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Director’s Statement In 1975, Kent Smith, 29, and Bill Paxton, 19, produced approximately half of a feature film in Wales with an amateur cast and crew and a $20,000 budget. The script by Smith was based on the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. Their stash of 35mm B&W negative was comprised of “short ends” from Bob Fosse’s Lenny. Their camera was an old Arriflex adapted for Techniscope, a wide screen format which required half as much stock as Cinemascope. They intended to shoot in Morocco, as dictated by the script, which was influenced by the work of William Burroughs, complete with illegal drugs, polymorphous perversity, international intrigue, and existential paranoia. The duo flew to Spain, where they rented a car and ferried across the Mediterranean to Tangiers, where they were arrested for attempting to make a movie without government sanction. Kent secured their release with a bribe. Back in Spain, Bill remembered he had friends in Wales on whom he could rely. They spent the next six weeks in Wales casting and crewing, adapting the script to fit the locale, and running and gunning. Influenced by Italian cinema, they recorded no sound on set, intending to dub the dialogue with professional voice actors in Hollywood. After money ran out, they returned to LA, where I was privileged to see all ten hours of their dailies. Kent attempted for several years to raise finishing funds to no avail. Four years later in my last year of film school at UT Austin, I persuaded Kent to lease me the footage, from which I culled 60 minutes of provocative footage. After assembling a small team of students, faculty, and local professionals, we rewrote the story setting it in a dystopian future, adding themes of militant feminism, geo-political upheaval, and mind control. New scenes were shot, and the sound was built from scratch. The influence of William Burroughs grew more pronounced, to which I added the counterbalance of Valerie Solanas, author of The S.C.U.M. Manifesto. (SCUM stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men.) From Burroughs, I secured the use of text from his novella Blade Runner (a movie), which was worked into the script. Completed in 1983, Taking Tiger Mountain was briefly distributed by Horizon Films and exhibited In the US by the Landmark theater chain. Despite some positive reviews, the critical consensus judged it a noble experiment with bits of brilliance, fatally flawed, its back-story more interesting than the film itself. My inner critic aligned with the naysayers. However, through the decades, I held the belief that there was a good movie longing to be born from the source material. In 2016, Etiquette Pictures acquired the digital rights and transferred the Techniscope original to 4K. This inspired me to revisit the project with the aim of creating a version that was as good as the story behind its making. To the extent that was achieved, the film warrants consideration as a new entity. - Tom Huckabee, 9/14/18, Fort Worth, TX
Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited
Completed Dec. 2018
INTERVIEW WITH TOM HUCKABEE by Adrien Clerc for Beatdom (2014) The story of the making of Taking Tiger Mountain, released theatrically in 1983 but never on video, is one of the strangest I’ve ever heard. It all started in 1974, when director Kent Smith and actor Bill Paxton, based in Los Angeles, agreed to make a film together from a script by Smith. The story, loosely based on the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, was influenced by Albert Camus’ L’Étranger and set in the casbah of Tangier. The title was lifted from the communist Chinese opera, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (1970). Armed with with an Arriflex 35mm camera, ten hours of “short ends” from Bob Fosse’s Lenny, and $20,000, they flew to Spain, rented a car and ferried across the sea to Tangier. Encountering resistance from Moroccan authorities, Smith and Paxton relocated to South Wales, where Paxton had friends, and shot about half of a movie before running out of money and returning to America. Paxton enrolled at NYU to study drama with Stella Adler, while Smith attempted raise finishing funds to no avail. Enter Tom Huckabee, a student at the University of Texas and friend of Smith and Paxton’s, who leased the footage in 1979 with the intent to finish it. Unable to return to Wales, Huckabee had to rethink the project entirely. He jettisoned the kidnapping trope in favor of a plot line inspired equally byWilliam S. Burroughs’ sci-fi novella, Blade Runner (a movie) and Valeri Solonas’ radical feminist tract, The Scum Manifesto. Paxton’s character changed from a victim of kidnapping to that of a time- bomb assassin, programmed by feminist terrorists. Yes, it sounds crazy, and it is. In the following interview Huckabee reflects on the process that led to what is, perhaps, William Burroughs’ only screenwriting credit on a feature film. ADRIEN CLERC: Hi Tom. What interested you in Burroughs' work? TOM HUCKABEE: I think it was because, as an artist, social scientist, and human being, he inhabited the fringes between acceptable and non acceptable. He was an explorer of dangerous worlds and ideas. There was a transgressive thrill to his work in subject and form. He expanded my mind, in the same way that psychedelics did. Just like acid, it’s great for about eight hours every once and awhile, but I don’t want to stay there. My comfort zone is more with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Timothy Leary, William Faulkner, Herman Hesse, Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. I was never into opiates or boys, or pulp fiction for that matter. ADRIEN CLERC: The idea you had – not to make an adaptation, but a movie set in the world of a Burroughs' novel - is very interesting. Did it come to your mind before you saw Smith's footage, or afterwards? TOM HUCKABEE: I saw the footage first in 1974 right after it arrived from the UK. I may have heard of Burroughs back then but hadn't read anything. In September 1975 I enrolled at UT Austin and started reading Burroughs shortly thereafter. I got the footage in 1979, ten hours of silent 35mm Techniscope and it's corresponding anamorphic work print. I started building scenes using Kent’s script at first, which was based very loosely on the true- life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. There was no futuristic element, no assassination, prostitution, feminism, nor brainwashing.  It was like a dream or nightmare about a young American waking up on a train with amnesia - who wanders into a Welsh town, meets a lot of people, has adventures, sexual encounters bad dreams, and then gets killed on the beach. Or does he? It was a dyed-in the-wool, art house cross of surrealism and neo-realism. Bunuel, Jordorowsky, Pasolini, Resnais, Chabrol, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Felini, and Godard come to mind as touchstones for the vibe they were going for. Kent was ten years older than Bill and much more experienced in filmmaking. He was highly motivated, somewhat introverted, drawn to whimsy, obliqueness, irrational gestures, classical art, and societal outliers. And a master pianist. Bill at 19 was full of lust for life and a burning desire to make art, willing to do just about anything, too, even risk his life, as long as someone was recording it. His motivations were sex, drugs, rock and roll, adventure, fame, and fortune, while consuming and producing as much art as possible. He loved all things macabre, plus Clint Eastwood, Stanley Kubrick and Buster Keeton. He possessed a combination of looks, drive, industry, good humor and charisma that most people found irresistible. He was a daredevil on every level. Kent and Bill complimented each other remarkably well and came back from Wales with some pretty amazing material that equally reflected their individual and mutual sensibilities and obsessions. If I had had the money at the time in 1974, I would have happily funded the remainder of their vision. But when I got the footage in 1979, I had to make do with what they shot and the resources I had at school in Austin, which, at first for about a year, included no money, but a 16 to 35mm Steenbeck flatbed, which no one else had claimed. Once I had assembled all their footage into what seemed like a narrative flow, I ruminated on what it might be about. I'd been reading Burroughs and other avant garde, transgressive and erotic literature. The Story of the Eye by George Bataille was a big influence. From a book of interviews with Burroughs called The Job, I first read about Hassan i Sabbah, philosopher king of the assassins, I got the idea that Bill’s character should be an unwitting assassin. Other people who made significant contributions were Paul Cullum, a journalism student, who wrote most of the ubiquitous radio broadcast material and my faculty advisers, Tom Schatz and Loren Bivens. There was this mysterious, iconoclastic guy named Ray Layton from California, who acted like a cult leader, but only had one follower (and I think he paid her), who was hanging  out in Austin doing ominous conceptual theater pieces.  He had the idea to make it about feminist terrorists brainwashing Billy to murder a minister of prostitution. I don't know who came up with the idea that Billy was a draft dodger, but probably me. I’ve always wanted to make a movie about my older brother’s generation who fled to Canada to escape the Viet Nam War. The main character would be Jesse Winchester, the singer/songwriter associated with Big Pink and The Band. Anyway, then I read Blade Runner (a movie) and realized it was exactly the kind of apocalyptic world which would be happening in America, while our events were unfolding in Wales. At the same time, I lucked into finding a backer who promised $30,000. And suddenly, shit got real. I could afford to shoot the wrap around sequence I’d written with the feminist terrorist cell, to hire voice actors for the Welsh characters, and pay for all the laboratory work at the end of the process. By this time, I'd acquired a photocopy of the CIA’s MKUltra documents about their experiments using psychedelics for brainwashing, torture and warfare, which I relied on heavily for the script. After adding the new scenes, the running time was just over 60 minutes. And the world had no use for a 60 minute, wide-screen, black and white, experimental art film. I needed 75 mins minimum for it to be a feature. So, I went back to the well and found 15 minutes of outtakes which fit the new paradigm, mostly in the form of nightmarish visions experienced by Paxton’s character, who today we would recognize as suffering from severe PTSD. In a stylistic nod to Burroughs, I created one new sequence by cutting equal lengths of film and tossing them in the air, assembling them as they came down, but cheating a lot. I should mention that during this time I was fairly regularly, like once a month, taking acid, mushrooms, or baby woodrose seeds, an exotic psychedelic from Hawaii. This, added with all the art house and experimental films I was seeing, avant garde, erotic, left wing, and feminist art and literature I was consuming, and new music I was hearing and playing kept my mind open to outre themes and formal tropes. If a scene wasn't working, I could always run it upside down and backwards. After shooting the wrap around sequences and building new scenes out of outtakes, I finally got around to writing a full length script and doing story boards. And addressing the dialogue. It was like mixing pre-production, production, and post-production all in one big stew. I forgot to mention Woody Allen's Tiger Lilly as an influence. See, there were quite a few dialogue sequences in Kent’s script and the footage he brought back from Wales, but no sound. The script was only partly useful and much of it didn’t match what the actors were saying. I hired a lip reader to tell me what they were saying only to find out many of them were speaking Welsh. So, it didn’t really matter. I put whatever I could into their mouths which seemed to fit, and held the most important dialogue, containing plot points, for the cutaways. ADRIEN CLERC: How did you make contact with Burroughs. TOM HUCKABEE: In 1980, the bass player of my band, The Huns, had an out of town visitor, Adam Block, who said he knew Burroughs. By then I knew I wanted to use material from Blade Runner (a movie) as part of the ubiquitous radio broadcasts and propaganda you hear in the film, BBC-style reports of the apocalyptic calamity around the world, but especially in America. Adam said he would hook us up. Negotiations with Burroughs was very easy, due to the conviviality of his manager, James Grauerholz, now the executor of Burroughs’ estate. ADRIEN CLERC: How did you became aware of the making of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner ? TOM HUCKABEE: I was killing time in a book store in Austin, where Burroughs was signing books, perusing movie magazines, when I came across a big spread on Blade Runner in Cinemafantastique. We had just watched Taking Tiger Mountain on the flatbed across the street at the film school. Burroughs like it and we concluded the negotiation, signed contracts. I handed them a check for $100.00 and we walked across the street together to the signing. They had made no mention that the same book I was adapting, Blade Runner (a movie), might be used in some way, if just the title, for the basis of a mega budget sci-fi by the genius who had brought us the most popular film among punk rockers like myself: Alien. My jaw dropped... I walked it over to Grauerholz... and his jaw dropped. He wasn’t worried about being ripped off, though. There had been talk about them using the name, and a price already discussed: $5000.00, I think it was. ADRIEN CLERC: That's an amazing story! I'm a big fan of Alien too - in fact it was one of the first movies that got me interested in cinema, it's one of these films that creates a new dimension of space. I saw Blade Runner a few years ago when it was reissued for the big screen, and some of it is amazing, but I was a bit disappointed. The narrative is very conventional. What do you think of Blade Runner? TOM HUCKABEE: I love story, the look of it, the action sequences, and most of the characters, especially Rutger Hauer’s. Harrison Ford’s part was mostly thankless. I guess that was the point to make him sort of drone, to give the villains and the rebels all the color and the best bits, but did he have to be a cliche of a hardboiled movie detective? Was that a nod to Aphaville? The mix of genres didn’t quite jell. I don’t think it was Ford’s fault. I’ve loved him in most of his films. And Ridley Scott is a genius of high octane cinema, like James Cameron, Clint Eastwood or Martin Scorsese. I should watch the director’s cut. I had dinner with Ridley Scott and Bill Paxton one night in 1998 to pitch a story idea of mine. I can't remember if we discussed Taking Tiger Mountain’s relationship to Blade Runner, probably not, for fear it might derail the pitch, which he didn’t buy anyway. Lately, I’ve submitted a new script, a mini series about Timothy Leary, to his production company. It’s made it over the first hurdle. We’ll see. I met Leary through Burroughs and Grauerholz, then worked with him for a year on his life story, which I call The Second Greatest Story Ever Told; or “not yet told,” rather. Ridley’s brother, Tony, was one of Leary’s best friends. But I digress into shameful and pointless namedropping. ADRIEN CLERC: Do you know if Burroughs knew that Scott's movie wouldn’t be based on his book, just the title would be used? TOM HUCKABEE: I think he knew the script was based on “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” ADRIEN CLERC: Are you aware of Burroughs' work with Antony Balch, movies like “Towers Open Fire” or “The Cut-Ups? “ TOM HUCKABEE: No. But I’ll check them out. ADRIEN CLERC: Were you influenced by any other movies or filmmakers then, or were you just trying to create your own path? TOM HUCKABEE: Influences were all over the place, since I was working with acquired footage and trying to make it tell a story that it was not designed to tell. Things that spring to mind are Alphaville, Scorpio Rising and Fireworks by Kenneth Anger. Meshes in the Afternoon. Dog Star Man. Every post apocalyptic movie ever made. Manchurian Candidate, of course. El Topo, The Prisoner TV series. Bunuel and Dali. Stanley Kubrick, Dusan Makavejev, Twilight Zone, David Lynch. Truffaut, Pasolini, Antonioni, Roger Corman, In the Realm of the Senses. Last Tango in Paris. Robert Altman. John Boorman, especially Zardoz ... Bruce Conner!  Hollis Frampton, Michael Snow! Bergman’s Persona. Ken Russell’s The Devils. The Wicker Man, Viva La Muerte! The movies of John and Yoko. ADRIEN CLERC: And outside cinema? Your movie seems to be heavily influenced by music. TOM HUCKABEE: Oh, yes! The film is wall-to-wall, low-fi techno just about, from my friends Radio Free Europe: Brian Hansen, Dan Puckett, Stephen Miller, and Dave Maya. Plus bits by David Boone and Randy Kelleher. Brian, Boone, and Kelleher were all brilliant filmmakers who died young. There is also a song by my band, The Reversible Cords. Outside musical influences on all of us were Throbbing Gristle, Devo, Talking Heads, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Cale, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, The Doors. Other influences at the time: Antonin Artaud, Otto Muhl, Hunter Thompson, Carl Andre, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Andy Warhol. Rimbaud, The Book of Revelation, Foucault… Jean Genet,  Hustler Magazine, Mark Rothko... Man Ray and Duchamp... Cocteau! Eisenstein! Conspiracy Theory, Cattle Mutilations and The Anarchist’s Cookbook, Jim Morrison’s Poetry. I was also thoroughly enmeshed in punk rock and it's intellectual preoccupations… Genesis P. Orridge .... situationism... ReSearch Magazine... The Clash.... turmoil in London, all that went in the stew. It's interesting to me that Orridge actually became a woman like Billy does at one point in the film. Radio Free Europe, were Texas' answer to Throbbing Gristle. I was drawing on every avant garde thing I'd ever known to try to make a horse race out of the footage Bill and Kent had shot in Wales...  using every trick in the micro-budget, experimental, minimalist, transgressive handbook. It had it's admirers back then, more now, but the best review I ever got was from Burroughs, who said, "I think ya got something there, kid."  ADRIEN CLERC: I think he was right, you had something - the only problem was, I guess, that the "thing" it was is not an easyto-sell product. It's interesting that you mention The Job. The makers of “Decoder” also said it was The Job and Electronic Revolution that were the major inspirations of their work, not the novels. You were interested in the control theories that Burroughs developed, the power of the image and sound combination in mind-control? TOM HUCKABEE: Yes, sound frequencies that can make you vomit and whatnot. ADRIEN CLERC: Speaking of Hassan i Sabbah, the way the woman's group control the mind of the character is directly taken from the old man of the mountain's legend, isn't it? TOM HUCKABEE: It’s a combination of Hassan I Sabbah, The Scum Manifesto, Manchurian Candidate, and the MKUltra documents. ADRIEN CLERC: I love the idea of a cross-over between SCUM and Hassan i Sabbah! By the way, as you said you were influenced by The Job. Were you interested in Burroughs' views on women, the idea that they might have come from another planet, that we should build two distinct societies, male and female. TOM HUCKABEE: I see it as a flaw in his character. So, maybe that's the secret sauce of Taking Tiger Mountain, that it was equally influenced by Valerie Solanas, the brilliant militant man- hater vs. Burroughs, the brilliant, militant misogynist, although he had plenty of women friends. Didn’t he? And didn’t shoot anyone on purpose. Did he? While I was editing Tiger Mountain, I took a class in feminist art and literature, which left a lasting impression, especially Margaret Atwood, Judy Chicago, Lynda Benglis, Yoko Ono, Nikki Giovanni, and Adrienne Rich. When it comes to women, I'm much closer to Timothy Leary's views than Burrough’s. ADRIEN CLERC: And what about the homosexual undertones of the movie? TOM HUCKABEE: Homosexuality in Taking Tiger Mountain? I think it’s more like polymorphous perversity. That aspect was supplied by Kent Smith, I believe. ADRIEN CLERC: You predicted in your eulogy for William Burroughs printed in the Austin Chronicle that there will probably be Hollywood movies made from Junkie and The Wild Boys. Do you still think that’s likely. TOM HUCKABEE: Junkie, for sure. Wild Boys, why not? James Franco would be the likely producer... he seems to be the patron of all things outré and literary at the moment. ADRIEN CLERC: Taking Tiger Mountain hasn't been easy to see, to say the least, during all these years. Do you plan on re-releasing it? TOM HUCKABEE: Someday, It would be great to go back to the original Techniscope negative, which would mean that the film would probably look better than it did on 35mm.
I n a dystopian future, Europe is unified under a totalitarian patriarchy, where each town is assigned a single economic purpose. In Brendovery, Wales the occupation is prostitution. Arriving by train from London is Billy Hampton, a young American expatriate and draft evader (Bill Paxton in his first lead role), ostensibly there to enjoy a sex-filled holiday. Unknown to him he is a time bomb assassin, programmed by a feminist terrorist cell to assassinate the local minister of prostitution
Press Kit
William S. Burroughs, Tom Huckabee, and James Grauerholz, Burroughs’ manager, editor, and executor, on Burroughs’ 65th birthday Feb. 5,1979, Austin Texas.
Click  here
Blog review: {3-6-17}
Photo by Will van Overbeek. Maloney, a trained Griffon vulture, eats sheep guts off of Bill Paxton’s chest, as the bird’s owner, Gerald Summers, observes. Photo by Kent Smith, 1974.
Bill Paxton. Tom Huckabee Location: San Francisco, Ca. March 21, 1983 Photographer Unknown
Official Website Now  Streaming On vimeo click here purchase the dvd/blu-ray (with extras)  click here
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In a dystopian future, Europe is unified under a totalitarian patriarchy, where each town is assigned a single economic purpose. In Brendovery, Wales the occupation is prostitution. Arriving by train from London is Billy Hampton, a young American expatriate and draft evader (Bill Paxton in his first lead role), ostensibly there to enjoy a sex-filled holiday. Unknown to him he is a time bomb assassin, programmed by a feminist terrorist cell to assassinate the local minister of prostitution
Director Statement In 1975, Kent Smith, 29, and Bill Paxton, 19, produced approximately half of a feature film in Wales with an amateur cast and crew and a $20,000 budget. The script by Smith was based on the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. Their stash of 35mm B&W negative was comprised of “short ends” from Bob Fosse’s Lenny. Their camera was an old Arriflex adapted for Techniscope, a wide screen format which required half as much stock as Cinemascope. They intended to shoot in Morocco, as dictated by the script, which was influenced by the work of William Burroughs, complete with illegal drugs, polymorphous perversity, international intrigue, and existential paranoia. The duo flew to Spain, where they rented a car and ferried across the Mediterranean to Tangiers, where they were arrested for attempting to make a movie without government sanction. Kent secured their release with a bribe. Back in Spain, Bill remembered he had friends in Wales on whom he could rely. They spent the next six weeks in Wales casting and crewing, adapting the script to fit the locale, and running and gunning. Influenced by Italian cinema, they recorded no sound on set, intending to dub the dialogue with professional voice actors in Hollywood. After money ran out, they returned to LA, where I was privileged to see all ten hours of their dailies. Kent attempted for several years to raise finishing funds to no avail. Four years later in my last year of film school at UT Austin, I persuaded Kent to lease me the footage, from which I culled 60 minutes of provocative footage. After assembling a small team of students, faculty, and local professionals, we rewrote the story setting it in a dystopian future, adding themes of militant feminism, geo-political upheaval, and mind control. New scenes were shot, and the sound was built from scratch. The influence of William Burroughs grew more pronounced, to which I added the counterbalance of Valerie Solanas, author of The S.C.U.M. Manifesto. (SCUM stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men.) From Burroughs, I secured the use of text from his novella Blade Runner (a movie), which was worked into the script. Completed in 1983, Taking Tiger Mountain was briefly distributed by Horizon Films and exhibited In the US by the Landmark theater chain. Despite some positive reviews, the critical consensus judged it a noble experiment with bits of brilliance, fatally flawed, its back-story more interesting than the film itself. My inner critic aligned with the naysayers. However, through the decades, I held the belief that there was a good movie longing to be born from the source material. In 2016, Etiquette Pictures acquired the digital rights and transferred the Techniscope original to 4K. This inspired me to revisit the project with the aim of creating a version that was as good as the story behind its making. To the extent that was achieved, the film warrants consideration as a new entity. - Tom Huckabee, 9/14/18, Fort Worth, TX
New Trailer Click  here “Bill Paxton,William S.  Burroughs” Blade Runner (a movie),  and the Making of Taking Tiger Mountain” Click  here        Blog review:  {3-6-17}
INTERVIEW WITH TOM HUCKABEE by Adrien Clerc for Beatdom (2014) The story of the making of Taking Tiger Mountain, released theatrically in 1983 but never on video, is one of the strangest I’ve ever heard. It all started in 1974, when director Kent Smith and actor Bill Paxton, based in Los Angeles, agreed to make a film together from a script by Smith. The story, loosely based on the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, was influenced by Albert Camus’ L’Étranger and set in the casbah of Tangier. The title was lifted from the communist Chinese opera, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (1970). Armed with with an Arriflex 35mm camera, ten hours of “short ends” from Bob Fosse’s Lenny, and $20,000, they flew to Spain, rented a car and ferried across the sea to Tangier. Encountering resistance from Moroccan authorities, Smith and Paxton relocated to South Wales, where Paxton had friends, and shot about half of a movie before running out of money and returning to America. Paxton enrolled at NYU to study drama with Stella Adler, while Smith attempted raise finishing funds to no avail. Enter Tom Huckabee, a student at the University of Texas and friend of Smith and Paxton’s, who leased the footage in 1979 with the intent to finish it. Unable to return to Wales, Huckabee had to rethink the project entirely. He jettisoned the kidnapping trope in favor of a plot line inspired equally byWilliam S. Burroughs’ sci-fi novella, Blade Runner (a movie) and Valeri Solonas’ radical feminist tract, The Scum Manifesto. Paxton’s character changed from a victim of kidnapping to that of a time-bomb assassin, programmed by feminist terrorists. Yes, it sounds crazy, and it is. In the following interview Huckabee reflects on the process that led to what is, perhaps, William Burroughs’ only screenwriting credit on a feature film. ADRIEN CLERC : Hi Tom. What interested you in Burroughs' work? TOM HUCKABEE: I think it was because, as an artist, social scientist, and human being, he inhabited the fringes between acceptable and non acceptable. He was an explorer of dangerous worlds and ideas. There was a transgressive thrill to his work in subject and form. He expanded my mind, in the same way that psychedelics did. Just like acid, it’s great for about eight hours every once and awhile, but I don’t want to stay there. My comfort zone is more with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Timothy Leary, William Faulkner, Herman Hesse, Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. I was never into opiates or boys, or pulp fiction for that matter. ADRIEN CLERC: The idea you had not to make an adaptation, but a movie set in the world of a Burroughs' novel - is very interesting. Did it come to your mind before you saw Smith's footage, or afterwards? TOM HUCKABEE: I saw the footage first in 1974 right after it arrived from the UK. I may have heard of Burroughs back then but hadn't read anything. In September 1975 I enrolled at UT Austin and started reading Burroughs shortly thereafter. I got the footage in 1979, ten hours of silent 35mm Techniscope and it's corresponding anamorphic work print. I started building scenes using Kent’s script at first, which was based very loosely on the true-life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. There was no futuristic element, no assassination, prostitution, feminism, nor brainwashing.  It was like a dream or nightmare about a young American waking up on a train with amnesia - who wanders into a Welsh town, meets a lot of people, has adventures, sexual encounters bad dreams, and then gets killed on the beach. Or does he? It was a dyed-in the-wool, art house cross of surrealism and neo-realism. Bunuel, Jordorowsky, Pasolini, Resnais, Chabrol, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Felini, and Godard come to mind as touchstones for the vibe they were going for. Kent was ten years older than Bill and much more experienced in filmmaking. He was highly motivated, somewhat introverted, drawn to whimsy, obliqueness, irrational gestures, classical art, and societal outliers. And a master pianist. Bill at 19 was full of lust for life and a burning desire to make art, willing to do just about anything, too, even risk his life, as long as someone was recording it. His motivations were sex, drugs, rock and roll, adventure, fame, and fortune, while consuming and producing as much art as possible. He loved all things macabre, plus Clint Eastwood, Stanley Kubrick and Buster Keeton. He possessed a combination of looks, drive, industry, good humor and charisma that most people found irresistible. He was a daredevil on every level. Kent and Bill complimented each other remarkably well and came back from Wales with some pretty amazing material that equally reflected their individual and mutual sensibilities and obsessions. If I had had the money at the time in 1974, I would have happily funded the remainder of their vision. But when I got the footage in 1979, I had to make do with what they shot and the resources I had at school in Austin, which, at first for about a year, included no money, but a 16 to 35mm Steenbeck flatbed, which no one else had claimed. Once I had assembled all their footage into what seemed like a narrative flow, I ruminated on what it might be about. I'd been reading Burroughs and other avant garde, transgressive and erotic literature. The Story of the Eye by George Bataille was a big influence. From a book of interviews with Burroughs called The Job, I first read about Hassan i Sabbah, philosopher king of the assassins, I got the idea that Bill’s character should be an unwitting assassin. Other people who made significant contributions were Paul Cullum, a journalism student, who wrote most of the ubiquitous radio broadcast material and my faculty advisers, Tom Schatz and Loren Bivens. There was this mysterious, iconoclastic guy named Ray Layton from California, who acted like a cult leader, but only had one follower (and I think he paid her), who was hanging  out in Austin doing ominous conceptual theater pieces.  He had the idea to make it about feminist terrorists brainwashing Billy to murder a minister of prostitution. I don't know who came up with the idea that Billy was a draft dodger, but probably me. I’ve always wanted to make a movie about my older brother’s generation who fled to Canada to escape the Viet Nam War. The main character would be Jesse Winchester, the singer/songwriter associated with Big Pink and The Band. Anyway, then I read Blade Runner (a movie) and realized it was exactly the kind of apocalyptic world which would be happening in America, while our events were unfolding in Wales. At the same time, I lucked into finding a backer who promised $30,000. And suddenly, shit got real. I could afford to shoot the wrap around sequence I’d written with the feminist terrorist cell, to hire voice actors for the Welsh characters, and pay for all the laboratory work at the end of the process. By this time, I'd acquired a photocopy of the CIA’s MKUltra documents about their experiments using psychedelics for brainwashing, torture and warfare, which I relied on heavily for the script. After adding the new scenes, the running time was just over 60 minutes. And the world had no use for a 60 minute, wide-screen, black and white, experimental art film. I needed 75 mins minimum for it to be a feature. So, I went back to the well and found 15 minutes of outtakes which fit the new paradigm, mostly in the form of nightmarish visions experienced by Paxton’s character, who today we would recognize as suffering from severe PTSD. In a stylistic nod to Burroughs, I created one new sequence by cutting equal lengths of film and tossing them in the air, assembling them as they came down, but cheating a lot. I should mention that during this time I was fairly regularly, like once a month, taking acid, mushrooms, or baby woodrose seeds, an exotic psychedelic from Hawaii. This, added with all the art house and experimental films I was seeing, avant garde, erotic, left wing, and feminist art and literature I was consuming, and new music I was hearing and playing kept my mind open to outre themes and formal tropes. If a scene wasn't working, I could always run it upside down and backwards. After shooting the wrap around sequences and building new scenes out of outtakes, I finally got around to writing a full length script and doing story boards. And addressing the dialogue. It was like mixing pre- production, production, and post-production all in one big stew. I forgot to mention Woody Allen's Tiger Lilly as an influence. See, there were quite a few dialogue sequences in Kent’s script and the footage he brought back from Wales, but no sound. The script was only partly useful and much of it didn’t match what the actors were saying. I hired a lip reader to tell me what they were saying only to find out many of them were speaking Welsh. So, it didn’t really matter. I put whatever I could into their mouths which seemed to fit, and held the most important dialogue, containing plot points, for the cutaways. ADRIEN CLERC : How did you make contact with Burroughs. TOM HUCKABEE: In 1980, the bass player of my band, The Huns, had an out of town visitor, Adam Block, who said he knew Burroughs. By then I knew I wanted to use material from Blade Runner (a movie) as part of the ubiquitous radio broadcasts and propaganda you hear in the film, BBC-style reports of the apocalyptic calamity around the world, but especially in America. Adam said he would hook us up. Negotiations with Burroughs was very easy, due to the conviviality of his manager, James Grauerholz, now the executor of Burroughs’ estate. ADRIEN CLERC: How did you became aware of the making of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner ? TOM HUCKABEE: I was killing time in a book store in Austin, where Burroughs was signing books, perusing movie magazines, when I came across a big spread on Blade Runner in Cinemafantastique. We had just watched Taking Tiger Mountain on the flatbed across the street at the film school. Burroughs like it and we concluded the negotiation, signed contracts. I handed them a check for $100.00 and we walked across the street together to the signing. They had made no mention that the same book I was adapting, Blade Runner (a movie), might be used in some way, if just the title, for the basis of a mega budget sci-fi by the genius who had brought us the most popular film among punk rockers like myself: Alien. My jaw dropped... I walked it over to Grauerholz... and his jaw dropped. He wasn’t worried about being ripped off, though. There had been talk about them using the name, and a price already discussed: $5000.00, I think it was. ADRIEN CLERC: That's an amazing story! I'm a big fan of Alien too - in fact it was one of the first movies that got me interested in cinema, it's one of these films that creates a new dimension of space. I saw Blade Runner a few years ago when it was reissued for the big screen, and some of it is amazing, but I was a bit disappointed. The narrative is very conventional. What do you think of Blade Runner? TOM HUCKABEE: I love story, the look of it, the action sequences, and most of the characters, especially Rutger Hauer’s. Harrison Ford’s part was mostly thankless. I guess that was the point to make him sort of drone, to give the villains and the rebels all the color and the best bits, but did he have to be a cliche of a hardboiled movie detective? Was that a nod to Aphaville? The mix of genres didn’t quite jell. I don’t think it was Ford’s fault. I’ve loved him in most of his films. And Ridley Scott is a genius of high octane cinema, like James Cameron, Clint Eastwood or Martin Scorsese. I should watch the director’s cut. I had dinner with Ridley Scott and Bill Paxton one night in 1998 to pitch a story idea of mine. I can't remember if we discussed Taking Tiger Mountain’s relationship to Blade Runner, probably not, for fear it might derail the pitch, which he didn’t buy anyway. Lately, I’ve submitted a new script, a mini series about Timothy Leary, to his production company. It’s made it over the first hurdle. We’ll see. I met Leary through Burroughs and Grauerholz, then worked with him for a year on his life story, which I call The Second Greatest Story Ever Told; or “not yet told,” rather. Ridley’s brother, Tony, was one of Leary’s best friends. But I digress into shameful and pointless namedropping. ADRIEN CLERC : Do you know if Burroughs knew that Scott's movie wouldn’t be based on his book, just the title would be used? TOM HUCKABEE : I think he knew the script was based on “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” ADRIEN CLERC : Are you aware of Burroughs' work with Antony Balch, movies like “Towers Open Fire” or “The Cut-Ups? “ TOM HUCKABEE: No. But I’ll check them out. ADRIEN CLERC: Were you influenced by any other movies or filmmakers then, or were you just trying to create your own path? TOM HUCKABEE : Influences were all over the place, since I was working with acquired footage and trying to make it tell a story that it was not designed to tell. Things that spring to mind are Alphaville, Scorpio Rising and Fireworks by Kenneth Anger. Meshes in the Afternoon. Dog Star Man. Every post apocalyptic movie ever made. Manchurian Candidate, of course. El Topo, The Prisoner TV series. Bunuel and Dali. Stanley Kubrick, Dusan Makavejev, Twilight Zone, David Lynch. Truffaut, Pasolini, Antonioni, Roger Corman, In the Realm of the Senses. Last Tango in Paris. Robert Altman. John Boorman, especially Zardoz ... Bruce Conner!  Hollis Frampton, Michael Snow! Bergman’s Persona. Ken Russell’s The Devils. The Wicker Man, Viva La Muerte! The movies of John and Yoko. ADRIEN CLERC: And outside cinema? Your movie seems to be heavily influenced by music. TOM HUCKABEE: Oh, yes! The film is wall-to-wall, low-fi techno just about, from my friends Radio Free Europe: Brian Hansen, Dan Puckett, Stephen Miller, and Dave Maya. Plus bits by David Boone and Randy Kelleher. Brian, Boone, and Kelleher were all brilliant filmmakers who died young. There is also a song by my band, The Reversible Cords. Outside musical influences on all of us were Throbbing Gristle, Devo, Talking Heads, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Cale, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, The Doors. Other influences at the time: Antonin Artaud, Otto Muhl, Hunter Thompson, Carl Andre, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Andy Warhol. Rimbaud, The Book of Revelation, Foucault… Jean Genet,  Hustler Magazine, Mark Rothko... Man Ray and Duchamp... Cocteau! Eisenstein! Conspiracy Theory, Cattle Mutilations and The Anarchist’s Cookbook, Jim Morrison’s Poetry. I was also thoroughly enmeshed in punk rock and it's intellectual preoccupations… Genesis P. Orridge .... situationism... ReSearch Magazine... The Clash.... turmoil in London, all that went in the stew. It's interesting to me that Orridge actually became a woman like Billy does at one point in the film. Radio Free Europe, were Texas' answer to Throbbing Gristle. I was drawing on every avant garde thing I'd ever known to try to make a horse race out of the footage Bill and Kent had shot in Wales...  using every trick in the micro- budget, experimental, minimalist, transgressive handbook. It had it's admirers back then, more now, but the best review I ever got was from Burroughs, who said, "I think ya got something there, kid."  ADRIEN CLERC: I think he was right, you had something - the only problem was, I guess, that the "thing" it was is not an easyto-sell product. It's interesting that you mention The Job. The makers of “Decoder” also said it was The Job and Electronic Revolution that were the major inspirations of their work, not the novels. You were interested in the control theories that Burroughs developed, the power of the image and sound combination in mind-control? TOM HUCKABEE: Yes, sound frequencies that can make you vomit and whatnot. ADRIEN CLERC : Speaking of Hassan i Sabbah, the way the woman's group control the mind of the character is directly taken from the old man of the mountain's legend, isn't it? TOM HUCKABEE : It’s a combination of Hassan I Sabbah, The Scum Manifesto, Manchurian Candidate, and the MKUltra documents. ADRIEN CLERC:  I love the idea of a cross-over between SCUM and Hassan i Sabbah! By the way, as you said you were influenced by The Job. Were you interested in Burroughs' views on women, the idea that they might have come from another planet, that we should build two distinct societies, male and female. TOM HUCKABEE: I see it as a flaw in his character. So, maybe that's the secret sauce of Taking Tiger Mountain, that it was equally influenced by Valerie Solanas, the brilliant militant man-hater vs. Burroughs, the brilliant, militant misogynist, although he had plenty of women friends. Didn’t he? And didn’t shoot anyone on purpose. Did he? While I was editing Tiger Mountain, I took a class in feminist art and literature, which left a lasting impression, especially Margaret Atwood, Judy Chicago, Lynda Benglis, Yoko Ono, Nikki Giovanni, and Adrienne Rich. When it comes to women, I'm much closer to Timothy Leary's views than Burrough’s. ADRIEN CLERC: And what about the homosexual undertones of the movie? TOM HUCKABEE: Homosexuality in Taking Tiger Mountain? I think it’s more like polymorphous perversity. That aspect was supplied by Kent Smith, I believe. ADRIEN CLERC: You predicted in your eulogy for William Burroughs printed in the Austin Chronicle that there will probably be Hollywood movies made from Junkie and The Wild Boys. Do you still think that’s likely. TOM HUCKABEE: Junkie, for sure. Wild Boys, why not? James Franco would be the likely producer... he seems to be the patron of all things outré and literary at the moment. ADRIEN CLERC : Taking Tiger Mountain hasn't been easy to see, to say the least, during all these years. Do you plan on re-releasing it? TOM HUCKABEE: Someday, It would be great to go back to the original Techniscope negative, which would mean that the film would probably look better than it did on 35mm.
Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited NEWS
Completed dec. 2018 Press Kit
William S. Burroughs, Tom Huckabee, and James Grauerholz, Burroughs’ manager, editor, and executor, on Burroughs’ 65th birthday Feb. 5,1979, Austin Texas.
Photo by Will van Overbeek. Maloney, a trained Griffon vulture, eats sheep guts off of Bill Paxton’s chest, as the bird’s owner, Gerald Summers, observes. Photo by Kent Smith, 1974.
Bill Paxton. Tom Huckabee Location: San Francisco, Ca. March 21, 1983 Photographer Unknown
Taking Tiger Mountain  Revisited Official Website Now  Streaming On vimeo click here purchase the dvd/blu-ray (with extras)  click here
9
Best Film
Intl. Film Awards
2019