Favorite

That's Mister Shatner to you, kid 

The Psychotronic Film Society salutes a dubious cultural icon

Click on over to shatnerstoupee.blogspot.com, and you'll find an obsessive webmaster who chronicles the over-the-years changes in actor William Shatner's appearance.

Under the "Fun Facts" section:

"Bill Shatner started wearing an on-screen toupee in 1957 as his hair began to thin while he was still in his twenties!"

"We haven't managed to locate a single toup-less picture of Bill Shatner after 1959."

A crazy fan? Perhaps. A guy with way too much time on his hands? Undoubtedly.

But there can be no question that William Alan Shatner, Quebec-born in 1931, has a massive fan base, not only for his legendary and lengthy turn as James T. Kirk in the Star Trek universe, but for his often ham-handed, stop-start acting style and many, many questionable career choices.

Today's generation may only know Shatner from his current status as a lead performer on the sitcom $#*! My Dad Says. Or the guy on the Priceline commercials. Or maybe they've seen him in reruns of Boston Legal.

Plus, of course, the original Star Trek series episodes- not to mention the seven feature films in which he reprised his role as Kirk - are on the tube constantly.

Big Bill turns 80 on March 22; to mark the occasion, there'll be an eight-hour marathon at Muse Arts Warehouse on Sunday - featuring many of Shatner's lesser-known feature film exploits, TV appearances and more than a few outtakes, freakouts and other ephemera from the career of our most famous over-actor.

"I truly love William Shatner," says Psychotronic Film Society guru Jim Reed, who's behind the Muse event, "and think he's a fantastic actor who is too often mocked or ignored by those who think he's just a ham who's becoming unjustly famous."

It's true that parodying Shatner has become a lampshade-at-the-party tradition in America. He is almost universally considered the poster boy for bad acting: Take a thick slice of ham (Shatner himself), add a bit of cheese (pretty much any role he took immediately post-Trek), apply his self-consciously wry "humor" and, sir, you've got yourself a substantial Shat sandwich.

Not everyone, of course, agrees. "There is certainly an element of self-deprecating humor that has crept into his work since the early ‘80s when he re-imagined himself as more of an ironic figure," Reed says, "but at heart, he's a classically trained stage actor who was being groomed for serious dramatic roles before becoming a worldwide sci-fi and pop-culture icon against his wishes."

It might have been against Shatner's wishes, but at the end of the day Star Trek set him up, comfortably, for life. On an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1986, he played himself in a skit, imploring the rabid attendees of a Star Trek convention to "Get a life! For crying out loud, it's just a TV show."

Reed emphasizes that there won't be a single frame of Star Trek at his birthday bash - it's all vintage Shatner-the-actor.

"The real idea behind this marathon is to show ‘the best and the worst' of Shatner's film career, through some of his rarest and/or most underappreciated movies," he explains.

"Some of these are legitimately campy and laughably bad (like Impulse, for example) - but most of that is not due to Shatner himself. He turns in solid performances. It's just that the settings or the material is atrocious, because those were the only parts he could get after being typecast as Captain Kirk."

Here's the rundown for Sunday's Shatfest, with descriptions from Reed himself:

2 p.m.: Alexander the Great (1964), plus rare TV game show, musical and interview clips from the 1970s. At the time of its filming, Alexander The Great was the most expensive TV pilot ever made. It was envisioned as the first weekly TV series in the style of sweeping, historical battle epics, and starred Shatner in the title role, as well as Adam West (later TV's Batman), famed indie actor/director John Cassavetes, Joseph Cotten and Simon Oakland. After completion, this one-hour film (depicting the legendary Battle of Issus in 333 B.C.), was deemed too "exotic" and salacious for middle-American audiences and sat on a shelf for almost half a decade, until Shatner and West were both famous for Star Trek and Batman, and then it was shown just once as a TV movie to capitalize on their success. Shatner has publicly said that he based his take on the character of Captain Kirk on this earlier role. As a bonus, we'll also show a compilation of rare 1970s TV appearances by Shatner where he sings, does dramatic poetry readings, is interviewed and appears on game shows.

4:30 p.m: Impulse (aka Want a Ride, Little Girl?) (1974) Considered the worst film of Shatner's career, and one of the most laughably bad movies ever made, this ridiculously campy "thriller" was shot for next-to-nothing in Florida during a time when Shatner was so broke he was living in his car and taking whatever acting jobs he was offered. He plays a sleazy, paranoid, womanizing serial killer whose violent temper stems from a childhood trauma. Filled with hammy acting, horrible production values, tacky ‘70s leisure suit fashions and unbelievably bad dialog, it's prized by Shatner fans as perhaps their ultimate guilty pleasure. Also starring Harold Sakata (who played Odd Job in the early James Bond film Goldfinger).

6:30 pm: Incubus (1965): Written and directed by the great Leslie Stevens (the man behind much of the original Outer Limits TV series), this "lost" cult classic is the only feature length film ever shot completely in the artificial language of Esperanto. Made on a shoestring budget in the California desert, although it looks and feels like a European art film, it was beautifully shot by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Conrad Hall (American Beauty, Marathon Man, In Cold Blood, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid), and was unseen for decades when the negative and all prints of the film were mistakenly destroyed. Miraculously, a forgotten and pristine print of the film was accidentally discovered in the basement of a French theater, and has now been fully restored - with new English subtitles added for those who do not speak Esperanto.

8:30 pm: Kingdom of the Spiders (1977): This beloved "guilty pleasure" sci-fi flick is both genuinely scary and a real hoot. When overuse of pesticides in the Arizona desert cause tarantulas to multiply rapidly and attack anything in their path, both livestock and humans are marked for death. Shatner stars as a macho veterinarian who tries to solve the mystery of the unnaturally aggressive spiders and save the residents of his small, rural community. The movie used a full 10 percent of its half-million dollar budget on live tarantulas, as there was no CGI at the time. Actors are routinely approached by (and covered in) real spiders, and this lack of fakery results in a genuinely disturbing movie experience. It was nominated for Best Horror Film of 1977 by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, and boasts one of Shatner's finest dramatic roles.

William Shatner's 80th Birthday Movie Marathon

Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703D Louisville Road

When: 2-10 p.m. Sunday, March 20th

Admission: $7 per feature, $20 for an all-day pass

Info: www.psychotronicfilmsavannah.org, www.musesavannah.org

 

 

 

Favorite

Speaking of William Shatner, savannah

About The Author

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

Bio:
Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

More by Bill DeYoung

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Movies This Week

More Filmtimes

or

Right Now On: Twitter | Facebook

Copyright © 2016, Connect Savannah. All Rights Reserved.
Website powered by Foundation