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THE SLEEPING TIGER

Director: JOSEPH LOSEY

U.K. • 1954 • BLACK AND WHITE • 35MM • 89 MIN.


‘There’s a sleeping tiger in the dark forest of every human personality,’ says a psychiatrist (Alexander Knox) of his patient, a criminal (Dirk Bogarde) he is trying to reform. What he fails to see is the applicability of this observation to his wife (Alexis Smith), whose passionate nature surfaces when she falls for the young stranger. This was Losey’s first British film, working under a pseudonym after his Hollywood career had been cut short by the blacklist; and it seems in some ways a preparation for The Servant, with its situation of a sinister guest at large in an ostensibly respectable household and exposing its self-delusions. Agreeing that the script (by fellow blacklisted victims Carl Foreman and Harold Buchman) was deficient, Losey and Bogarde found ways of making it work: a social problem picture becomes also a study of a sterile marriage, and powerful visuals and expressive design stylishly expose secrets of personality. As Gavin Lambert put it at the time: ‘There is a splendour about this film, which has one of the most absurdly extravagant plots on record, and never flinches from it.’

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