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Tank Girl: The Movie

Entry updated 10 September 2018. Tagged: Film.

Film (1995). United Artists Pictures presents a Trilogy Entertainment Group production. Directed by Rachel Talalay. Written by Tedi Sarafian, based on the Comic strip Tank Girl (1988-1995) in Deadline magazine, created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin and originally drawn by Hewlett. Cast includes Ann Magnuson, Malcolm McDowell, Lori Petty, Iggy Pop, Stacy Linn Ramsower, Ice-T and Naomi Watts. 104 minutes. Colour.

A tank-riding female Antihero resists the depredations of a water-hungry corporation in a Post-Holocaust Australia after a Comet hits the Earth, causing Disaster in the form of Climate Change.

Earth's drought-stricken water supply of 2033 is monopolized by "Water & Power", led by Villain Kesslee (McDowell), a militarized corporation which first captures Tank Girl (Petty) and her young friend Sam (Ramsower) and then puts Tank Girl and in-house Transportation-expert Jet Girl (Watts) to work luring a troublesome band of Genetically-Engineered Mutants known as "Rippers" – made by combining the DNA of humans and kangaroos – out into the open. Tank Girl makes the acquaintance of a modified M5A1 Stuart tank ("The sheer size of it!" she exclaims, fondling the gun-muzzle, "I'm in love!") and the resulting confrontation sees the Rippers wound Kesslee – subsequently restored in suitably lurid fashion as a Cyborg – and Tank Girl and Jet Girl escape by tank and by plane respectively. They follow a lead to Sex club Liquid Silver where the Madame (Magnuson) intends to put pre-pubescent Sam to work servicing the depraved desires of paedophile Rat Face (Pop). The duo humiliate the Madame and the other occupants of the club by making them perform Cole Porter's Let's Do It (1928) at gunpoint, whereupon Water & Power soldiers storm the impromptu song-and-dance number and recapture Sam. Tank Girl and Jet Girl discover the desert hide-out of the Rippers and inveigle themselves into their affections by taking part in a Jazz-poetry inflected Religious festival and, despite the suspicions of Ripper T-Saint (Ice-T), are trusted by the Rippers to use their vehicles to seize a shipment of Weapons intended for Water & Power – but this proves to be a trap. Kesslee reveals that Tank Girl has been bugged all along and informs her that child protégé Sam is trapped in a pipe of rapidly-filling water. A comic book-style fight ensues and Tank Girl short-circuits Kesslee's cybernetic rigging by injecting him with one of his own weapons: a handheld hypodermic capable of turning blood into water.

Tank Girl was filmed at White Sands, New Mexico and an abandoned shopping centre in Phoenix City, with many of the remaining scenes shot within forty miles of Tucson, Arizona, but the action is regularly interspersed with hand-drawn frames from the comic strip on which it is based, a decision rumoured in part to be as a result of production difficulties and studio cuts. Comic book creators Hewlett and Martin spoke disparagingly of their experience on the film – their original strip had relied heavily on a punk aesthetic, Absurdism and surrealist cut-up techniques – and director Talalay said studio interference had made it hard to preserve the intended Feminism of her approach. The film nonetheless achieved a modest cult following, despite recouping a little over $6 million of its $25 million production budget and failing to reverse the dwindling commercial fortunes of the music-and-comics Deadline magazine from which its distinctive and anarchic style had sprung.

Tank Girl Movie Adaptation (1995) was the Comic book adaptation of the film, written by Peter Milligan, and the novelization was Tank Girl: The Movie: A Novel (1996) by Martin Millar. [MD]


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