'Taking Tiger Mountain' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Bill Paxton, Barry Wooller, David Guthrie, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / NR / (1983) 2019 / Vinegar Syndrome)
Overview: In a dystopian future, Billy Hampton (Bill Paxton, in his first on-screen role) is a World War III draft dodger who finds himself part of an experimental brainwashing program created by a group of radical feminists.
After being released from the program, Billy heads to Wales for what he believes will be a sex-filled vacation. But, unbeknownst to him, Billy is really there to assassinate the Welsh Minister of Prostitution.
Blu-ray Verdict: A wild hybrid of art and experimental filmmaking techniques, 'Taking Tiger Mountain' began production in 1974, under the direction of Kent Smith using short ends left over from 'Lenny.'
After languishing in an unfinished form, the film was resurrected and completed by Tom Huckabee and eventually released in 1983; immediately making it an underground legend.
Set in a dystopian future where an entire town exists solely for prostitution, 'Taking Tiger Mountain' is, and without a shadow of a doubt, a weird, erotic tale that will sit with you long after seeing the film.
Perhaps more interesting than its wild narrative involving brainwashing, sex slavery, and economic turmoil, is the backstory involving the making of the film.
As aforementioned, this (supposedly) long-lost movie has been brought back from obscurity, and still evokes a sense of otherworldliness that deserves to be looked at by a new generation.
Released now via Vinegar Syndrome as a beautiful Blu-ray=DVD combo pack, 'Taking Tiger Mountain' is comprised entirely of dubbed voice overs for it was originally filmed without sound.
In the opening scene a room full of women discuss the pro's and con's of subjecting Billy Hampton (Bill Paxton) to reproductive surgery multiple times (although little do they know all their meddling ultimately turns him into an assassin designed only to kill specific targets.
As the film plays out, it seems Europe has divided itself into districts responsible for a singular financial purpose so a feminist cell resorts to the aforementioned assassination attempt.
However, when Billy gets to Brendovery in Wales he is unaware that he has been programmed to kill the head of the district — a district that peddles in prostitution.
Instead, he’s under the impression that he is on vacation, and so a lot of 'Taking Tiger Mountain' is focused on Billy’s (shall we politely call them) "sexcapades" and run-ins with various locals.
I won't give away any more of the plot, although it does admittedly meander a fair bit in these clouds of moments outlined above, but what I will say is that Billy is more than willingly on this strange and dreamlike odyssey through the urban wastelands - while an incessant torrent of broadcasts announce the utter depravity that the United States is pummeling towards!
With a script by Tom Huckabee and Kent Smith and with William S. Burroughs contributing to the story, these existential post-apocalypse films are still even today few and far between, but wow, yeah, this is most definitely the strangest and most complex I have ever come across!
Loose at times, yet chock full of calculated purpose and direction, 'Taking Tiger Mountain' is a must-see for all the reasons listed above and for the curiosity value alone of the fact that it has been "hidden" from us for so long that it actually deserves to be more openly viewed now. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, shot in B/W and comes with the Special Features of:
Region Free Blu-ray/DVD combo
Newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm Techniscope negative
Presenting both the original theatrical version and the 2019 'Revisited' version
Director introductions for both versions
"Taking Over Tiger Mountain" - an interview focused on the original version with director Tom Huckabee
"Revisiting Tiger Mountain" - an interview focused on the revisited version with director Tom Huckabee
"Interviews with Welshmen" - a short film by Kent Smith
Booklet with essay by Heather Drain
Reversible cover artwork
English SDH subtitles