Weekend links 534

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Beautiful night – moon and stars, Miyajima Shrine (1928) by Kawase Hasui.

• One announcement I’d been hoping for since last summer was the news of a second box of Tangerine Dream albums to follow the excellent In Search Of Hades collection. The latter concentrated on the first phase of the group’s Virgin recordings, up to and including Force Majeure. This October will see the release of a new set, Pilots Of The Purple Twilight, which explores the rest of the Virgin period when Johannes Schmoelling had joined Froese and Franke. Among the exclusive material will be a proper release of the soundtrack for Michael Mann’s The Keep (previously a scarce limited edition), together with the complete concert from the Dominion Theatre, London. Also out in October, Dark Entries will be releasing a further collection of recordings from the recently discovered tape archive of Patrick Cowley. The new album, Some Funkettes, will comprise unreleased cover versions, one of which, I Feel Love by Donna Summer, is a cult item of mine that Cowley later refashioned into a celebrated megamix.

• “Did you know that Video Killed The Radio Star was inspired by a JG Ballard story?” asks Molly Odintz. No, I didn’t.

Casey Rae on the strange (musical) world of William S. Burroughs. Previously: Seven Souls Resouled.

• “And now we are no longer slaves”: Scott McCulloch on Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden at fifty.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Frank Jaffe presents…Dario Argento and his world of bright coloured blood.

• At Wormwoodiana: The Serpent Calls. Mark Valentine on a mysterious musical instrument.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Long-Exposure Photographs of Torii Shrine Gates by Ronny Behnert.

• Mix of the week: mr.K’s Soundstripe vol 4 by radioShirley & mr.K.

• Rising sons: the radical photography of postwar Japan.

• The illicit 1980s nudes of Christopher Makos.

• RIP Diana Rigg.

Garden Of Eden (1971) by New Riders Of The Purple Sage | Ice Floes In Eden (1986) by Harold Budd | Eden (1988) by Talk Talk

Taking Tiger Mountain

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Another week, another obscure black-and-white science fiction film. I hadn’t heard of this one at all until it was announced in 2012 that co-director Tom Huckabee would be attending a rare screening in New York. The film is an oddity with a complicated history that I’m too lazy to try and condense so here’s the borrowed detail:

IMDB: 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.

Wikipedia: Taking Tiger Mountain is a 1983 American science fiction film directed by Tom Huckabee and Kent Smith, and starring Bill Paxton in one of his earliest on-screen acting roles. Originally conceived as an experimental art film inspired by a novel by Albert Camus’s 1942 novel The Stranger and a poem by Smith, the film was initially directed by Smith and shot in Wales. Aside from Paxton, the film’s cast is made up of townspeople from the areas in which shooting took place. It was filmed without sound, with the intention of adding dialogue in post-production. During post-production, Huckabee took over as the film’s director, abandoning Smith’s original concept and instead loosely basing the film on the 1979 novella Blade Runner (a movie) by William S. Burroughs. The film premiered on March 24, 1983. Over three decades later, Huckabee re-edited the film and released it as an alternate cut titled Taking Tiger Mountain Revisited.

Tom Huckabee: The story went through four distinct periods of creation:
1. Kent Smith’s original script, entitled Taking Tiger Mountain, written in 1974, based loosely on the John Paul Getty III’s kidnapping of 1973 and Albert Camus’ The Stranger. It was set in the casbah of Tangier, Morocco.
2. After Bill and Kent got ejected from Morocco before shooting even a foot of film, they drove to Wales, adapting the script significantly to the new location and the people and opportunities that presented themselves; but they ran out of film and money after shooting about half of their script.
3. After I acquired the footage in 1979, I knew I couldn’t go back to Wales, so after editing their footage to about 55 minutes, I wrote a new story with a lot of help from collaborators, like Paul Cullum, Lorrie O’Shatz, and Ray Layton. I incorporated the Burroughs material and dropped the 55 minutes from Kent and Bill’s script into it. We wrote the ten-minute introductory section with the women and shot it on a sound stage in Austin, incorporating footage from another unfinished film by Kent and Bill called D’Artangan. I also built ten minutes of scenes from outtakes. In 1980, Paxton came to Austin for a few days to “loop” all of his dialogue, as no sound had been recorded in Wales. He improvised a lot of his voice-over narration, while under hypnosis. This film, called Taking Tiger Mountain, was released on 35mm in 1983 and toured the Landmark Theater chain of art cinemas.
4.  In 2016 I got a small advance from Etiquette Pictures for digital distribution and decided to do a major upgrade. I cut out ten minutes and added five, including the new ending, which comes after the end credits, significantly changing the message of the film. I reworked the narrative, making it easier to follow.

In addition to the complications of the production it’s necessary to note that the title has nothing to do with either Brian Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), or the Chinese opera the Eno album is named after, although we do get to hear about a tiger mountain. This reflects the equally tangled history of the “Blade Runner” title, which Taking Tiger Mountain does have some connection with via William Burroughs’ Blade Runner: A Movie. This was Burroughs’ cinematic reworking of a science fiction novel by Alan E. Nourse, The Bladerunner (1974), a piece of futurism about the very American dystopia of a nightmare healthcare system. Blade Runner: A Movie followed Burroughs’ earlier screenplay/novella, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, although the Nourse adaptation was a much more ambitious scenario with little chance of ever being filmed. No studio in the 1970s (or today, for that matter…) would have put up the money for something that’s like a wilder version of Escape from New York with added gay sex and time travel, however attractive this may sound. As is well known by now, the treatment’s title was later purloined by another film that has little else in common with anything discussed here.

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All of which means that Taking Tiger Mountain is exactly the kind of thing guaranteed to stoke my curiosity: a Burroughs-derived science-fiction film made on the cheap by Americans in south Wales, of all places. Why Wales? Because Bill Paxton had been there as a foreign exchange student. I’m not sure I would have been as interested without the disjunctive frisson of gloomy, rain-swept Wales in the mid-1970s colliding with William Burroughs. That said, the blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome has two things immediately in its favour: for a micro-budget production the film has excellent photography (the black-and-white stock was provided by leftovers from Bob Fosse’s Lenny); and there’s a surprising amount of unsimulated sex, something that isn’t such a big deal today but certainly was in 1974. The youthful Bill Paxton is gorgeous and exceptionally photogenic, so the film is a pleasure to watch even when little of substance is happening.

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Continue reading “Taking Tiger Mountain”

Weekend links 497

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Poster by Zdenek Ziegler for Roma (1972), a film by Federico Fellini.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: a short history of Straight to Hell, a long-running fanzine launched by Boyd McDonald in 1971 dedicated to true stories of men having sex with other men. The post gives an idea of the contents but for a deep dive I’d suggest Meat (1994) at the Internet Archive, a collection of the best of the early editions of STH. Related: “Straight to Hell was an immensely popular underground publication. John Waters, William S. Burroughs, and Robert Mapplethorpe were fans; Gore Vidal called it ‘one of the best radical papers in the country.'” Erin Sheehy on Boyd McDonald’s determination to kick against the pricks.

• RIP psychedelic voyager and spiritual guide Richard Alpert/(Baba) Ram Dass. The Alpert/Ram Dass bibliography includes The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964), an acid-trip manual written in collaboration with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner from which John Lennon borrowed lines for the lyrics of Tomorrow Never Knows. But the most celebrated Ram Dass volume is Be Here Now (1971), a fixture of countless hippy bookshelves whose first editions were all handmade.

• “An Einstein among Neanderthals”: the tragic prince of LA counterculture. Gabriel Szatan talks to David Lynch, Devo and others about the eccentric songwriter, performer and voice of Lynch’s Lady in the Radiator, Peter Ivers.

• For the forthcoming centenary of Federico Fellini’s birth Stephen Puddicombe offers suggestions for where to begin with the director’s “exuberant extravaganzas”. Related: Samuel Wigley on 8½ films inspired by .

• “I met resident Tony Notarberardino for the first time in 2015 and entering his apartment was like crossing into another dimension.” Collin Miller explores the Chelsea Hotel.

• “More green tea, professor?” The haunted academic, a reading list by Peter Meinertzhagen. Related: Our Haunted Year: 2019 by Swan River Press.

• “30 July, Yorkshire. Thunder, which is somehow old-fashioned.” Alan Bennett’s 2019 diary.

• More acid trips: Joan Harvey on the resurgence of interest in psychedelic drugs.

• At Lithub: Werner Herzog’s prose script for Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Tief gesunken, a new recording by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.

In Heaven (1979) by Tuxedomoon | Die Nacht Der Himmel (1979) by Popol Vuh | Roma (1981) by Steve Lacy

Weekend links 489

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Typhonic Neural Tantra by The Wyrding Module.

• November 2019, as many people have been noting, is the month in which Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner takes place. At Dangerous Minds Paul Gallagher writes about the unrelated William Burroughs script whose title was borrowed for Scott’s film.

• More Ridley Scott (sort of): disco was still a big thing when Alien was in the cinemas 40 years ago, so Kenny Denton reworked Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien score into a disco single which he released under the name Nostromo.

• “The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most exciting novels ever written and on the other hand is one of the most badly written novels of all time and in any literature.” Umberto Eco on the cult of the imperfect.

• Jonathan Glazer has made a short film, The Fall, for the BBC but the corporation’s restrictions mean that (for the moment) it’s difficult to see if you live outside the UK.

• New albums at Bandcamp: Typhonic Neural Tantra by The Wyrding Module, and Emotional Freedom Techniques by Jon Brooks (aka The Advisory Circle).

• Hawkwind dancer Miss Stacia and the Barney Bubbles estate have made a line of T-shirts based on Barney Bubbles’ Space Ritual design.

Walter Murch and Midge Costin on the art of cinematic sound design.

Ivana Sekularac on the former Yugoslavia’s brutalist beauty.

• Congratulations to Strange Flowers on its 10th anniversary.

Geoff Manaugh on the witch houses of the Hudson Valley.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: 19 experimental horror films.

Fall (1968) by Miles Davis | The Fall (2011) by The Haxan Cloak | Fall (2014) by The Bug (feat. Copeland)

Weekend links 484

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Alien Technology (2014) by Monira Al Qadiri.

• “William S. Burroughs wrote, in a long, zigzag ode: ‘You can hear metal think in the electromagnetic fields of Takis sculpture.'” Geeta Dayal on the sound sculptures of the late Panayiotis Vassilakis (1925–2019), better known as Takis.

• “Everything about this song is mysterious, from the creation to the lyrics to where it played on the radio…” David Browne on The Unsolved Case of the Most Mysterious Song on the Internet.

Moebius made many illustrations of Jimi Hendrix. Related: Giraud-Moebius pour le disque: 33 tours et plus dans les étoiles.

• London arts venue the Horse Hospital (where some of my work was exhibited a couple of years ago) is fundraising again.

• Sam Gafford: Number One—The Larch: John Linwood Grant remembers the late author, editor and friend.

• Mixes of the week: Cosmique Français by Tarotplane, and Secret Thirteen Mix 297 by Rosa Damask.

• More Magma: the group in live performance in 2009 playing the end of De Futura.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: The Horror Films of Terence Fisher Day.

Pye Corner Audio performs at the state51 Factory.

• A demo of Colour Me In by Broadcast.

• RIP Malcolm Whitehead.

• Alien Activity From The 45th Parallel (1978) by Cellutron & The Invisible | Alien (1981) by Ende Shneafliet | Alien Loop (2014) by Mica Levi