Tiger Gang (1974)
AKA Kommissar X: Jagt Die Roten Tiger AKA FBI Operation Pakistan
Cast: Tony Kendall, Brad Harris, Mohammad Ali, Zeba, Nisho, Qavi, Gisela Hahn, Ernst Fritz Furbringer
Director: Harald Reinl/Iqbal Shehzad
Nutshell: Kommissar X and his companion have a deadly new assignment in Pakistan trying to end the criminal reign of a notorious gang called The Tiger Gang.
The enormous success of the James Bond films was a game-changer in cinema history and rarely has a film had such a world-wide impact with imitators cropping up in all shapes and forms from all far-flung areas of the globe. The Kommissar X films were similarly inspired by the Bond films but were budget versions that attempted to make up for polish with their startling locations from around the world.
In this chapter released in 1971 Tony Kendall and Brad Harris, the dynamic duo of the Kommissar X series is assigned to smash an increasingly powerful and dangerous criminal ring that operates out of Pakistan and specializes in the drug trade smuggling their deadly wares through Afghanistan and on to the Western world, enslaving an entire generation of youth. In Pakistan too, there are seedy drug dens operating in the city and men try to forget their poverty-stricken lives in a haze of smoke or doses of heroin.
There is a mysterious voice commanding the notorious criminal gang known as the Tiger Gang but nobody knows who the voice belongs to. Meanwhile earnest local Police Inspector Ali (Mohammad Ali) works diligently in tandem with the two imported sleuths Harris and Kendall to crack the case of The Tiger Gang and put an end to their criminal operations as well as solve the mystery of the murder of wealthy and powerful Mr. Khan in a hunting accident. Mrs. Khan is not convinced that the explanation given to her is entirely truthful that her husband was attacked and killed by a Lion. There certainly is cause for suspicion and it is up to Brad Harris to find out why.
There is mystery and adventure and close shaves along the way but eventually we discover who the sinister Mastermind behind the Tiger Gang is and it is up to Inspector Ali to stop him with the help of Harris and Kendall before it is too late.
There are essentially two cuts of the same film; one cut is for the European and International market and audience while the other cut is for Pakistani audiences. The International Cut runs about 30 minutes shorter than the Pakistani cut and there are significant and considerable differences. The Pakistani cut features a drawn-out sub plot featuring Zeba and her brother Qavi and the woman who adopted them. Qavi is drugged out of his mind 24 hours a day and Shireen (Zeba) is distraught about his condition but her nagging manner only exacerbates his condition.
In the Pakistani cut, Shireen is romantically linked to Inspector Ali and there are at least two songs featuring the two of them in the limelight. There is also a painful series of scenes featuring Zerqa and Ali Ejaz who meet at a club and unfortunately as their romance blossoms the audience is peppered with three or four more songs none of which are particularly memorable. Zerqa was a regular in Lollywood movies in bit parts or as a small-time vamp or dancer but she is not voluptuous enough to be in the league of the sleaze queens Ishrat Chaudhary or Anita, Naureen, Nazli and co. Zerqa is best remembered for injudicious use of slap and ends up looking like a long-lost Adams Family member, presumably Morticia’s Pakistani cousin.
There are interestingly some scenes shot on Zeba and Qavi that have been retained in the German cut. One scene where Zeba walks into a drug den in search of her brother Qavi features locals doing drugs and a man injecting himself openly. Clearly this wasn’t acceptable for the Pakistani cut and was either left out voluntarily or involuntarily. Another scene of a Shia Procession that gets quite bloody is also left out of the Pakistani version while it is retained in the European version.
Wisely the Euro cut of the film has entirely dispensed with the awful and tedious comedy interludes and all the songs featuring Zerqa and Ali Ejaz. Other songs picturized on Zeba at a birthday party have been chopped out including one rather catchy number at a mehfil by Habib Wali Mohammad. All the songs have wisely been excised for the German cut which benefits by moving along at a reasonable pace and even if the events on screen are not too compelling at least the thing moves along and pace.
Sadly, the Pakistani version is insufferably dull and a film that is already lightweight on the plot department is horribly crippled even further by the large injections of insufferable comedy sequences between Zerqa and Ali Ejaz. There are way too many songs thrown in to a film of this nature and sadly not one of them is particularly memorable. All they do is slow the film down to an excruciatingly slow pace rendering it difficult to watch. The scenes of Zeba with her mother and Qavi have also been chopped off for the German version and thank the lord for that.
Mohammad Ali is efficient as Inspector Ali while Zeba looks her beautiful self but it is Nisho who steals the show from the locals in her two scenes as the mysterious Mrs. Khan. Nisho looks svelte, fresh faced and beautiful and it is a shame she has very little scope in the film. The film is mostly of interest to Pakistani audiences for a glimpse into the lifestyle that existed in the 60s just a few years after independence. The Lahore Pearl Continental is featured as well as many famous landmarks of the city which appear startlingly different to the way they are today.
Kommissar X is a mildly entertaining light-hearted and dim-witted crime caper but Pakistani version known and released three years after the German version as Tiger Gang is tedious, disjointed and insufferably dull and slow paced. If the Pakistan version was meant to be a thriller then they failed spectacularly in their endeavour. Tiger Gang is a Turkey and of interest only to die-hard geeks with a fascination for the oddities and misfires of life…of which this is one! Zeba and Mohammad Ali also featured later in Manoj Kumar’s superlative masterpiece Clerk. They evidently make their choices judiciously.