27 June 2010 | Bunuel1976
THE TIGER LIKES FRESH MEAT (Claude Chabrol, 1964) **1/2
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!).