Typhoon the Baboon: 1980s Animal Actor Extrodanaire!
Typhoon the Baboon has quickly risen to the top of my list as one of my favorite animal actors/cult characters of the 1980s! I was lucky enough put together a VHS swap last weekend at the iconic Cinemagic Theater right here in Portland, Oregon for their monthly VHS movie nite. The first Friday of every month they show a movie straight from VHS and project it on to the big screen. This week they were showing something I’ve never seen before from 1986 called ‘Unmasking The Idol’. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but what I ended up with was a glorious cult cinematic treasure to behold for the very first time from director Worth Keeter. I heard there was a baboon in this James Bond/Indiana Jones-ish action mash up, but nothing could prepare me for the ultimate primate-Typhoon!
Now come to find out Typhoon had also landed the lead role in the 1990 cult classic primate slasher flick: ‘Shakma’! I actually really dig that movie, it’s a pretty well done but ridiculous, fantasy game/LARPING in an office building with a batshit crazy baboon taking out nerds left and right piece of cinematic trash. Little did I know Shakma (Typhoon) was an action star before becoming a low brow horror icon!
His role in “Unmasking” is pretty hilarious, Typhoon or “Boon” in the movie excels in hand to hand combat, throws bombs, shoots guns, wears suits and compulsively flicks people off like a true champ! The movie without Boon, would still be a riot, but with him as part of an elite team of ninja mercenaries really makes this movie one for the books. A wild ride of 80s action insanity, full of idioticly charming pulpy plot lines, babes and most importantly BOON!
So after viewing Unmasking the Idol I felt a little sad that I’d most likely witnessed my last experience with Boon. However I was quickly alerted to the fact that this movie had a sequel from 1987 called ‘Order of the Black Eagle’ and indeed featured the star primate in the role once again! Apparently this time around though his role is a bit limited but I did hear that it features him driving around a miniature tank & blowing the shit out of Nazis! So yeah that’s next on my list for SURE.
Doing a little more investigating on Letterboxd I also found out that he makes an appearance in ‘The Fly’ with Jeff Goldblum?! Damn this guy’s got a pretty good filmography under his belt! I guess that one’s just gotta get a rewatch soon, especially due to it being the Halloween season AND to see Typhoon’s performance through a new lense.
Apparently Typhoon was able to follow simple commands quite well and even his role in Shakma where he portrayed a violent memesis he was merely shown food from an open door and then let loose when the door was closed. Naturally Typhoon being excited about the food would pound and smash on the door like a berserk maniac creating quite a stir on camera.
There’s actually a pretty cool & extensive article about his performance in ‘Shakma’ that’s worth a read if you’re interested in his acting career. Now I don’t want to make it all sound like working with Typhoon was always a pleasant experience, though it’s reported that he had quite a loving connection with his trainer here’s what David Cronenberg had to say about his experience directing him: “They’re very volatile, and there’s no such thing as a tame baboon, Jeff, because he was much bigger and stronger than the baboon, was able to dominate him, and the baboon’s wrangler said it was a good thing that the baboon formed that relationship….Otherwise there could have been big trouble on the set with some of the female members of the crew.” Umm…no Jeff Goldblum is NOT stronger than a baboon, if they get pissed they will fuck you up! They are indeed many times stronger than a human….
I also don’t want to give Typhoon a bad rap because lots of actors can be sort of grumpy on set. Everyone has flaws, even Typhoon. I did a little poking around and couldn’t find any more information about him being curious about how long he lived, with no results. So at this point I’m going to just believe that he’s out there, still alive planning his next big movie come back! ‘Unmasking The Idol’ has just been released on blu ray via Vinegar Syndrome too!!