Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tiger by the Tail (1970)

          Twisty thriller Tiger by the Tail is damn near the perfect Christopher George movie, inasmuch as the film’s shortcomings parallel George’s strengths and weaknesses as an actor. In the same way that George looks and sounds like the ideal macho leading man, thanks to his hairy chest and square jaw, Tiger by the Tail has the ingredients for fun escapism: betrayal, chases, drama, gunplay, money, murder, sex. Yet in the same way that George’s acting ability withers upon close inspection, since his performances always rely on mannered line deliveries and stiff poses, Tiger by the Tail has zero happening below the surface. The characterizations are shallow, the plot is far-fetched, and the thrills feel like callbacks to moments form other (better) movies. Note how the credits trumpet the first major appearance of a starlet named Charo—in her handful of scenes as the performer in a local bar, the future Love Boat regular comes across like a poor substitute for Brigitte Bardot, as if any curvy European blonde will suffice.
          Regarding the plot, Steve Michaels (George) returns from Vietnam to a Southwestern resort town, where he immediately clashes with his older brother, Frank (Dennis Patrick), the manager of a racetrack. During a brazen robbery, Frank is killed. Steve gets framed for the crime, sparking a battle of wits between Steve and erudite Sheriff Chancey Jones (John Dehner)—can Steve prove his innocence before Chancey gathers enough circumstantial evidence to put Steve away? Naturally, there’s a million bucks at stake, too.
          The scenes between Chancey and Steve strike sparks, even if screenwriter Charles A. Wallace gets carried away with the lawman’s lofty dialogue, so it’s disappointing whenever Tiger by the Tail gets mired in uninteresting peripheral material. Scenes with Charo dancing and singing are dull, while those with Tippi Hedren as Steve’s old flame aren’t much better. Tiger by the Tail also has way too many characters, with Lloyd Bochner, Alan Hale Jr., and Dean Jagger rendering disposable performances. Furthermore, the movie drags at 109 minutes seeing as how it doesn’t have enough real story to support that much screen time. Yet all these flaws reinforce why Christopher George was the right man for the job. A better movie would have attracted a better actor, and vice versa.

Tiger by the Tail: FUNKY


Booksteve said...

I've got a copy of this but I must confess i was never able to get all the way through it, and yes, for the very reasons you note.

I have to defend Dean Jagger, though. Second rate actor? The man was brilliant given the right material. I was watching episodes of MR. NOVAK recently and Jagger's performance as the school Principal impressed the heck out of me! He was too good for TV and yet films rarely served him well, either.

By Peter Hanson said...

And he's an Oscar winner, no less. Probably more accurate for me to say time had taken its toll by this point in DJ's career, as reflected in the bit parts and/or schlock productions that dominate his 70s output.

egomoi said...

Good actor. But quite a right wing jerk during the blacklist.