Code Name: Tiger (1964)
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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!).
View on the film:
Having the option to take things easy due to only making it because the offer to make the film was the only one to get backing involving him after he had a string of flops, directing auteur Claude Chabrol & his regular cinematographer Jean Rabier cheerfully take the Euro Spy staples,and twist them into the French New Wave from the moment a slide-show on the mission is reflected on the faces of the agents.
Handed out the same year Goldfinger pointed at audiences at the top of the box office, Roger Hanin dodges the sophisticated image of 007, for a more brute force, sweaty Euro Spy agent, whilst Daniela Bianchi brings a touch of glamour by going from Bond Girl to Tiger Girl as Mehlica Baskine. Making it a mission to bring Jean Halain's novel to the screen, Hanin not only stars,but writes the adaptation, which Hanin wisely keeps as a nimble piece of Euro Spy thrills, via Tiger's continued attempts to keep an ambassador safe,leading Tiger to have to show his claws.
Displaying a mischievous edge in placing his agent to face off against wrestlers and a little person assassin, Chabrol brings his distinctive recurring motifs to the mission, via the karate fighting set-pieces jump-cutting on impact, the real airport location gliding along dissolving zoom-ins on Tiger looking out for assassins,and instead of a groovy lair for the baddies,Chabrol gives them a fully loaded countryside bourgeoisie villa.