Buck-ing the trend

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Frank Buck joins America’s war efforts in Tiger Fangs (1943), a PRC film directed by Sam Newfield, which starred  J. Farrell MacDonald and June Duprez as Buck’s compatriots who uncover a plot by the cunning Nazis to undermine the rubber industry in Malaya.

Bucking the trend of his usual ‘documentary’-style films, Tiger Fangs resembles the typical espionage film of the period. Evil Nazi plot which sends natives (and the empire) into chaos, awaiting rescue by the perceptive Buck and his companions. At the same time, Tiger Fangs still bears the mark of Buck’s other films, with stock footage of animal tussles, and lessons, which bordered on didactic, on the behaviour of wild animals. This unique combination was not missed by contemporary reviewers:

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The Evening Independent, 30 Aug 1944, p. 7

Beyond ‘a geographically undefined jungle country’, this review also reflects how little actual locations meant to American audiences who consumed these films set in Malaya; the reviewer did not even notice ‘Penang’ was mentioned within the first five minutes of the film.

For a low budget B-movie released by the Producers’ Releasing Corporation, and one filmed in under a week,[1] Tiger Fangs is pretty good, both in terms of critical response then and by present-day standards. In addition to Frank Buck, June Duprez, of the Orientalist technicolour Thief of Bagdad (1940) fame, also lent significant star power to this film. Buck also surprised reviewers with his acting skills:

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Irene Thirer, ‘Screen News and Views’, New York Post, 24 Nov, 1943, p. 18

And it is this combination of a animal collector and patriot who uncovers Nazi spies which the 1982 TV reboot chose to use. For more on that, check out this previous post.

In 2011, Brian Taves, film historian with the Library of Congress, recommended Tiger Fangs as a candidate for the National Film Registry. It did not make the cut, but do check out his essay justifying the importance of Frank Buck and his films in the history of popular culture in United States.

Join us on 10 April, 7pm, at NUS Museum, for the film screening of Frank Buck’s Tiger Fangs, a nominee for the National Film Registry!


[1] Frederick C. Othman, ‘June Duprez Laughs Now, Not Long Ago She Wept’, Schenectady Gazette, 27 May 1944, p. 11.

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