In this personality it's a tiger, a sleeping tiger.
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