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  Tiger Bay Liar, Liar
Year: 1959
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: John Mills, Horst Buchholz, Hayley Mills, Yvonne Mitchell, Megs Jenkins, Anthony Dawson, George Selway, Shari, George Pastell, Paul Stassino, Marne Maitland, Meredith Edwards, Marianne Stone, Rachel Thomas, Brian Hammond, Kenneth Griffith
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Korchinsky (Horst Buchholz) is a seaman who disembarks from the ship he's been working on after getting his pay, and with a skip in his step he ventures into the Welsh town of Tiger Bay to meet up with his girlfriend Anya (Yvonne Mitchell). However, once he reaches the boarding house he stashes his belongings in a cupboard and goes to enter the room they shared and he has been paying for all the weeks he's been at sea, there's someone he doesn't recognise living there. She tells him to get out, and he is forced to go down to see the landlord to find out where his girlfriend has disappeared to - but he'd be better off forgetting about her.

Although Tiger Bay was intended as the big English language debut for the so-called German James Dean Buchholz, funnily enough it was his young co-star who was awarded most of the plaudits. She was Hayley Mills, daughter of the other co-star John Mills, and she fairly exploded onto the movie scene as Gillie, the little girl Korchinsky strikes up a wary friendship with once he gets into serious trouble. Such was the natural style of the young actress, utterly unaffected and convincing in the role, that big things were predicted for her and Hollywood beckoned, so for a while it looked as if she would become an even bigger celebrity than her famous father had ever been.

Oddly, while she was one of the most popular stars of the sixties, or up till the second half of that decade at any rate, once she became an adult her fans moved on, many of them having grown up themselves, so while there are plenty of movie buffs of a certain age who will always have a place in their hearts for Hayley Mills the movies she made from the late sixties onwards were never anywhere near blockbuster level, and while she continued to act, the megastardom she had attained waned significantly. Still, you could always return to Tiger Bay to see what a talent she possessed, and her rapport with Buchholz was one of the most gripping for all police procedurals, as that's essentially what this was.

What happens to get the coppers involved is Korchinsky finds Anya, they argue in Polish as she tells him to get lost, she pulls a gun he grabs from her and in a fit of rage he shoots her dead - all witnessed by Gillie through the letterbox. She gets hold of the gun after stealing it from the sailor's hiding place, and soon she is being tracked down by him, one example of how we fear for both her as we don't know how unstable Korchinsky is, and for the killer himself as the script made sure to make him curiously sympathetic when we are so aware it was a crime of passion. Not that this changes the fact he's a dangerous man, but Buchholz's genuine charm rendered the role as a sort of match for Gillie, so of course they team up to go on the run.

Londoner Gillie lives with her aunt, and it's details like this which ally both the criminal and his young fan with one another as Korchinsky is a foreigner in his way as well, both of them outsiders and the girl keeping people at arm's length by telling constant lies to control a world that she actually has no control over at all. But all the way through the script was cleverly constructed, with a nice sense of location and character: see the way the tenant of Anya's room ends up protecting the spurned boyfriend because she has been insulted at the police station when she went to hand in his bagful of belongings, for example. If there was a major flaw it wasn't in the cast, with Mills Senior a dogged inspector, hot on the Pole's heels for much of the film, the problem was that the filmmakers didn't know when to stop so in spite of a more than competent thriller director at the helm with J. Lee Thompson, the plot started to feel self-indulgent by the time we had twenty minutes to go and there was no end in sight. Overlook that, and you had an absorbing suspense piece with true emotional depth. Music by Laurie Johnson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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J. Lee Thompson  (1914 - 2002)

Veteran British director frequently in Hollywood, usually with stories featuring an adventure or thriller slant. Among his many films, including a number of Charles Bronson movies, are capital punishment drama Yield to the Night, adventures Ice Cold in Alex and North West Frontier, the original Cape Fear, Tiger Bay, wartime epic The Guns of Navarone, What a Way To Go!, horror Eye of the Devil, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes and slasher Happy Birthday to Me.

 
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