While on an extended vacation in Rome, Shelley North's (Cyd Charisse) husband goes missing. The embassy can provide no real assistance, so she turns to an old flame and successful journalist, Dick Sherman (Hugh O'Brian), for help. Shelley's husband seems to have been living something of a double life involving blackmailers, drugs, and international secrets. And someone will stop at nothing to make sure Shelley's husband isn't found.
You might think that a plot that includes heroin trafficking, murder, stolen blueprints, kidnapping, and extortion would make for an exciting movie. In the case of Assassination in Rome, you'd be dead wrong. It would be hard to make a more lifeless movie with so much potential. The problem is that for ¾ of the movie, nothing happens. People go to lunch, women wear fabulous clothes, and everyone talks. But all the action is left off-screen and we're left with pointless melodrama. And then there's that sickening love-themed soundtrack that accompanies most of the movie. You can bet that anytime Cyd Charisse and Hugh O'Brian are on screen together, you're going to hear that same old schmaltzy score. Ugh! I'll give O'Brian some credit at least he appears to be trying to make this stinker more palatable. Unfortunately, he doesn't get any help from Charisse who seems terribly out of sorts as if disinterest has taken over her whole body.
Don't misunderstand, Assassination in Rome is far from being terrible. In fact, many of the set pieces work quite well. The final ¼ of the movie does provide a few chills and a suspenseful moment or two. And the shots of the Rome and Venice locations, circa 1965, are a real treat. My favorite had to be a scene that included the outside entrance to Cinecittà studios.
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