauffnauer (Alf Kjellin). Lauffnauer is a German, who used to be the captain of a U-boat in World War II.
When we next see Brittain, he is all kitted up in a deep sea diving suit. He drops over the side and drifts down to the bottom and begins to search for the elusive galleon. After an hour on the bottom he hasn’t spotted anything. Just as he is about to return to the boat, he sees a sunken World War II German submarine. It appears to be intact.
Rather than continue to scour the seabed for a treasure that may or may not be there, Rossiter and Lauffnauer come up with a new scheme to make them all rich. It is to raise and refit the old submarine, and then become pirates on the high seas. Their target: the ocean liner, Queen Mary.
With a film of this kind, you really have to suspend disbelief, because it really is quite silly. And the acting is paper thin. There is no reason why Brittain should go along with Rossiter, Lauffnauer and Lucchesi’s hair brained scheme. Sure, there’s the lure of money, but it ain’t ‘easy money’. As I mentioned at the top, the film really loses focus in the second half. We know what the gang are up to, and even how they intend to do it, so we spend a great deal of the second half, just waiting for them to get on with the job.
The film features a great musical score by Duke Ellington. It’s jazzy (of course), with a hint of calypso, and over the top there’s a cool line in funk flute. But as good as the music is, it sometimes doesn’t follow the story.
Sadly this film is a misfire, but it is a good example of sixties Jet-Set cinema. It stars an American, Two Italians, and a German, in a story set in the Bahamas. You can’t get much more international than that. Just before signing off on this one, a quick bit of trivia: Reginald Denny who plays the Master-At-Arms on the ship was Algy, Bulldog Drummond’s dim-witted buddy in the film series from the 1930’s. And more interestingly, Virna Lisi, who looks fantastic in this film I might add, was originally cast to play Barbarella but turned it down.