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SLEEPING TIGER, THE(director: Joseph Losey; screenwriters: Derek Frey/based on a novel by Maurice Molseiwitsch; cinematographer: Harold Waxman; editor: Reginald Mills; music: Malcolm Arnold; cast: Dirk Bogarde (Frank Clements), Alexis Smith (Glenda Esmond), Alexander Knox (Dr. Clive Esmond), Hugh Griffith (Inspector Simmons), Patricia McCarron (Sally), Maxine Audley (Carol), Glyn Houston (Bailey), Harry Towb (Harry, second criminal), Billie Whitelaw (Receptionist at Pearce & Mann), Russell Waters (Manager of Pearce & Mann); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph Losey; Alpha Home Entertainment; 1954-UK)
“Unconvincing and far-fetched psychological drama about lust and redemption.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The blacklisted Joseph Losey (“The Servant”/”Accident”/”King and Country”), under the alias of Victor Hanbury, directed this unconvincing and far-fetched psychological drama about lust and redemption. It’s Losey’s first British film, and is based on a novel by Maurice Molseiwitsch and is written by Derek Frey.

London psychiatrist Dr. Clive Esmond (Alexander Knox) overpowers the gun-toting Frank Clements (Dirk Bogarde) in his attempt at robbery, and then arranges to have the handsome young career criminal to be a guest in his home for six months to undergo a social rehabilitation experiment to cure him of his criminal mind rather than go to prison. At first Clive’s American wife Glenda (Alexis Smith) objects to having this rude petty criminal in the house, but then falls for him and begins an affair right under her foolish egotistical hubby’s nose. All Clive seems to care about is using Frank as a guinea pig to see if his unconditional love and permissiveness techniques reach his patient’s good side to allow him to overcome his rotten childhood in a middle-class home and get rid of all his anti-social feelings. Glenda has little respect for her prominent hubby, who she says “likes winding people up like little toys.” While Frank is not a bit grateful at this opportunity to avoid prison and even unnecessarily intimidates the maid (Patricia McCarron) so that she quits; he also continues on a robbery spree, using the alibi he’s at home with the Esmonds when the suspicious Inspector Simmons (Hugh Griffith) checks up on him. That the shrink perjures himself, leaves whatever he might accomplish later on to be of questionable worth. He has to be viewed as a jerk, even though Losey has sympathy for his character’s uncompromising beliefs–something that’s not easy or warranted for the viewer to share.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.

To get anything out of this absurd film you might as well disregard the dumb plot, the risible dialogue, and the overblown acting and just tune into the way Losey extracts electricity from this cheap B-film melodrama through his uniquely baroque grandiose style. It might not be enough to save such a car wreck, but it makes it enticingly watchable. It moves with much paranoia and perversity along to its wild climax, where Frank is seemingly cured (if you can believe by the shrink’s bogus therapy of getting the patient to understand his childhood dilemmas) and he thereby rejects the older Glenda, as he’s now unwilling to hurt further his new father figure savior. But Glenda is so crazed with possessive love that she will not take being ‘flipped off like a cigarette butt lightly’ and takes Frank on a speeding drive where she crashes into the billboard of the Esso station’s roaring tiger and the car flips over killing her while Frank survives.

REVIEWED ON 12/25/2008 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”