TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (1983) – The very memorable actor Bill Paxton passed away recently. I’ve been trying to decide which Paxton film appearance would fit in most with Balladeer’s Blog’s world of weirdness.
I considered the horror movie Mortuary (1983) in which Paxton portrayed a bizarre young mortician and slasher. The scene where he hops and skips among the graves is weird, but not quite WTF enough. I considered Brain Dead (1990) but Bill doesn’t have a big enough role. I almost went with The Dark Backward (1991), but that has (rightfully) become too well known over the years.
Finally, I decided on Taking Tiger Mountain. Not just because of how flat-out deranged that movie is but because of the novelty factor: Bill Paxton’s BODY stars in the film, but his dialogue was all overdubbed by a British man. That odd circumstance always made me want to see Paxton’s infamous “Game over, man … we’re dead, man” whine from Aliens overdubbed by that same British guy saying “I say, something of a sticky wicket we’re in now, eh, lads?”
Putting all that aside, Taking Tiger Mountain is an artsy black & white post-apocalypse movie which is more Born of Fire or A Boy and His Dog than Mad Max. In the aftermath of a nuclear war the world is in chaos with diseases running rampant, food riots breaking out regularly and the poles knocked off-kilter.
Mutant rats are on the loose, as are the expected roving gangs of marauders. The makeshift governmental forces are playing a “spinning plates” game of maintaining order through distribution of pleasure-inducing drugs and an “anything goes” prostitution-based economy. Men can be women and women can be men. It’s a mixed-up world, it’s a shook-up world except for Paxton. Will-eye-am “Bill” Paaxxx-ton.
Paxton – well, Paxton’s BODY – portrays Billy Hampton, a male survivor in the U.K. struggling to get by day by day like everyone else. Billy falls into the hands of a clique of female scientists who subject him to experiments intended to brainwash him into carrying out an assassination for them. Think The Parallax View and The Manchurian Candidate but directed by Dennis Hopper on a three-day cocaine jag to picture what this portion of the movie is like.
And by the way THE William S Burroughs helped the film’s director and writer Tom Huckabee with the story.
Meanwhile, news updates like the ones in Six-String Samurai and Hardware provide a running breakdown on what’s left of the United States. Cannibalism runs rampant (Criswell was right, after all!) and religious fanatics have taken over. Those zealots have been making public examples of people like Richard Dreyfuss and Shirley MacLaine by executing them. For all I know Bill Saluga was also put to death but we don’t get confirmation on that.
At any rate, once the female scientists are done brainwashing Paxton’s body he is let loose to kill his target in Wales. No, I’m serious. Our hero – or at least his ambulatory form – blends in with the other survivors by ingesting drugs and having sexual relations with both women AND men.
SPOILERS: One of Bill’s male conquests ends up killing him and the movie then features the target of Billy Hampton’s failed assassination attempt putting a few things into perspective including the enigmatic title of this very strange but also very watchable experimental product. ++
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