Sunday, December 26, 2021

Tiger Bay (1959)

Another of the movies that I watched recently in an attempt to free space on my DVR is Tiger Bay.

Horst Buchholz plays Bronisław Korczyński, a Polish-born sailor traveling the world and having a girlfriend in Cardiff, Wales, which is where the ship on which he's currently serving is docking. He goes to see his girlfriend, having consistently wired her money when he gets paid in each of the ports he's stopped at. But the landlord of the apartment where his girlfriend Anya (Yvonne Mitchell) had been staying informs him that she's left and gone to another apartment, something that rather irritates him.

In trying to find Anya's new apartment, Bronisław passes through a playground. One of the kids playing there is Gillie (Hayley Mills, making her movie debut), a tomboyish girl who wants to play cops-and-robbers with the boys and fire cap guns. Thankfully for Bronisław, Gillie lives in the same apartment building as Anya, and is able to show him the way.

None of this makes Gillie's aunt and guardian, Mrs. Phillips (Megs Jenkins), none too pleased. In fact, Gillie is always making up stories about why she's late in getting back home and what she's been doing. And we just know that this is going to get her in trouble later.

That later comes fairly soon, when Bronisław goes up to see Anya. The two get in an argument that results in Bronisław shooting Anya dead, after which he hides the gun. But Gillie saw Bronisław come out of the apartment, and heard the shots. Arriving later and seeing the dead body, but innocent of the crime (at least, this is known to us but not the authorities), is Barclay (Anthony Dawson), a married man who's been stepping out on his wife with Anya.

The police show up in the form of Det. Supt. Graham (John Mills, Hayley's real-life father) to talk to the people in the apartment building, who didn't suspect anything because Gillie had dropped her container of cap gun explosives, which resulted in its own bang that everybody naturally assumed was the bang that they heard. Gillie knows better, but lies through her teeth about what she saw because it's easier for her than dealing with the truth. But she's also glommed on to Bronisław's gun since she's always wanted to hold a real gun.

Gillie also sings in the children's choir at the local church, and has to go there because the choir is singing at a wedding. Unfortunately for Gillie, she sees Bronisław in attendance at the wedding, he having escaped into the church because nobody would look for him there. He sees Gillie, and goes after her, eventually kidnapping her.

Gillie develops a sort of Stockholm syndrome, although it wasn't called that at the time because it would be another 15 years or so before the hostage drama in Stockholm that coined the phrase would occur. Bronisław is looking to hide someplace for the night until he can get on a ship out of Cardiff where he'll be free of British jurisdiction if the police can even figure out that he committed the crime. Of course, they eventually do, but just need Gillie to identify Bronisław....

Tiger Bay is an interesting and well-made movie. I really liked the location shooting and look at Cardiff as it was in those days. Cardiff, I think, doesn't show up in film as much as a city like London, so we don't get to see how much it's changed compared to the way we would with London, although I'm quite certain it has changed a lot. There was, however, for me one big problem with the movie, and that was how much Gillie lies. I found it hard to have sympathy for her, and as one IMDb reviewer pointed out, any adult who lied to the police like that would be brought up on charges -- and deservedly so.

Those of you who can get past Gillie's lying, however, should definitely enjoy the movie. And it's not as if I didn't enjoy it.

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