Director John Avildsen has a knack for using small budgets to make "big" movies. First it was JOE, then this film, then his triumph with ROCKY.
The action of SAVE THE TIGER takes place in about a day and a half in the life of a man who is trapped by his own indulgences. Businesss is rotten, and Lemmon, the managing partner of Capri Casuals, a Los Angeles garment manufacturing company, finds himself daydreaming about his youth. After a
nightmare-filled night, he rises in his sumptuous Beverly Hills home; says goodbye to his wife, Smith, who is on her way to a relative's funeral; and gets into his Lincoln for the long drive downtown. On the street, he picks up Heineman, a liberated young woman who proposes that they go to bed
together. Lemmon balks. At the office, he and partner Gilford try to figure a way out of their dire financial straits (they owe a bundle and there isn't a bank in town willing to give them a loan). Lemmon suggests torching the company's Long Beach warehouse to collect insurance money, but Gilford
won't hear of it. When Burton, a conservative out-of-town client who lets his hair down in LA, arrives to see the new line from Capri, Lemmon arranges for him to be entertained by call girl Parker. Later, in a porno movie house, Lemmon meets with David, who is willing to burn down the warehouse
for a price. Outside the theater, Bif Elliott is raising funds to protect wildlife, particularly lions and tigers--hence the film's title. Things continue in this vein, with the increasingly pressured Lemmon eventually breaking down in front of the audience at a fashion show, convinced that the
assembled clients are his dead comrades-in-arms from WWII.
SAVE THE TIGER is an uneven but engaging look at a man whose lust for success has bankrupted not only his company but his conscience. Yet despite his illegal and immoral practices, we are drawn to Lemmon's Harry Stoner.
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