Paper Tiger (1975 film)

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Paper Tiger
Paper tiger film-soundtrack fair-use.jpg
Directed by Ken Annakin
Produced by Euan Lloyd
Written by Jack Davies
Starring David Niven
Toshirō Mifune
Hardy Krüger
Kazuhito Ando
Music by Roy Budd
Cinematography John Cabrera
Edited by Alan Pattillo
MacLean and Company
Euan Lloyd Productions
Distributed by Fox-Rank
Embassy Pictures (US)
Release date
1 May 1975
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Paper Tiger is a 1975 British drama-adventure film starring David Niven and the child actor Kazuhito Ando, who later portrayed Teru Tendou in Ganbaron. The film was based on a novel of the same name by Jack Davies, who also wrote the screenplay.


The title comes from a Chinese expression meaning a person who looks powerful or strong but is in fact ineffectual.

Plot summary

Walter Bradbury (David Niven) is an apparently well-educated, decorated ex-military Englishman. He informs strangers he is the son of a viscount, a Member of Parliament, and a nephew of a general, and walks with a limp and cane which he says is due to crashing in the Le Mans 24-hour race.

A Japanese ambassador to a fictional Asian country ("Kulagong") is attracted to Bradbury's claims of receiving the Military Cross (MC) twice and the Croix du Guerre once during the Second World War and hires Bradbury to tutor to his son, Koichi (played by Kazuhito Ando).

Despite Ambassador Kagoyama's growing skepticism, Bradbury becomes a trusted companion to the impressionable Koichi. Embellished stories concerning his wartime service dominate the relationship of Bradbury and Koichi, including references to multiple regiments of the British Army, not all of which are real, such as the "Brigade of Guards", the Parachute Battalion and "Parachute Commandos". Bradbury describes to Koichi how he single-handedly stormed a German position in France in 1944, how he escaped repeatedly from later German internment, and after the war used his cape to help Queen Elizabeth II cross a puddle, a corruption of the Walter Raleigh aid to Queen Elizabeth in the 16th century. The impressionable Koichi is eager to build on Bradbury's stories.

But some painful truths are revealed after Bradbury and the boy are kidnapped by political terrorists. The Ambassador is forced by the host country to deny the kidnapper's demands, which aim to exchange 65 political prisoners for the lives of Koichi and Bradbury. While imprisoned, an ailing Bradbury reveals to Koichi that his limp is due to polio rather than to wartime service, but nevertheless the two contrive an escape from their hillside prison. Despite Bradbury's frailty, bringing his military record into ever more dubious focus, the capabilities of the terrorists prove insufficient in contrast to the ingenuity of Koichi and Bradbury.

They blacken their faces (but not their clothes) and escape during the night, stealing a car which Bradbur drives recklessly down the zig zag mountain road until they crash. Still pursued by the terrorists a helicopter is sent in to rescue them.

After their escape, the film culminates with Bradbury's confession to Ambassador Kagoyama that he was a country schoolmaster during the war. Forgiven for this deception, Koichi is delighted to learn Bradbury will continue as his tutor.


Production notes

The movie was set in the fictional city of Kulagong, but was filmed mostly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Cameron Highlands. Studio shooting took place at Twickenham Studios in London. The film's sets were designed by the art directors Tony Reading, Peter Scharff and Herbert Smith.

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