Tiger By The Tail grabs the classic Film Noir detective yarn and gives it a late 60s spin. A tight and to-the-point murder/robbery mystery can get a bit silly with swinging 60s tunes, but a great cast featuring Christopher George, Tippi Hedren, and Dean Jagger, along with a smart script that keeps you guessing, salvages the show. Not the best of the genre, but still a good time. Kino Lorber brings the film to Blu-ray with an impressive despite some flaws video transfer and audio mix. A great commentary track rounds out the bonus features. Tiger By The Tail is an easy piece of entertainment to call Recommended.
I've got a soft spot for detective movies and murder mysteries. I think it boils down to wanting to know how a story is going to manage to surprise me. I've read dozens of books and have seen hundreds of movies so it's no easy feat. But every now and again a movie will come along that manages to surprise me. Director R.G. Springsteen's 1970 flick Tiger By The Tail managed a surprise or two. The parts of the film can feel a bit too "swinging 60s" for its own good, but when it keeps to being a hard-boiled detective picture with Christopher George as an innocent man accused of murder and the robbery of $1million, it's an impressive ride.
A racetrack is robbed of over a million dollars. During the holdup, track owner Frank Michaelis (Dennis Patrick) is murdered. When the airplane carrying the robbers explodes and it's discovered the money was never in the bags, local law lead by Sheriff Jones (John Dehner) turn to Frank's brother Steve (Christopher George) for as the likeliest suspect. A Vietnam war hero newly returned home, Steve doesn't waste time waiting for the law to sort things out, he gets answers his way. Out to prove his innocence and bring the true culprits to justice, Steve quickly learns there's a dark side to his hometown.
As much as I love the classic smooth-talking wise-cracking gumshoe with an attitude, I love the unconventional detective surrogate even more. You go into a detective mystery expecting the guy to be a few paces ahead of everyone else in the room seeing all the angles and knowing all the exits in case there's a scrape. But when you get an average Joe who is in over his head, all of a sudden your expectations go sideways. In Tiger By The Tail, director R.G. Springsteen and screenwriter Charles Wallace managed to craft a solid "who done it?" mystery with a capable lead - but not someone too far ahead of the game.
If there is a misstep to cite, it's with a few ill-placed 60s style Go-Go interludes featuring then-newcomer Charo. It's a complete tonal 180. The movie is clicking along as a nice and gritty modern noir-styled thriller and then all of a sudden the period music kicks in for a party scene and the movie takes an unfortunate trip to Wacky Land. These sequences honestly feel as if Blake Edwards dropped by and stole the camera, crew, and cast when no one was looking. Granted, there aren't too many of these scenes, but they are a distraction and kills a lot of the mood that was so intricately constructed up to that point.
Thankfully the film's great cast of character actors pulls it off. Christopher George is a solid lead with Tippi Hedren as the love interested (even if she's underused). Toss in the legendary Dean Jagger, a sleazy Skip Homeier, Alan Hale Jr., and Dynasty's Lloyd Bochner delivering another smarmy rich-guy and Tiger By The Tail has a lot of great onscreen talent to showcase. It's probably not the most complicated mystery ever, but it does a great job of introducing the suspects and its twists and turns are well earned.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Tiger By The Tail arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case with reversible cover artwork. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
The artwork for Tiger By The Tail states that the 1080p 1.85:1 transfer was sourced from a new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative and Interpositive elements. However, worth noting is the fact that it doesn't look like it enjoyed much of a restoration as there are several small scratches and speckling evident throughout. That said, this is still a very impressive looking transfer for a 40-year-old film. Details are often striking with facial features, clothing, the period furniture and decor all on display. Colors are also bright and bold with rich primaries. Scenes at the race track look great with bright bold greens of the foliage and deep browns. Flesh tones look even and healthy throughout. Black levels are in good shape, a couple of hazy night scenes crop up but otherwise, blacks are nice and inky with good shadows giving the image a nice sense of depth. There are a few optical shots that in rough shape with a notably heavier grain field and a few more scratches and speckling, but that's a cooked-in issue. This is a pretty great looking transfer considering all things.
Tiger By The Tail enjoys a vibrant English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout without any issue. Scoring by Joe Greene is solid stuff that echoes the time period but also does a great job at keeping the mood tight - when things aren't too silly at least. Sound effects are well layered with a natural quality that gives the soundscape a nice sense of spacial imaging. The only anomaly to report is a bit of soft hiss that can be heard from time to time but thankfully isn't too distracting or overpowering.
Like many Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases, bonus features aren't a big draw for Tiger By The Tail. However, the audio commentary is solid stuff and well worth a listen if you're curious.
Audio Commentary featuring film historian Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Trailer (SD 2:32)
Busting Trailer (SD 2:45)
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Trailer (SD 2:00)
Mr. Majestyk Trailer (SD 1:33)
Trouble Man Trailer (SD 2:30)
Prime Cut Trailer (SD 2:35)
Enter The Ninja Trailer (SD 2:53)
Tiger By The Tail may not be the best or the most original detective thriller to come down the Hollywood pipeline through the years, but then it doesn't have to be. A solid little film from start to finish, it features a great cast working with a clever script that never gets too far out ahead of itself or drags behind into predictability. It earns its twists and turns better than your average mystery. With a great cast of character actors, Tiger By The Tail proved to be a fun way to burn a couple hours. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings the film to Blu-ray with a strong video transfer, an effective audio mix, and a nice commentary track to round out the extras. It's not a complicated film, but it's good fun and an easy one to call Recommended.