The Sleeping Tiger (1954)

 Run Time: 89 min. | b/w
Director: Joseph Losey (as Victor Hanbury)
Stars: w. Alexis Smith, Dirk Bogarde, Alexander Knox, Hugh Griffith
 Genres: Drama | Film Noir | Thriller
Psychiatrist Knox brings low-life criminal Bogarde into his home for study, but the doctor’s wife gets involved (wink, wink—nudge, nudge). Excellently-acted suspense-drama.


  1. tfsadmin

    August 2, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Dirk Bogarde attempts to mug Alexander Knox at gunpoint in a dark London street. Knox overcomes him by twisting his arm. Next, Alexis Smith, Knox's wife, comes home from a trip to Paris, sees Bogarde in her house, assumes he is one of her psychiatrist husband's patients, but is told that he is a criminal who is living under her roof for six months as an experiment in criminal rehabilitation which her husband is carrying out as a humane alternative to sending the young man to jail. She accepts the arrangement with barely a shrug. Bogarde immediately proceeds to verbally and physically abuse the house maid and act rudely toward Smith. Yet for some reason she is attracted to him and soon they are having a hot affair under the husband's nose. And on and on it goes. One startling development after another. There are elements of the overly simplistic psychiatric rehab genre reminiscent of Hollywood classics like Now, Voyager and Spellbound but with a more realistic look and feel. The music is intense and draws attention to itself, from the cacophonous noise that Smith listens to on her home record player to the sizzling live jazz at the Soho dive where she goes to loosen up with her secret lover. Bogarde is supposed to be a low-life criminal but his polished accent and genteel mannerisms seem thoroughly middle-class and this is never explained. Alexander Knox seems made of wood yet is somehow believable as the kind of intellectually preoccupied and unflappable person who just might come up with the idea of inviting a mugger into his home as an eccentric form of research. And Smith, icily self-contained at the beginning, gradually gets a chance to do some dynamic emoting. She's very good in this. The title of the film symbolizes the wild impulses that sleep within us, waiting to be awakened. From the 2007 vantage point there are no important or original social or intellectual insights here but the way the film is edited, photographed and scored are deliberately jarring without distracting from the film's intent. Losey wants to shake us up and he succeeds.

  2. tfsadmin

    August 2, 2017 at 9:18 am

    The Sleeping Tiger is directed by Joseph Losey (using the alias Victor Hanbury) and adapted to screenplay by Derek Frye from the novel written by Maurice Moiseiwitswch. It stars Dirk Bogarde, Alexis Smith, Alexander Knox, Patricia McCarron, Maxine Audley and Hugh Griffith. Music is by Malcolm Arnold and cinematography by Harry Waxman.

    When criminal Frank Clemmons (Bogarde) fails in his attempt to mug psychiatrist Dr. Clive Esmond (Knox), he is surprised to be invited to stay at the good doctor's house instead of going to prison. The doctor's motives are simple, he believes he can reform Frank whilst studying him at close quarters. Frank is only too happy to accept the offer, even more so when a relationship begins to form with Dr. Esmond's wife, Glenda (Smith). However, as passions stir and the tiger awakens, it's unlikely to end happily…

    Blacklisted in Hollywood, Joseph Losey would find a home in the UK and produce some superb movies. The Sleeping Tiger has thematic links to two other great Losey movies, The Prowler (1951) and The Servant (1963), a sort of meat in the sandwich if you will. Dripping with psychologically redemptive sweat and pulsing with sexual frustrations, it's a film very much concerned with tightening the spring until it eventually explodes. And when it does it's well worth the wait, for there is no pandering to happy days endings, this has a kicker of a twist and it beats a black heart.

    In the interim some patience is required as the key relationships at the centre of the plotting are steadily drawn, with Losey and Frye tantalising us with shards of character interest at regular intervals. Frank drifting on and off the rails livens proceedings, with the good doctor Esmond's loyalty putting some surprising spice in the story, while Frank's courting of Glenda (horse rides together, taking her dancing at a seedy jazz/blues club) and bullying of the maid, Sally (McCarron), keep us fascinated as to where this will end up.

    Visually it's firmly in noir territory, more so in the first and last thirds, where Waxman (Brighton Rock) ensures shadows reflect the tonal shifts of plotting and the character's mental health. Arnold's (Academy Award Winner for The Bridge on the River Kwai) score is heavily jazz and blues influenced, mixing sorrowful beats with up-tempo thrums. Cast are excellent. Bogarde and Losey would compliment each other greatly and this is a good indicator of what would come during their five collaborations. Knox (Chase A Crooked Shadow) is wonderfully assured, while Smith (The Two Mrs. Carrolls) owns the movie with some deft changing of character gears.

    The plot's a bit out there man, and Losey's slow teasing in the mid- sections may annoy those not familiar with his non American work. But this is very much a little ole devil worth seeking out. 7.5/10

  3. IMDBReviewer

    August 2, 2017 at 9:18 am

    It's just a bit too much. The good doctor is attacked at gunpoint. He disarms the bad guy, then brings him home to dinner, where his high strung wife spars with the guy. Of course, the two eventually begin a movie long tryst. Dirk Bogarde is a bad boy who is a bundle of anger. He usually gets what he wants but carries more baggage than a porter at an airport. Alexis Smith is the femme fatale. She is older and bored with her psychologist husband, who is determined to resurrect the lad. He is willing to allow this man to do whatever he wants: bringing women to the house, bossing around the help, robbing jewelry stores and businesses. He is pursued by a cop who is on to him but has respect for the doctor and backs off on an arrest. It's hard to believe that this man should give a rip about Bogarde, but somehow he's willing to withdraw. The weakest part of the movie is when it all falls into place. It's so pat. A contemporary film would have built the house a card at a time; this happens in milliseconds. Then we have the denouement which I will not spoil. Let me just say it was a disappointment. The movie is visually sharp and the acting is pretty good. I never really like Alexis Smith much and she is a little grating here. Still, it's a decent performance and the subject is a little ahead of its time.

  4. IMDBReviewer

    August 2, 2017 at 9:18 am

    A certain Victor Hanbury is credited with directing this remarkable psychological drama but that won't fool any of Joseph Losey's admirers since it shares not only thematic similarities with one of his most notable American films, THE PROWLER (1951), but was indeed the turning point of his career in many ways: blacklisted by Hollywood for his Communist leanings, Losey fled first to Italy and then to Britain, remaining in Europe for the rest of his days. THE SLEEPING TIGER also marked the start of a fruitful collaboration (resulting in five films) between Losey and star Dirk Bogarde, who here shows a definite maturity miles away from the bland matinée idol roles he typically played during this period; the film itself has an intensity not found in contemporary British cinema.

    Alexis Smith (terrific in one of her last starring roles) and Alexander Knox (playing his part in the Glenn Ford manner – where a quiet exterior conceals a strong personality, hence the film's title) are the married couple whose sheltered suburban lives are invaded by smart but incorrigible thug Bogarde; Knox is a psychiatrist whom the young man had tried to hold up, but has the tables turned on him and is subsequently kept on in the former's house as a 'guinea pig' – echoes of BLIND ALLEY (1939) and THE DARK PAST (1948) – where he stirs up the passionate instincts of the doctor's frustrated American wife. Needless to say, there's no happy ending for any of the characters: the climax provides plenty of fireworks and twists – with Losey's ironic symbolism being maintained till the film's very last shot. Composer Malcolm Arnold adapts his score to each of the film's moods, alternating between the sleazy and the histrionic.

    Unfortunately, the poor-quality Public Domain print I watched bears some evident signs of wear-and-tear as there are a handful of jarring jump-cuts throughout (resulting in a running-time of 87 minutes against the official 89); several years back, the film was released on PAL VHS but no official DVD is in sight yet in any region (a status, alas, in common with the majority of Losey's work prior to the 1960s).

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