Summary: Hit-man Alex Cord wants out from Mafia chief Joseph Wiseman
The 20/20 Movie Reviews piece, which is in the "critics" section is a perfectly sound review of the plot and highlights of "Stiletto" (1969). Two of the user reviews also provide sound comments. This is not a high-brow kind of movie. You wouldn't expect that given the source, Harold Robbins. However, it's a crime story and W.R. Burnett has an uncredited role in writing it. It does have some very good lines in places. We have Eduardo Ciannelli telling Wiseman what the single-most important rule of the Mafia is that has ensured its success and longevity. We have Wiseman telling Cord what his association with him really means. And we have a tough Barbara McNair laughing off Cord's affair with Eklund and telling him how she can turn off of him in a second. There are some writing values amid the gloss and glitter which misleads some into thinking this is some kind of Bond movie. It isn't.
Joseph Wiseman does wonders with his role as a Mafia chief. He saves the life of Alex Cord in an opening sepia-toned sequence set in the past. Cord has then become a hit-man for Wiseman. Cord's a wealthy playboy hit-man, and his current mission is to dispose of potential witnesses against Wiseman. Cord's two girl friends are Barbara McNair and Britt Eklund. McNair spars with Cord and dances. Eklund looks pretty. Patrick O'Neal is a cop fixated on getting Wiseman. A trial goes bust, however, and John Dehner instead deports Wiseman. You can spot Eduardo Ciannelli, Charles Durning, Roy Scheider, Raul Julia, M. Emmet Walsh and Olympia Dukakis in small roles. That's fun.
Wiseman, O'Neal and Dehner lift the show quite a lot, but I also have a soft spot for Cord's acting. The locations are rich. The finale in Puerto Rico at El Morro castle helps. I'd really like to see this in a better print. There are a couple of jagged cuts in it.
This movie is a neo-noir, although unrecognized as such by the usual critics. An air of fatalism hangs over its protagonist (Cord) from the outset. How many hit men can walk away from their pasts? The obsession of his co-protagonist (O'Neal) with Wiseman is the stuff of noir. There is a worldly and cynical streak and an iron linkage with Mafia ways and rules that inhabit both Ciannelli and Wiseman. The ending is noir.