Apr 22, 2014
Undoubtedly, in terms of William S. Burroughs related films, you cannot find a more rare work than the American-UK co-production Taking Tiger Mountain (1983) aka Trechi Mynydd y Teigr co-directed/co-penned by Tom Huckabee and Kent Smith. Based on the Burroughs novella Blade Runner (a movie) (1979), which is regarded by some as a ‘closet screenplay’ and which has no relation to Ridley Scott's 1982 science fiction flick of the same name (though the producer’s did purchase the title ‘Blade Runner,’ which in the novel is a reference to smugglers of medical supplies like scalpels, etc.), Taking Tiger Mountain is a decidedly disorientating and deranging black-and-white dystopian anti-agitprop agitprop piece set in the futuristic time of 1990(!) starring a rather young (and oftentimes naked) Bill Paxton (Aliens, Frailty) as an involuntary assassin who is sexually lobotomized by a London-based bourgeois feminazi ‘think tank’ looking to establish a ‘world matriarchy’ and sent out on a suicide mission to assassinate a military major/prostitution commissioner and supposed tiger-keeper at a prostitution resort town in Wales where even old slags manage to turn six tricks in under an hour’s time. Originally intended as a film inspired by the 1973 kidnapping of American ‘golden hippie’ J. Paul Getty and aesthetically influenced by French New Wave films and writings of ex-patriate writers like Paul Bowles, Taking Tiger Mountain started production in 1975 as a totally improvised experimental film after co-director Kent Smith (who attended UCLA with Jim Morrison and made a living creating films for Encyclopedia Britannica) and then-unknown American actor Bill Paxton decided to travel to Tangiers on a whim and create a true celluloid odyssey, but after the two men found themselves bribing their way out of a Morocco prison and without any film stock left, they handed the film project over to Tom Huckabee, who decided to recruit his favorite novelist, W.S. Burroughs, to piece together a narrative of the patently perverse and paranoid sort out of the 10 hours of footage he had to work with. As Jon Dieringer at screenslate.com noted regarding Burroughs, “His novels Blade Runner: A Movie and The Last Words of Dutch Schultz expressly represent varyingly unorthodox attempts at screenwriting craft. Yet to date, Taking Tiger Mountain is the only feature film bearing direct writing credit for William S. Burroughs,” yet Jack Sargeant’s comprehensive study of Beat related films, Naked Lens: Beat Cinema (2009), does not feature a single reference to Huckabee’s film, thus demonstrating the rarity of the work as a true ‘lost film’ that only a handful of people have seen, at least until recently. Indeed, a film that was originally made with a totally different (non)script, abandoned (with the original soundtrack lost), and taken over by Huckabee, who apparently hired lip readers to fill in blanks in the script and added his own off-screen character dialog to fill in the film, Taking Tiger Mountain managed to more or less unwittingly utilize Burroughs’ literary ‘cut-up technique,’ albeit in a manner that is discernibly more coherent. As for Burroughs’ actual contribution to the film, Kuckabee stated as follows in an interview, “Burroughs came to town and watched what I had on a flatbed moviola. He said, ‘I think you’ve got something there, kid,’ and gave me the rights to his material for $100. He even offered to appear in the film, but like an idiot I said there wasn’t really a part for him.” A marvelous mess of a movie of the quasi-metaphysical sort that arguably does Burroughs better than any other film to date, including Cronenberg's Naked Lunch (1991), Taking Tiger Mountain portrays a whacked out world of the apocalyptic sort where fecund-free feminists transcend towelhead Islamists in terms of terrorist activity, thus making it quite arguably the most bizarre and idiosyncratic piece of misogyny ever committed to celluloid.
Set in a chaotic world where America and Russia have finally decided to show off their nukes and World War III is in full swing, Taking Tiger Mountain centers on a 20-year-old anti-social Texas-born hippie draft-dodger named Billy Hampton (Bill Paxton) who, like most Americans of his time, especially draft-dodgers, sought refuge in West England from the chaos of World War III, but ultimately became the human guinea pig of a feminist terrorist ‘think-tank’ that claims to be attempting to ‘reinstate a long lost balance between the sexes.’ As one of the frigid feminists states at the beginning of the film regarding their odious objective, “The female is sociocentric. The male is egocentric. But we have found that men can be adjusted…improved permanently. And we can alter the gene pool in such a way that only convivial men can be born. Gender is a learned thing. First we need to understand the male sexuality identity. We need to know which parts are intrinsic and which are conditioned. And we need to learn what parts are essential so the rest may be scrapped away and excised.” Indeed, over a 738 day period, the fiendish feminist hags used a series of aphrodisiacs and psychotropic drugs, electric shocks, and gay porn on Billy to turn him into a gynophobic homo and even had him surgically castrated, but somehow they managed to repair him back to normal as they are using him as an assassin to kill a Minister of Prostitution in Wales named Major Whitbread. Billy is programmed to believe that Major Whitbread is a ‘tiger keeper’ (who is also “actually a tiger”) sent by god who killed his father (who really died of a heart attack) and plans to kill him. Believing he is going on a trip to a village in Wales to experience a ‘sex vacation,’ Billy has no clue what sort of maze of madness he is about to get involved with.
As Billy candidly states at the beginning of Taking Tiger Mountain regarding sex, “How does an orgasm make me feel? It makes me feel...it makes me feel like god, man. When I cum…no, not like god…more like Elvis Presley or something.” While Billy enters the Welsh village thinking he will be experiencing an odyssey of heterosexual orgasms, what he actually experiences is psychological torture, horrific hallucinations (including, imagining his eye is being plucked out by a vulture), sadistic gay violence, superlatively shady characters, and multiple deaths. Upon entering a brothel, Billy runs into an old madam who runs the place named Mrs. Davis, who brags that she can “turn six tricks an hour…no matter what, young or old, I’d get them off before I got going.” Mrs. Davis gives Billy an aphrodisiac and proceeds to discuss how Major Whitbread prevented her from marrying her great love. From there, Billy is taken to a prostitute auction by a gay teenage prostitute slave-boy named ‘Sally John’ who recommends that he choose a girl named Judy Church because ‘she is the Major’s favorite.’ Of course, Billy chooses Judy Church and is led to her house by a little boy. Upon arriving at her humble abode, Billy confesses to Judy that he is nervous since it has been a while since he last had sex, but the two end up making passionate love (believe it or not, the scene actually features Bill Paxton receiving an unsimulated blow job from the non-actress). Assumedly as a result of the feminist brainwashing he has suffered, Billy ends up regrettably falling in love with a weird and sexually sadistic Welsh outlaw boy named Tony Boyle, who is almost Satanic in his charm, but he fights his urges. Out of nowhere, Tony begins cutting up his own lip with a pirate knife, which irks Billy, who threateningly states to the boy, “What are you trying to do, you think I get off to that? Blood doesn’t mean nothing to me. You’re no hero, man. Nobody cares what you do.” Welsh boy Tony then proceeds to cut up Billy’s lip in a discernibly homoerotic fashion, but some people scare him off before he can kill the American draft-dodger. After a number of hallucinations, street fights, and lonely days/nights sleeping on the street, Billy finally meets the Major at bar and accuses him of spying on him and attempting to make him into a male prostitute. Of course, the Major denies all these claims and tells Billy he is free to leave on the latest train out of Swansea, but Billy decides not to. After meeting with a fellow American who fled the United States after being busted for selling dope to college students, Billy is chased by terrorist assassins and his new friend is gunned down in cold blood. Billy ends up going back to Mrs. Davis’ house and she and her husband attempt to get him to hook up with their daughter Barbara. While Billy bangs Barbara, he decides to go against Mrs. Davis’ wishes and leaves her home. Ultimately, Billy confronts Tony Boyle and then proceeds to chase down Judy Church at some ancient ruins, as if she is some sort of seductive ghost. In his hunt for Judy Church, Billy ends up falling off of a cliff, but somehow reappears again alive on a beach where he attempts to beat gay outlaw Tony to death. In the end, Tony stabs Billy to death on the beach and the American draft-dodger whispers, “paradise…,” as if his demise has finally brought him solace.
Featuring automaton-like prostitutes that work for the government and a lead protagonist that candidly states, “You can’t trust anybody, really, anything real personal…because the only people that ever fuck you are the people that really care about you,” Taking Tiger Mountain is undoubtedly a singular dystopian flick in that it actually manages to conjure up a paranoid state where the personal and impersonal have become one in the same, with even the sex act itself becoming something that one cannot do without feeling that there is some dubious ulterior-motive related to the act. In terms of predicting the future, Taking Tiger Mountain manages to demonstrate how out of hand feminist culture-distorting has become. Indeed, while modern day feminists do no typically surgically castrate men and send them on assassin missions as depicted in the film, one has to wonder about a world where a deranged Jewish feminist like Sheryl Sandberg, who is chief operating officer of Facebook, seeks to have the word “bossy” banned because she believes the word somehow prevents women from seeking leadership roles because they are afraid of being called the B word (personally, I know another 5-letter word that starts with B that is more fitting for Sandberg). Socio-political concerns aside, Taking Tiger Mountain is quite arguably the most ‘trippiest’ film ever shot in black-and-white, which is no small accomplishment for a work that was filmed using the discarded short ends from Bob Fosse’s Lenny Bruce biopic Lenny (1974) starring Dustin Hoffman. Filmed with the real Welsh townspeople playing themselves (indeed, ‘Judy Church’ was played by Judy Church) in an area full of ancient ruins that seem untainted by modernity, Taking Tiger Mountain is like The Wicker Man of Beat movies meets the anti-sci-fi action of Godard’s Alphaville (1965), albeit actually entertaining and paranoia-inspiring, which is partially due to the disorientating soundtrack by Radio Free Europe and the incessant audio clips from fake news reports. Featuring references to how the so-called ‘Christian Democratic Government of the U.S.’ are planning to execute 11 people (including actress Shirley MacLaine, actor Richard Dreyfuss, and former CIA officer turned whistleblower John R. Stockwell) on September 11 (!), Taking Tiger Mountain has certainly aged quite gracefully in a rather strange way and is thus begging for a new cult audience, though it is questionable whether or not modern day viewers will be accepting of the film, as not many people appreciated it upon its release, or as director Tom Huckabee stated in an interview, “I know that some of the bigger fans [of Taking Tiger Mountain] were gay and bisexual men that seemed to get it better than maybe other demographics. And then recently when I showed it here at the theater where Lee Harvey Oswald was caught—there were a bunch of ex-film students in their 30′s that all studied experimental cinema, and people like that tend to get it. I think when it first came out, it was just too weird. People mostly didn’t understand where it was coming from. I think when I show it these days, people tend to get it more.” Aside from giving me a new sense of respect for Bill Paxton, Taking Tiger Mountain has also proved to me that John Boorman's Zardoz (1974) is not the only decent UK-based semi-pagan-themed dystopian science fiction.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:18 PM
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