The 2019 Oxford Film Festival, Mississippi (6th-10th February), will hold a special screening of the long lost, post-apocalyptic feature Taking Tiger Mountain.
This restoration, directed and supervised by original co-director Tom Huckabee and screened as Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited, this dystopian film stars Bill Paxton (in his first film role) as American draft dodger Billy Hampton.
Billy is brainwashed and programmed by militant feminists to assassinate the Welsh minister of prostitution. Lurching unwittingly toward his goal, he makes a series of furtive connections with societal outliers like himself, including a feral child, a gentle prostitute, a sadomasochistic delinquent, a lovelorn androgyne, a hippie dope dealer, and a mute nymphomaniac, while fending off predators who would sell him into sex slavery.
Eventually, he is forced to focus on his mission and face the dreadful dilemma tormenting his psyche: to kill or not to kill.
A film with a backstory almost as insane as the film itself, Taking Tiger Mountain was originally shot in 1975 in Wales, produced by director Kent Smith and Bill Paxton.
The script, written by Smith, was based on the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and heavily influenced by William Burroughs; complete with illegal drugs, polymorphous perversity, international intrigue, and existential paranoia.
The two amassed a £20,000 budget. Their stock was a stash of 35mm B&W film stock, comprised of short ends from Bob Fosse’s Lenny, and filming with an old Arriflex camera, adapted for Techniscope.
Smith’s script called for them to film in Morroco and the pair flew to Spain and ferried across to Tangiers, where they were promptly arrested for making a film without Government sanction. Smith secured their release with a bribe.
Paxton remembered that he had friends he could rely on back in Wales. Heading there, they spent the next six weeks finding the cast and crew, as well as adapting the script to suit the new locale.
Influenced by Italian cinema, they filmed with no sound, intending to dub the sound with professional actors when they returned to Hollywood.
It was four years later when Tom Huckabee leased the footage from Smith and, with a small team of students and faculty from UT Austin, and local professionals, the story was rewritten and new scenes were shot. They set it in a dystopian future, adding themes of militant feminism, geopolitical upheaval, and mind control.
Huckabee states that the influence of Burroughs became more pronounced, securing the use of text from his novella Blade Runner (a movie). To counterbalance this, parts of Valerie Solanas’ The S.C.U.M. Manifesto was added; (SCUM stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men).
In 1983, Taking Tiger Mountain was briefly distributed by Horizon Films and judged a noble experiment with flashes of genius, but fatally flawed. The film then disappeared but in 2016, Etiquette Pictures acquired the digital rights and transferred the original footage to 4K.
This inspired Huckabee to revisit the film, creating Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited. The film will premier at the Oxford Film Festival on Sunday, February 10th at 12:45 PM. A home video release will follow.