THE TIGER WOMAN (1945)
I had a couple of hours to kill so I pulled this title out of the pile called, "The Tiger Woman-1944". It was marked as a Republic Studios serial so I thought I would watch a chapter or two. It was from Republic Pictures all right, but this one was from 1945. Same name, but boy, it was no serial! It turned out to be a brisk 57- minute programmer crammed with plenty of double-dealings, twists, turns, knives to the back, shots to the head etc.
Kane Richmond is a private detective who gets mixed up with the always luscious Adele Mara. Mara needs some help getting her dear husband out of a spot of trouble. The husband, a nightclub owner, is in for 100 grand with a mob bookie. The mob wants what is owed or else.
It turns out that our man Richmond happens to know said bookie. He pays him a visit that night to ask for a time extension for the man. The bookie laughs and tells Richmond that the man's debt had been paid off in cash just that afternoon. Richmond considers the matter closed and heads back to the club to tell Mara everything is fine.
While Richmond has been having his chat with the mobster, Mara's hubby has put a gun to his head and added an extra hole to same. He leaves a note admitting to looting the club funds in order to pay off the bookie. The body is discovered by Mara and the co-owner in the club, Richard Fraser. Now we find out that Mara and Fraser have been up to a little bit of horizontal cha-cha behind her husband's back.
Since the partners insurance does not cover suicide, the pair decide to burn the note and stage what looks like a robbery/murder. The police swallow the story and everything seems covered.
There are plenty of red herrings in this one. First, the club's accountant is grabbed up for the murder. Then the accountant's daughter gets the same treatment. When it looks like the gas chamber for the daughter, Fraser decides to come clean with the cops. He tells Mara that while he has no problem with beating the insurance company, there is no way he will let an innocent person get gassed.
He calls the police and asks them to come over so he can make a confession. Mara says she understands and suggests a bit of fresh air while they wait for the police. She walks him over to an open window. Next thing we know, Fraser has made a rather unsuccessful attempt at imitating a bird. Four flights down on his head end any confession idea he might of had.
The police arrive and also believe this death to be a suicide. Mara of course was long gone by the time the cops show. Just before "helping" Fraser out the window, we find out that it was actually Mara who had bumped off her husband. Hanging around the whole time has been detective Richmond. He just can't throw that feeling that something is amiss...
Mara had only hired Richmond to give herself an alibi for the time of the first murder. Now Richmond is becoming an annoyance. She offers Richmond a taste, but when he refuses, a gun is pulled. It is only the timely arrival of the police that saves Richmond from joining the other two in the morgue.
This is a great little gem that just zips along. The whole cast shines here with Mara stealing the show as the deadly femme fatale. The cast includes Cy Kendall, Peggy Stewart, John Kelly and Addison Richards. We never do see the husbands face.
The director was John Ford's nephew, Philip Ford. His noir titles include: The Inner Circle, The Last Crooked Mile, Missing Women and The Mysterious Mr. Valentine.
The d of p was Republic staple Ernest Miller (involved in the production of over 300 films). He collaborated with Sam Fuller twice (though neither film was at Republic): I Shot Jesse James and The Steel Helmet.
The film editor was veteran Fred Allen, whose noir credits include Hell's Half Acre, Make Haste to Live, The City that Never Sleeps, The Enforcer, The Black Book, The Scar, T-Men and The Madonna's Secret.
Best line in the film: as Mara dumps boyfriend Fraser out the window she cracks, "I get no thrill from killing stupid people."