We’ve just watched Paper Tiger (1975), which Patty gave me for my birthday. We rented it once, years ago, and never forgot it. But as much as we liked it then, it blows our socks off now. At last! A movie I can turn cartwheels over.
Toshiro Mifune–not playing a samurai, for once–is the Japanese ambassador to an unnamed Asian dictatorship, who hires David Niven as a tutor for his little boy. Niven has, shall we say, padded his resume, giving himself out as a decorated war hero and international adventurer. In reality, he’s been a quiet country schoolmaster all his life. But his employers don’t know that, and he soon fills little Koichi’s head with all sorts of tall tales about his death-defying wartime heroics. In fact, he was never in the army.
Rebels kidnap Koichi and his tutor, threatening to murder them unless the dictator releases political prisoners. Things look bad, and poor Niven, now that he actually has an adventure, can’t cope. He must now confront the truth about himself, and admit that he’s a total fraud.
But it can’t stop there, because the little boy won’t let it. His faith in his tutor, and his love, force Niven to engineer their escape from the rebels. He conks out the guard, steals the car, and they barrel down a mountain with no brakes and no control. Surviving the crash, they have to push through the jungle and then climb up the mountain with the rebels chasing them and shooting at them. And I’ll stop there, to avoid spoilers.
You know what’s so cool about this story? At no time do the writers ever resort to the impossible, or even the wildly improbable. Nor does it hurt to have two of the 20the century’s greatest actors in the starring roles. On top of all that, the story is also quite moving.
Paper Tiger isn’t easy to get, but Patty finally found it on amazon.com, and are we glad we have it in our library!