Tiger Makes Out, The (1967)

“To live in this world, one has to be what one is: primitive, savage, a creature of the jungle!”

Synopsis:
An embittered postman (Eli Wallach) plots to kidnap a beautiful young woman as a statement to the world. Instead, he accidentally kidnaps an unhappily married housewife (Anne Jackson) who has dreams of re-entering college, and can relate to Wallach’s frustration.

Genres:

Review:
Eli Wallach shines in this delightful black comedy, based on a one-act play (“The Tiger”) by Murray Schisgal. Director Arthur Hiller maintains a fast pace throughout, and does an excellent job opening up the play to include New York settings. The performances all around are wonderful (it’s too bad Jackson, Wallach’s real-life wife, never became a big film star — she’s wonderfully droll here), and there are countless laugh-out-loud moments. Unfortunately, however, the fact that Wallach’s character is essentially a rapist on the prowl for female “meat” adds an unsavory tinge to the entire affair; while the comedic tone of the film makes it clear that he’ll never succeed in his goal, it’s nonetheless disturbing to try to empathize with a protagonist who has rape on his mind.

P.S. Could this be the first cinematic portrayal of someone “going postal”?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Eli Wallach as the cynical, existential postman
    Eli Wallach
  • Anne Jackson as Gloria Fiske
    Anne Jackson
  • Ben’s upstairs neighbor (Bibi Osterwald) concerning herself with appearances while her leg is stuck through the floor
    Neighbor
  • Gloria’s bizarre meeting with a university admissions director (played by Charles Nelson Reilly)
    Reilly
  • Good use of New York settings
    New York
  • Murray Schisgal’s irreverant screenplay

Must See?
No, but it’s highly recommended.

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3 Responses to “Tiger Makes Out, The (1967)”

  1. A must. This film has held up so well – even 40 years later, it’s soooo New York! I’m always bemoaning the surprising fact that totally satisfying comedies can be somewhat hard to come by. And, oddly, they seem to be becoming a thing of the past; genuine wit is now a rare commodity.

    Although the note that Wallach is essentially a wanna-be rapist is well taken, I don’t think that mars the film, esp. since such thoughts on his part fall by the wayside.

    Director Hiller has indeed fashioned a madcap movie here – and Schisgal’s adaptation of his two-character one-act is commendable; he saw and exploited the possibilities of backstory and, along the way, whipped up a nifty batch of character studies. These, in turn, have been inhabited by a terrific troupe of New York actors: Bob Dishy (Jackson’s husband), Rae Allen (Jackson’s gal pal), Elizabeth Wilson (the love-hungry receptionist), ‘busty’ Frances Sternhagen, Ruth White (the landlady), Reilly (hiLARious as the registrar). I esp. love the scene in which Wallach is entranced by the musical magic of Kim August’s entrancing drag-queen chanteuse. And, in a cameo, Dustin Hoffman delivers a dandy break-up line: “Goodbye…Rosie Krieger!”

    Can’t say enough good things about Wallach and Jackson this time round. Two of the finest examples of comic timing ever!

    Fave line is probably Wallach’s: “I’m not giving lessons in democratic principles! Not this semester, lady!” And, though it’s hard to pick a fave scene, it’s possibly the one in which Wallach is briefly impressed by Jackson’s spelling ability…until she slips up.

    Funny, funny stuff here – with an unexpected yet perfect ending.

  2. I agree that comedies like “Tiger” don’t seem to be made anymore; why is this? I wonder if it could be p.c. fear over issues like the one I mentioned — i.e., the Tiger’s underlying motive; if so, this is too bad, because the rest of the film is decidedly unoffensive. Scene after scene makes you go “wah?” — each is like a unique comedic sketch on its own, but they hold together well in classic “absurdist theater” fashion.

  3. Another thought on that “issue” you mentioned: Wallach’s character seems largely ‘all talk’ to me. His main concern is to show his intellectual superiority while lording it over someone he considers inferior. Yes, he does make a few comments about his ‘desires’, but that element of his plan comes off (to me) as a less urgent, less likely side-issue.

    I think one reason we don’t see as many successful comedies these days is that people in the industry and audiences seem to be less fond of cleverness – it’s almost as if it’s a threat to them somehow! (Topic for discussion, I’m sure.)

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