Saturday, July 2, 2011

Careful Of The Tiger's Claws

The Ticket Of Leave Man(1937)
Director: George King
Cast: Tod Slaughter, John Warwick, Marjorie Taylor

One of Tod Slaughter's weaker films and one of the most poorly plotted, which is really saying something when one looks at the others in his filmography! The title is probably a bit confusing for today's audiences, but a "ticket of leave man" refers to a prison parolee. Slaughter stars not as the title character, but a murderer and thief named, "The Tiger" who is terrorizing London and is being stalked by some great detective named Hawkshaw(Robert Adair), who is a pompous ass of a man who really dosen't do anything but let a few of his own men get killed by the Tiger, he arrests an innocent man and sends him to jail and at the conclusion of the picture, after having done really nothing to stop Slaughter, he proclaims that "justice has been served!" and swears off anyone who would dare cross Hawkshaw the detective! This guy really dissapointed me. The beginning is so well done, with a police blockade set-up to capture Slaughter on a foggy evening and him getting through and killing two officers, cakling wildly. Hawkshaw swears vengeance as he finds his comrades dead and we hear The Tiger's maniacal laughter in the night. This is a great opening and if the film had been about the detective pursuing this murderer in a cat and mouse game, it would have been great fun. Instead, nothing really lives up to this opener and very little that follows makes a hell of alot of sense.

Slaughter is teamed up with Frank Cochran, who portrays a counterfeiter, and one of the worst jewish stereotypes you've ever seen. He's a grotesque who is constantly rubbing his hands, speaks in a high nasaly voice, frequently tosses aside some yiddish mumblings and is one greedy bastard. He would be offensive if the film were more serious, which thankfully it isn't. Slaughter has his eyes on Marjorie Taylor(again) and tries to win her over, by planting counterfeit cash on her fiance(John Warwick) and sending him to prison, where Slaughter and Cochran take on the roles of a humanitarian organization as a front to they're wicked schemes.

Warwick is released on ticket of leave and works at a bank, but under a false name. In a stupendously stupid plot move, Taylor informs everyone that he is her brother, which causes all kinds of trouble later on when Warwick is framed for extortion by Slaughter. It all seems to be going good for The Tiger, up to this point, but, like usual, Slaughter can't keep his hormones under control and screws it all up, destroying his partnership by killing Cochran and his accomplices and burning down his front. He attempts to enlist the aid of the downtrodden Warwick to help him rob his bank, and Warwick sets him up and the police corner Slaughter who pulls out a revolver(It was 1863, so he advanced a little from his flintlock pistol) and he falls into an open grave(!) and breaks his neck, which Hawkshaw the detective claims was his victory or something. And it turns out that maybe guys on parole aren't so bad, either.

Slaughter is a delight like always, looking great as The Tiger, and always revelling in his villainy, though once he disguises as the kindly benefactor towards the second half of the picture, it's difficult to imagine who would buy his generosity and kindness. The way he forces himself to kiss Taylor is obviously not the actions of a gentleman!

The rest of the cast are typically average for the production, including the always plain Tyalor, who was the love interest in most of Slaughter's films. Cochran certainly creates a character, but it is of a stereotype that may not sit well with today's audience, no matter how insidious the portrayl. Warwick is something of a dumb bell, and gathers little sympathy for his plight, except that basic human understanding we all have with innocence in trouble. Adair tries to stand stoic and commanding as Hawkshaw the detective, even speaking his name in the third person to get a desired effect, but alas, his character is a sham, not contributing nor doing much of anything.

This is a dull and vacant film(did I mention that Taylor sings in it? Quick! To the fast-forward button!), but it does have Slaughter and he's always delight and at least the plot moves. It's not up to other Slaughter films, but it's decent for those just seeking some basic melodramatic lunacy. Plus, I almost forgot the little kid who smokes cigars!

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