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Film / Tiger Bay

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Tiger Bay is a 1959 British crime drama film based on the short story "Rodolphe et le Revolver" by Noël Calef, directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring John Mills, his daughter Hayley Mills, and Horst Buchholz in his first English-language role.

The film takes place in the eponymous district of Cardiff, Wales. Gillie Evans (Hayley Mills), a trouble-making tomboy, witnesses a murder by chance and is kidnapped by the perpetrator, Bronislav Korchinsky (Buchholz), a Polish sailor desperate to escape the country and the clutches of the police. The story focuses on the unorthodox friendship that develops between them while being pursued by Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist Graham (John Mills).

Provides examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Anya grows tired of waiting for Bronislav, and finds herself a new beau - which is what leads Bronek to kill her in a moment of passion.
  • Accidental Murder: ... er, kind of. At the very least, unplanned. It's hard to tell. He doesn't seem to realize what he's doing until she's dead.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Gillie, being locked into the church alone with Bronek. Turns out he is not such a bad company after all.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Gillie, who doesn't seem to realize the full implications of what she's seen until she's trapped in the church with Bronek, at which point the terror strikes.
  • Anti-Villain: Bronek assaults and murders his ex-lover in a rage, but is clearly remorseful the moment she falls to the floor. When he kidnaps Gillie in the church, he prays before an image of the Virgin for forgiveness "for what I have done . . and what I now am doing".
  • Asshole Victim: Anya. Casting a rather unappealing gypsy woman as Bronek's lover and having her act like a total bitch from the moment we see her, just helps to care more about him than her.
  • Bait the Dog: Subverted. Twice is Bronek offered an opportunity to get Gillie out of the picture by drowning but each time his good heart wins out.
  • Batman in My Basement: Christine hides Bronek in her apartment when the police come to look for him.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Gillie is extremely unhelpful regarding the police investigation in order to help Bronek get away.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bronek rescues Gillie and the two reconcile after he said some lousy things to her (trying to convince her to leave him), and as a result, he is arrested and could face the death penalty.
  • Blatant Lies: Gillie, frequently. Also Bronek, when trying to deny the murder. And Mr Barclay, regarding his relationship with Anya.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Gillie
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Gillie tries to explain that she's late for choir due to the police investigation, but the priest naturally assumes this is one of her tall tales.
    • The police are reluctant to listen to Christine, a prostitute, when she tries to tell them about her encounter with Bronislav.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: At several points is Gillie torn between staying loyal to her friend Bronek and not lying to the police but each time she can't bring herself to betray Bronek.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: It's implied that Bronislav and Anya spent time in a Soviet prison camp before coming to Britain.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Superintendent Graham, on occasion.
  • Flipping the Table: Bronek does this in his rage at Anya's place.
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: Pretty much the entirety of the (Polish-language) argument that leads to Anya's death.
  • Friend to All Children: Bronek, who never seems to be in too much of a hurry to give a kid a friendly pat on the head, or a push on a swing. It makes his crime all the more shocking.
  • Gender Flip: Gillie's character was initially meant to be a boy, but the director changed his mind when he met John Mills' daughter.
  • Get Out!: Anya demands this of Bronek but he wouldn't listen.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Bronek's on edge during the first half of the film in particular, for obvious reasons.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: In the church's attic, Bronek asks Gillie if she has told anybody about what she saw which she denies. This provides a perfect reason to silence her but Bronek is not the type.
  • Harmful to Minors: Gillie and her playmates growing up in a rough neighbourhood notwithstanding, there is the small matter of her being a witness to a murder...
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Subverted. Although she's by no means a bad kid, Gillie is a hell-raiser, and is quite clearly resentful of having lost her home.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bronislav's decision at the end of the film is made all the more touching when one considers that he faces charges of a capital crime.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Christine, perhaps unwisely so. She doesn't ask for any details about the trouble Bronislav is in - she simply hands her travel papers and some money to him on hearing he needs out of the country.
  • If I Can't Have You…: This is implied to be part of the reason for Bronek's deed.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Gillie and Bronek.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A few scenes of this ilk throughout the movie, but particularly near the beginning.
  • Love Makes You Evil: When Gillie asks Bronek why he murdered Anya, he says, "I don't know. Because I loved her too much, maybe."
  • Manipulative Bastard: Bronek stringing an 11-year-old along at the beginning of the film (with such gems as "No more lies. Friends don't lie to each other.") borders on sickening.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I don't want you! I don't!"
  • Mood Whiplash: During Bronek's tale to entertain Gillie, he intones solemnly "I saw the river red with blood, (brightly) and then I don't remember no more!"
    • And directly afterward, Gillie playfully demands to see his scar, and pulls up his sleeve, only to reveal a tattoo of Anya's name. Cue instant shattering of their cheerful frolicking.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Never said, but the look on Bronek's face as Anya falls to the floor is clear enough.
  • Naked First Impression: Expecting to see his girlfriend, Bronek walks in on the new tenant, Christine, while she's changing. Though he seems more concerned about the rent he's been paying than anything else.
  • Nephewism: Which is how English Gillie ends up in Cardiff.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Arguable, but Bronek would gotten away scot-free if he had let Gillie drown. Instead he chooses to save her, and brings her (and himself) straight to the waiting arms of the police.
  • The Nondescript: The tall-ish, fair-ish, fat-ish man Gillie describes to Graham. With a hat.
  • One of the Boys: Gillie again. At one point she gets into a scrap with an older boy, who is admonished "You must never hit a lady." Gillie's furious response is "I'm not a lady!".
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Near the end of the film, when Graham confronts Bronek, Buchholz slips into his native German accent while shouting.
  • The Place: Tiger Bay (Welsh: Bae Teigr) was the local name for an area of Cardiff which covered Butetown and Cardiff Docks.
  • Precocious Crush: Hayley Mills admitted being besotted with Horst Buchholz during filming. How much of that spills over into the movie is open to interpretation.
  • Protected by a Child: In the second half of the film, Gillie attempts to foil the police pursuit of Bronek every step of the way.
  • Race Against the Clock: The police' hunt after Bronek before he can reach the three-mile zone.
  • "Rear Window" Witness: Gillie watches Bronek shoot Anya while peeking through the mail slot of the apartment door.
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Superintendent Graham repeats the name "Bronislav Korchinsky" loud on the phone which alerts Gillie in her seat.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mrs Phillips hardly ever stops scolding Gillie, but she clearly cares for her and she indulges her tomboy behaviour, even though she finds it incomprehensible. Also Superintendent Graham.
  • Run for the Border: The third act revolves around Bronek trying to get away on the Poloma and reaching territorial waters three miles from shore where he was untouchable by the jurisdiction of the British police.
  • Scare Chord: Quite a few - when Anya's body is discovered, when Bronek snatches Gillie in the church . . . .
  • So Much for Stealth: When Gillie hides from the men in the ruins of the cottage she gives herself away by making a rock topple down.
  • Street Smart: Gillie, and how!
  • Suspect Is Hatless: The description Superintendent Graham takes from Gillie of the perpetrator. Although she's doing it on purpose.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Bronek and Gillie come across a wedding party. The song "Ugly Woman" is being played which reflects the situation Bronek and his dead ex-girl were in.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Graham.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Bronek murders his ex-lover in a jealous moment of passion, and kidnaps the only witness, but is also a Friend to All Children who strikes up an Intergenerational Friendship with his hostage and exhibits genuine remorse. It helps that he eventually saves Gillie from drowning, even though this allows the police to apprehend him.
  • Translation Convention: Zig Zagged in one scene. During the Bronek and Anya's argument, the dialogue switches between Polish and English, illustrating Gillie's perspective, and their own.
  • Villain Protagonist: An Anti-Villain yes, but our protagonist is a killer and kidnapper.
  • Wait Here: Bronek says this to Gillie twice. However, as Gillie is 11 years old, the first time she wanders off to play by the river. The second time, she is discovered by the police.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Gillie is identified by her mugshot in the newspapers.
  • Worthy Opponent: The final lines of the film.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Bronek, even though he Would Hurt A Girl.
  • Yandere: Bronek certainly has shades of this.
  • You Do Not Have to Say Anything: The 50s British version is given to Barclay. And later Bronislav.