Original Title: Le Tigre aime la chair fraiche
AKA: The Tiger Likes Fresh Blood, The Tiger Likes Fresh Meat
Country: France / Italy
Director: Claude Chabrol
Starring: Roger Hanin, Daniela Bianchi, Maria Mauban, Roger Dumas, Antonio Passalia, Roger Rudel, Carlo Nell
Music: Pierre Jansen
Most reports on the various English language versions of this film that are currently available on the grey market are that they are severely truncated (The Tiger Likes Fresh Meat seems to be missing twenty minutes, and Code Name: Tiger is missing about twelve minutes). This heavy handed editing has apparently rendered the story almost incomprehensible. With that in mind, I have gone to the original French version, Le Tigre aime la chair fraiche, for this review. Considering my inability to speak French, this probably served to render the film just as incomprehensible as the poor English versions, but I was confident that the international language of spy films would shine through.
The film opens in a Middle Eastern country in a darkened cinema, and some diplomats are watching footage of a Mirage jet re-fuelling in midair. As they watch the film, a man with a knife enters the screening room and sneaks up behind one of the men watching the presentation. As the assailant plunges the knife into the back of his target, the film ends and the lights go on. The killer is out in the open and exposed. He makes a run for it with a squad of policemen on his trail.
Surprisingly, the killer runs rings around the local constabulary and makes it to a safe house. Here he is met by an albino in a natty white suit and Panama hat. From the safe house they drive through the country to an amazing location – it’s this fortified white stucco mansion that’s surrounded by palm trees – but what makes it surreal, is that the area has flooded, so half a metre of water covers everything. They walk into the mansion, which is fully furnish (with opulent furniture at that), with water up to their knees. They wade through unperturbed into the office of the unseen boos man. Both men are given a stack of bills as payment, and then the albino stabs his partner. We next see the dead man floating face down through the palm trees. It’s a bizarre but stylish opening sequence.
The minion was killed because he had in fact botched the assassination attempt in the cinema. Sure he killed someone, but not the man he was supposed to. His intended target was a Turkish diplomat called Baskine. The man the assailant actually killed was a French secret agent, and a friend of Louis Rapiere – known in espionage circles as ‘The Tiger’. And that brings us to our hero for the show. We meet The Tiger (Roger Hanin) at a training camp in France. He is in the middle of conducting a judo class when he is interrupted by a General. He informs The Tiger of his colleagues death. He also re-assigns The Tiger to take over the assignment. It is feared that there will be more attempts on Baskine’s life.
Next we join The Tiger at Orly Airport with a team of operatives, including the accident prone Duvet (Roger Dumas). For ‘accident prone’ – read ‘comic relief’. The Tiger and his men are on hand to protect Baskine as he arrives in France. Also loitering around the airport is the albino and a team of killers, including a malicious midget and a bad boy scout, all intent on turning Baskine into raspberry jam. With this many thugs at the airport, it will come as no surprise that an attempt is made on Baskine’s life, but it is foiled by The Tiger.
The Tiger’s heroic actions have brought him to the attention of Mrs. Baskine (Maria Mauban), the diplomat’s wife, and more importantly, Melhica Baskine (Daniella Bianchi), the diplomat’s daughter. Both women are grateful for his intervention at the airport, and as a reward for his heroics, he finds himself chauffeuring around the ladies as they go on a shopping spree in Paris.
Code Name: Tiger starts out as a promising enough spy thriller but soon bogs down. Maybe my lack of French is to blame, but I think even to a Parisian native, the dreary pacing would take it’s toll. But any spy film that features Daniella Bianchi cannot be all bad, even if she is wasted as window dressing. In this film she has little more to do than make goo-goo eyes at The Tiger, and then get kidnapped by the villains.
One of the films saving graces is the music by Pierre Jansen. Although used sparingly, it makes the few action scenes seem more exciting than they actually are. It is certainly better than his score for the Chabrol helmed Who’s Got The Black Box.
I think that Code Name: Tiger may well be a fair to decent Eurospy picture, but as it stands at the moment, for English speakers – with poor, edited and dubbed versions it’s hard to know for sure. This wasn’t the end for The Tiger, though. He would return in an official sequel, Our Agent Tiger (Le Tigre se parfume à la dynamite), and star Roger Hanin would appear in other spy films that were marketed as ‘Tiger’ films in other countries.