|Index||3 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How's this for confusing? The indispensable Eurospy Guide indicates that this early Claude Chabrol feature originally ran 100 minutes, but was cut to an unbelievable 65 when it was released to the American market. IMDb lists it at 90 minutes. This review, however, is based on the 82 minute version available through Something Weird Video! Whichever running time is definitive, however, Code Name Tiger is a very entertaining entry in the genre, which generated scores of identikit features throughout the 1960s thanks to the success of the James Bond films. Chabrol acknowledges his debt to Bond by prominently featuring a French-language copy of From Russia to Love in one scene, and other fixtures of the meme--ranging from beautiful women (From Russia With Love's absolutely stunning Daniela Bianchi) to oddball villains (a midget in a bird cage)--pop up throughout the film. Chabrol also displays his talent with a camera, especially in the early going, when a chase scene is shot from overhead and an assassin comes to a sticky end in a bizarre flooded mansion. Starring the still active Roger Hanin as the titular secret agent, this is a prime candidate for DVD--assuming someone can find the full length version!
This was one of three fairly notorious "Euro-Spy" pastiches by the "New
Wave" trail-blazer assignments which he was forced to accept as
director-for-hire after his more personal films did poorly at the
box-office and even (unjustly) got cool reviews from the critics!
Anyway, having watched quite a few substandard James Bond imitations over the years, Chabrol's involvement here certainly gave them a pleasant off-beat quality (not least in its settings, which include a wrestling ring, a flooded[!] hotel, a scrap-yard and even the opera house, where Stephane Audran appears uncredited as the soprano[!] unceremoniously stabbed in mid-aria). Conversely, I recall being underwhelmed (shocked, perhaps is the right word!) by MARIE-CHANTAL VS. DR. KHA (1965), the last to be released but actually the first one I watched, which was shown a few years back on late-night Italian TV; actually, although my original intention was to revisit it for this Chabrol retrospective, I had to bypass it along with all the others that I was already familiar with due to time constraints! Indeed, undergoing such a comprehensive Chabrol tribute entails that even apparently trivial fare deserves a nod as well and I have to say that I quite enjoyed this one and (to a slightly lesser extent) its sequel AN ORCHID FOR THE TIGER (1965).
Though star Roger Hanin (who also wrote them under a pseudonym!) could hardly offer Sean Connery competition as both action-man and stud, being beefy and all, he does alright by the former especially as some of the fight sequences are rather violent for their time. Likewise, these being the famously uninhibited French we are talking about, the film uncovers much more female flesh (albeit entirely gratuitously) than the Bonds were ever allowed, then or now!! Incidentally, having mentioned 007, the luscious heroine of this one is FROM Russia, WITH LOVE (1963)'s Daniela Bianchi who, however, is given very little to do (her thunder stolen as much by Maria Mauban, playing the girl's attractive mother, as by Christa Lang, later Fuller, as the alcoholic 'dumb blonde' moll of one of the film's myriad villains!).
Typically, the plot (involving the signing of a deal relating to a new super-plane, or something: with the film atypically shot in black-and-white, the footage showing this 'weapon' invariably recalls the opening moments of Stanley Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE !) is merely a "McGuffin" and, in fact, given Chabrol's predilection for Hitchcock, he clearly enjoys trying his hand at the spy comedy-thrillers for which the Master Of Suspense had virtually laid the template himself 30 years before.
The narrative features a couple of power-hungry factions who would just as easily double-cross each other as eliminate the hero in order to arrive at their goal: the most notable among the latter are the ubiquitous Mario David (funny how I had never heard of him before and now I see him turn up in one Chabrol picture after another!), sporting silver hair (thus anticipating Dirk Bogarde's Gabriel in Joseph Losey's equally-maligned-but-fun MODESTY BLAISE ) and eventually eliminated via a much-hyped backwards-shooting gun that was also utilized by Dean Martin's Matt Helm in the similarly-spoofy THE SILENCERS (1966), and Jimmy Kharoubi who, as a midget, supplies the film's biggest laughs (especially when he dresses up in a kid's cowboy outfit to shadow our hero at an amusement park, attempts to strangle a much bigger man after hiding in a wrapped-up birdcage in his apartment, knocks at a door and is unseen through the peep-hole, and even asks the hero's side-kicks to lift him up so as to reach an all-important safe deposit-box at the airport!).
It's a good thing that Claude Chabrol only made two of these "Tiger" films in the mid-1960s, because it's clear that secret agent thrillers are just not his type. Chabrol doesn't hide his goals (there is even a shot of a "From Russia With Love" book with Sean Connery on the cover near the start), and he tries to give the film some quirks (killer dwarf!), but he can't really stage fight scenes, and he lets some sequences (driving, opera singing, pro-wrestling, etc.) play on and on purposelessly. Of course it doesn't help that Roger Hanin is one of the least charismatic spy leads of the period, more closely resembling George Lazenby in the way his judo chops are his strongest point. "From Russia With Love" Bond girl Daniela Bianchi is also here, but her role is strictly (and almost demeaningly) to look beautiful and get captured by the bad guys. She can't have more than 10 lines of dialogue in the entire picture. Oh, and not to sound biased or anything, but a black & white 1960s Eurospy movie is like a color 1940s film noir - it just doesn't feel right. I will give it credit for one novelty, however: the gun that fires backwards. I wonder if "The Silencers" with Matt Helm stole this idea from "Code Name: Tiger". *1/2 out of 4.
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