A winter’s night in London and a man is accosted on the street by an armed thug, but the outcome is doubly unexpected; Doctor Clive Esmond an army veteran, he disarms his assailant and then offers him accommodation and therapy for a period of six months rather than turning him into the police, believing that given the opportunity to get to the root of the young man’s problems he can help him turn his life around and fulfil his potential.
The doctor’s wife Glenda initially disdainful, she accepts the situation and offers encouragement to her husband though her official position in front of live-in patient Frank Clemmons is one of indifference, though soon enough she is inviting him to be her companion in horse-riding and other activities; only the maid sees the true face of the sleeping tiger, and Frank has made it clear to Sally what will happen if she tries to speak out against him.
Based on the novel of the same name by Maurice Moiseiwitsch, adapted by Harold Buchman and Carl Foreman, The Sleeping Tiger is credited to retired producer Victor Hanbury but he had in fact loaned his name to the blacklisted director Joseph Losey, an arrangement for which he received the sum of £100, the same bargain Doctor Esmond strikes with Sally’s fiancé to buy his silence when she leaves her position to escape Frank’s threats and violence.
Released in 1954 and now restored on Blu-ray as part of StudioCanal’s Vintage Classics range, it stars The Gentle Gunman‘s Dirk Bogarde as Frank, his first of several collaborations with Losey, finding common ground as creatives who found their personal and professional lives restricted by the political and social conventions of the era, with The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane’s Alexis Smith as Glenda, her unsatisfied passions overriding any caution, and The Damned’s Alexander Knox as Doctor Esmond, as emotionally detached from the object of his experiment as he is from his wife.
With Hugh Griffith of Quatermass II as the police inspector attempting to link Frank with an ongoing series of thefts and the screen debut of The Omen’s Billie Whitelaw, Frank is a dangerous opportunist, sparring with Glenda then taking advantage of her loneliness, she enjoying the thrill of the attention, taken dancing in jazz clubs while her devoted but dull husband remains oblivious, both she and Frank necessarily smart, thinking on their feet when compromised by circumstance but never considering what happens tomorrow and the deeper consequences of their behaviour.
Clive and Glenda both overly enamoured of the disruptive stranger who holds them in thrall, the psychoanalysis of the patient is shallow and perhaps better directed towards the irresponsible hosts who actually encourage the abuse of their trust, an arrangement echoed a decade later in Entertaining Mr Sloane, and in the accompanying interview Matthew Sweet sees parallels with The Servant which reunited Bogarde and Losey, while Bogarde’s biographer John Coldstream provides an abbreviated overview of the duo’s friendship and professional partnership.
The Sleeping Tiger will be available on Blu-ray from StudioCanal from Monday 7th November