Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Save The Tiger (1973)

"Don't sell me America"

You know, I could watch Jack Lemmon writing out a shopping list and be happy. Primarily because I'd imagine he'd perform that task with the odd excited murmur about the things he was going to buy, followed by the gleam leaving his eye to be replaced by a mistiness as he realised some things are no longer available on the market.

His character in 1973's Save The Tiger, Harry Stoner, is a self confessed 'good citizen' who feels the world is changing for the worse, has many scenes of just such mercurial moods. Harry longs for a simpler, more honest time which he believes was his past when he was an aspiring drummer and devotee of baseball. But he was also a GI, Anzio cutting short his dreams of playing with a great big band orchestra, and the flashbacks he suffers suggests perhaps that his past is somehow rose tinted or selectively remembered. But when your present consists of juggling the books for your ailing rag trade business, hiring call girls to keep prospective buyers satisfied, keeping the mob's claws out of your interests and arranging for one of your factories to burn down, all in the space of a day and a half....well, perhaps you need a bit of selective memory.

One character remarks during the film that 'they never made a good movie in 30 years' but he's clearly wrong. Save The Tiger comes from what I perceive to be a truly great age of American cinema which, without accident, coincided around the time people began to get disenfranchised with 'The American Dream'. Nixon era/post Watergate America produced some great movies which concerned themselves with the dissatisfaction and failings of a country whose relatively brief moment in the sun looked set to flicker and fade out very shortly. Everything in Steve Shagan's dense script for Save The Tiger concerns itself with things souring, going rotten or getting old; the tigers are dying out, as a charity worker, informs Stoner whilst a hippy chick he picks up tells him they go in search of a beautiful place, recalled from their past, to die. An elderly chain smoking Russian cutter remarks that when he dies, he will have to be buried because he'd surely stink. Stoner's wife complains about rising gun crime and local high school students shooting horse in the toilets, whilst a buyer's wife is 'all scarred up' from too many life saving operations.  Harry even wears the same suit two days running. This is an America, and an LA specifically, that is - to quote The Lovin' Spoonful - 'dirty, gritty'. Horrible to live through maybe, but incredibly satisfying to culturally dissect on the big screen. It's why British cinema in the 1980s was just as profoundly special.


  1. Don't forget Vietnam, a much more profound shock to a country undefeated since 1783. The Seventies really did produce a period of intense introspection in the US and cinema laid it bare, a truly remarkable period in terms of breadth of scope...