Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:         

A FINE PAIR. National General Pictures, 1969. First released in Italy as Ruba al prossimo tuo (1968). Rock Hudson, Claudia Cardinale, Leon Askin, Ellen Corby. Tony Lo Bianco. Score by Ennio Morricone. Directed by Francesco Masselli.

   Taxi driver carrying Esmerelda Marini (Claudia Cardinale) into New York: Over there is the United Nations building.

   Esmerelda: I can see they aren’t getting anything done from here.

   Sadly that is the best line in this rather strained caper comedy that never quite lives up to the jaunty Ennio Morricone score.

   Rock Hudson is dour police Captain Mike Harmon, a pain in everyone’s ass, who was close to Esmerelda’s policeman father with young Esmerelda having a schoolgirl crush on him that has carried over to the present day.

   It’s not a match made in heaven though, Esmerelda is a rebel and jewel thief.

   She wants Hudson to help her return the jewels she stole in Austria from a wealthy American’s villa and he reluctantly agrees (all too easily).

   Of course she is breezy, fun, amoral, smart, sexy, and only half clothed most of the time so it is natural the stiff cold Captain is going to melt — almost literally when he has to get the villa they are robbing to 194 degrees to disable the alarm and she holds the place up in nothing but wet bra and panties.

   Nor does he suspect he returned paste jewels while she stole the real ones — again.

   By the time he finds out she has to return more jewels in Rome, he is hooked on her and crime, and they have a big row when she decides to turn hones,t so Mike pulls off the heist and frames her having her own uncle arrest her so she can’t leave.

   After a narrow squeak the two end up happily together.

   And it just ends.

   One thing, with Rock in black framed glasses you now know how he would look as Clark Kent or Rip Kirby.

   This light film would like to be something along the lines of A Man and A Woman, with an infectious score, flashy photography, and a naturalistic look. The problem is Francesco Masselli is a heavy-handed and unimaginative director, Hudson doesn’t seem comfortable with his character for the first half of the film, and while Cardinale is gorgeous and fun, she makes no sense as a character.

   Had they done this a few years earlier as one of those slick Universal films Hudson was so ubiquitous in from the late fifties through the mid-sixties, it might have been the light playful romantic comedy caper it was meant to be, but this is just a bore.

   Cardinale is beautiful, funny, sexy, and screwball, the scenery is lovely, and the two actors have some chemistry once Hudson is able to move into a more familiar mode, but it’s a highly unsatisfying film otherwise.

   I missed it the on its initial release and it has taken until now to see it. I wish now I had waited another couple of decades.

   Not bad so much as ho, hum.