Tiger Shark (Hawks, 1932)

Mortally tainted by Edward G. Roboinson’s annoying and over the top performance as a blowhard fisherman working off the coast of San Diego, Tiger Shark is a structureless character study that fades fast after a brutal and stunning opening sequence. Stranded on a life boat, Robinson’s Captain Mike, his second in command Pipes, and third crew member wait aimlessly for rescue. Sharks surround their craft and desperation turns to violence, leaving the third member eaten alive but the “white bellied devils” of the ocean. It’s a great introduction to the fisherman lifestyle Hawks wants to represent, but the rest of the film never achieves this level of intensity, instead giving scene after scene of melodrama and exaggeration completely outside the realm of this world. Some of the fishing scenes are tense, mostly because Hawks mixes in archival footage, but Tiger Shark feels small (absolutely no production value) and it’s performances warrant little empathy or even attention. A major disappointment, but it’s an early Hawks film so one can chalk it up to working out the kinks for the genius to come.

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