Only Shatner can make Satanists melt
November 16, 2007 1:09 PM   Subscribe

All hail 70s-era Shatner! He began his career with some rather prestigious projects, appearing in The Brothers Karamazov and Judgment at Nuremberg, as well as some rather high profile appearance in Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But even then, there were hints of exploitation, such as 1961's The Explosive Generation, in which Shatner played a teacher whose job is endangered when she speaks candidly to kids about sex. And there was 1962's The Intruder, a Roger Corman film from 1963 in which Shatner played a carpetbagging racist inciting violence in a southern town. (Clip.) And, of course, there was Incubus from 1965, a horror film in Esperanto. (Clip.) But, after Star Trek, at the start of the 70s, something went haywire.

Let us begin with Big Bad Mama, from 1974, a Corman ripoff of Bonnie and Clyde that featured Angie Dickenson played a moonshiner with desperate daughter and Shatner as a gambler made bervous by machine guns. (Preview.) Also in 1974, Shatner starred in Impulse as a con man who murders women. (See him kill Karate Pete.) The following year, he starred in The Devil's Rain, which put him toe toe toe with satanists. (Watch Shatner scream; Ooh, they melt!)

What could be worse? Well, you could have Shatner fighting spiders. (Review; clip) Or you could have him wear an atrocious toupee and leisure suits to narrate and appear throughout a pseudoscientific documentary about aliens from space. (Summary.) Or you could simply find him in a series of made for television disaster movies.

And did you think he couldn't ruin his own great episode of Twilight Zone? Think again.
posted by Astro Zombie (62 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I realize that's just a typo, but the idea of Shatner as a teacher whose job is endangered when she speaks openly about sex is simultaneously the best thing I've ever heard of and a cue for weeks of nightmares.
posted by cmyk at 1:14 PM on November 16, 2007

Can I help it if I find Shatner pretty?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2007

I'm sure he'd be devastating in a slinky dress.
posted by cmyk at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2007

My favorite kind of post: a richly linked survey on an interesting topic I hadn't known/thought much about. Kudos to you sir.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2007

Hm. Somehow I have also given two dates for The Intruder. The proper date is 1962.

posted by Astro Zombie at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Shatner has Secrets
posted by Bovine Love at 1:25 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd buy Shatner a beer.
posted by malaprohibita at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Devil's Rain is to horror movies what The Poseidon Adventure is to...uh...movies about boats. Seriously. I LOVE The Devil's Rain, in all its goofy, overblown glory. Love. It.

(Kingdom of the Spiders is also pretty awesome, though, and definitely more of a straight-up Shatner fest.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2007


Shatner is a better and far edgier actor than the combined butt baby DNA of Patrick Stewart and the so-called "Sir" Lawrence Olivier.

I bet if Shatner was British people would see him for the Thespian genius he is. Instead he is forever held back as one of the Lesser Empires drunken hockey stick-wielding, no littering, Moose eating, bumpkin-bastard-step-children. Other-wise known as Canadian.

If we could Knight Shatner he would win all the Oscars. All of them. Every year. FOREVER!
posted by tkchrist at 1:29 PM on November 16, 2007 [6 favorites]

"The Shat" has had a remarkable career.

An interesting album from a few years ago was "Has Been" -- his spoken-word retrospective, produced by Ben Folds with guest appearances from Aimee Mann, Henry Rollins and Joe Jackson.

You get the sense, in listening to him, that he recognizes he's a ham, but at least to him it's an opportunity to try new things.
posted by borborygmi at 1:29 PM on November 16, 2007

I had a weird moment listening to Has Been, when all of a sudden Shatner stopped talking and Joe Jackson started singing, but I thought it was still Shatner, and I though HOLY CHRIST, HE CAN REALLY SING!

posted by Astro Zombie at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

My brother and I used to watch Kingdom of the Spiders all the time. We'd quote our favourite lines, laugh ourselves silly...'course, later he got killed in 'Nam.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2007

He was great in Judgment at Nuremberg and some of the old Twilight Zone episodes. But even in that Roger Corman movie, you can see his acting turning into a series of twitches and kabuki-like mannerisms.

...twitches and kabuki-like mannerisms that I will always, always stop everything and watch whenever I see them on TV.
posted by PlusDistance at 1:45 PM on November 16, 2007

I am glad Borboygmi mentioned "Has Been" which was a great album that deserves more respect. With a couple of exceptions, most of the songs survive long after the gimmick phase has passed.
posted by rokusan at 1:51 PM on November 16, 2007

I'm waiting for him to redeem his entire career and his mis-spent life in the title role of Liberace, under the direction of Martin Scorcese.
posted by jamjam at 1:55 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm really somewhat surprised you didn't talk about Transformed Man. William Shatner doing "Lucy... in the sky... with... Diamonds!" is one of the funniest damned things I've ever heard. Every song on that record is hilarious. "Hey... Mr... Tambourine man... Play a song for me!" Christ, people, he does It was a very good year on there. You can't deny its greatness.

Shatner really is a good actor.

Bovine Love: Shatner has Secrets

Well, yes. Actually, Shatnerful of Secrets was one of the most influential psychodelic albums of its time, and inspired a horde of imitators.
posted by koeselitz at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2007

This thread is making me bervous, too.
posted by tommasz at 2:07 PM on November 16, 2007

"Common People" live on Leno; Shatner's line readings are even more mannered than on the CD. Which is awesome.
Joe Jackson looks like a bald, human Woody Woodpecker.

There's also his MTV Movie Awards parody of Se7en, featuring William Shatner as Captain Kirk, William Shatner as T.J. Hooker, and Rescue 911's William Shatner.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:24 PM on November 16, 2007

Metafilter: a series of twitches and kabuki-like mannerisms.

...I've always wanted to do one of those.
posted by anvilcity at 2:32 PM on November 16, 2007

Astro Zombie:
I had a weird moment listening to Has Been, when all of a sudden Shatner stopped talking and Joe Jackson started singing, but I thought it was still Shatner, and I though HOLY CHRIST, HE CAN REALLY SING!


Heh, I'll bet that was his cover of Common People, right? Because I had the exact same reaction, as well as the crushing disappointment when I learned that this world of base flesh and craven appetites was still too corrupted and venal for the unearthly beauty of The Shat's singing voice to return to us once more.
posted by xthlc at 2:34 PM on November 16, 2007

posted by LooseFilter at 2:55 PM on November 16, 2007

"My belief system is that when this is over, it's over. That you don't look down from heaven and wait for your loved ones to join you. There may be some soul activity, but I'm not sure about that. But what I am sure about is that your molecules continue and in due time become something else. That's science." - William Shatner

Here's to a man who has made the most of his life as he has lived it. What some call over-acting, I call going for the gusto. A true living legend. If you find him uncool, he's made being uncool cool. That's no simple feat.

"We are made of star stuff." - Carl Sagan
posted by ZachsMind at 3:19 PM on November 16, 2007

But, after Star Trek, at the start of the 70s, something went haywire.

Basically, he couldn't beg, borrow or steal a decent acting job and owed huge child-support payments to his first wife. He even lived out of the back of a pickup truck briefly. I can remember seeing him on the Mike Douglas show sometime around 1974-75 plugging his album and touring dinner theaters doing a one-man show about Galileo.
posted by briank at 3:19 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Denny Crane.
posted by blacklite at 3:34 PM on November 16, 2007

That YouTube link also reminded me how consistently great Joe Jackson's performances are. He's been money for about seventy years straight now.
posted by rokusan at 3:35 PM on November 16, 2007

In his defense, he was pretty good in both "How the West Was Won" and "Barbary Coast" ^, the fantastically ill-conceived spy (or more often P.I.) western.

And two of his highest-rated performances are from 1970: Sole Survivor, a spooky retelling of the Lady Be Good crash, and The Andersonville Trial. Plus, he was in Little Women (the one with Meredith Baxter and none other than a very young John de Lancie; he was among many actors who did not reprise their roles when it was briefly turned into a series). The Bastard, a forgotten John Jakes Revolutionary War pastiche in which he played Paul Revere; and yes, that cult curio Go Ask Alice

you can see his acting turning into a series of twitches and kabuki-like mannerisms.

Supposedly, he picked that up at the Montreal Children's Theatre.
posted by dhartung at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2007

Shatner's been doing an amazing job on Boston Legal as Denny Crane. The man can turn on a dime from self-parodying comedy to serious, gripping drama. And not faux-over-the-top drama, either. He's regularly turned in stellar performances.

Gotta give the man props; he's had one hell of a career, and he's not letting it end just because he's aged.
posted by rednikki at 3:45 PM on November 16, 2007

He'd be some kind of crazy cult star even without Kirk. But, serious, Kirk. KIRK.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2007

Shatner can't hear you.
posted by quin at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2007

The story about Shatner's quirky acting mannerisms, as I've heard it, goes approximately like this:

Back in the day, he was an understudy for ...? Christopher Plummer, maybe?... in a stage production of Richard III. After the rehearsals, once the run started, he kinda sloughed off staying prepared, figuring he'd never get to play the role during the run. Sure enough, a week or so into the run, the principal (Plummer, or whoever) is suddenly struck ill, and Our Hero is caught flat-footed that evening -- called in at the last moment, rusty on the lines, unready but required to do his thing. So he's on stage, and he's barely able to keep in character, as he's constantly pausing to remember the next line and then blurting it out.

And, as the story goes, you know what? You'd think the reviewer who caught his performance and described him in the papers would pan the heck out of him, but no-oooooo...Reviewer thinks it's a brilliant, unorthodox and totally unexpected avant-garde re-interpretation of the title role, and Shatner's all brave and brilliant in portraying the character that way. Shatner thinks he's on to something and adds that odd, signature delivery to his reportoire.
posted by pax digita at 4:04 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't remember where I got this from and nobody would care, but someone as near as I can remember, pegged Shatner as the foremost contemporary exponent of meaningless -pause- acting.
posted by Huplescat at 4:23 PM on November 16, 2007

I probably owe Mr. Shatner a beer as well. I think a lot of people do.

One of my favorite moments in the audio commentary for The Incredibles is during the moment when Mr. i and Frozone are running from the police and hopping into Frozone's car. There's a moment when Mr. i is just about to get to the passenger side door. He has to stop the momentum of his bulk, and it is so Shatner from his TJ Hooker days. I remember thinking that the first time I saw the film. The animator of that sequence (forget his name sorry) points out that he deliberately put a little Shatner in that scene, and that he always tries to put a little Shatner into his work.

There's something special about how Shatner carries himself onstage or before a camera, that's uniquely his own. The voice was Craig T. Nelson, but there's more than a little Shatner in Mr. i's performance. Like the moment when he throws out his back. Or the moment when he flattens himself out opposite the walls of lava. Or when he kisses Mrs i? Shatner's physicality is peppered like a potent but little used spice throughout that animated film. I think Brad Bird owes William Shatner a beer.

Examining Shatner's performances throughout his career, even when he's purposefully toning it down and being subdued, you have to admit he's a very physical actor. In the modern world of Duchovnys and Keanus and Pitts, it's damned refreshing to see an actor who took the time to learn how to show emotion. Sure he pours it on a little thick occasionally, but that's an animator's dream, an impersonator's bread and butter, and an audience's joy.

It's fun to make fun of Shatner, but it's also pleasantly surprising to see him as Denny Crane, want to make you hate him in one breath and then want to hug him like a teddy bear the next. It's rare and precious to see an actor that good, pulling an audience's heart strings.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:31 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think we're forgetting one other highlight of Shatner's career.
posted by Flashman at 5:18 PM on November 16, 2007

Yeah, I like that Shatner has essentially realised he's a crappy actor and used that realisation to enhance his job prospects. Other actors may have given up, others yet may have taken up acting lessons; Shatner instead decided "it's my style" and made his terrible acting an almost good form of acting. Listening to his excellent (no sarcasm here) album 'Has Been' illustrates this point to a tee.

It will be weird watching someone else play Kirk when the new movie (essentially Star Trek 90210) comes out. It will be interesting to see if the dude playing Kirk decides to act or if he decides to imitate Shatner's style. Doing the former will likely be a bad decision...
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:27 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I remember as a child watching Shatner promote his new TV show TJ Hooker on the Tonight Show. He related an LAPD anecdote that has always stuck with me. Shatner recounted how the LAPD once busted a bookie joint in a unique manner. The problem was that all the bets were written down on a smooth counter top in water-soluble ink, so that in case the cops busted in the bookie could erase the evidence with a quick wipe of a wet sponge. The clever cops came up with an interesting strategy; they filled a bucket full of table tennis balls, and threw them at the bookie as they rushed inside. The bookie was busy covering his face from the Captain Kangaroo style onslaught instead of erasing the bets, and so the cops had their evidence.

Today, no doubt, it would be a SWAT team rapid entry replete with flash-bangs, Tasers, mace, a snarling dog, and chokeholds...
posted by Tube at 5:39 PM on November 16, 2007

You sicken me.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:41 PM on November 16, 2007

Comedy Central's roast has some funny stuff (looked like they left out his entrance riding a horse, though).
posted by kirkaracha at 6:00 PM on November 16, 2007

He also had a TV series or some such. Tekwar. (not to be confused with Tek Jansen)

As I recall, there was a game to go along with it - sort of based on the Dark Forces engine that wasn't totally lame, although it did have it's moments.

I recall that back then I though Shatner was a washed up hack, and I couldn't understand how he kept getting gigs. I listened to a friends copy of "Has Been" and now I thoroughly understand just how wrong I was. The man is a genius, and I have immense respect for what he's done. Chuck Norris is a tool, William Fucking Shatner could kick his ass with his pinky.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:00 PM on November 16, 2007

"He also had a TV series or some such. Tekwar."

Now Edna, the children need to learn about TekWar sooner or later.
-Seymour Skinner

His SNL appearance was one of my all-time favorites; the "Get a Life" TrekCon sketch is a classic (and this grainy abridged clip doesn't do it justice), but the whole episode was solid- the Enterprise as a theme restaurant (with Khan as a food critic IIRC) and the TJ Hooker sketch where he spends the entire time on the hood of the car still make me giggle. And for a mid/late-80s SNL sketch that says a lot.

Metafilter: You've turned an enjoyable little job that I did as a lark for a few years into a colossal waste of time.
Metafilter: You- you must be almost 30- have you kissed a girl?

posted by Challahtronix at 6:23 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Chuck Norrid is a tool, but Shatner would likely take a beating from him to have Rutger Hauer’s career.
posted by Huplescat at 6:25 PM on November 16, 2007

I only know one person who's ever met Shatner, but he said he was an effusively nice guy. He came onstage to introduce the singer his band was backing up (I forget who, years ago in LA,) and stumbled over his drumset. He takes great pride in that. "Captian Kirk tripped on THESE drums!!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2007

Shatner's justly lengendary rendition of Elton John's Rocket Man. Bernie Taupin is truly proud; Elton John could not be reached for comment. Rock it, maaaaannnn...
posted by Kinbote at 6:51 PM on November 16, 2007

posted by Devils Rancher at 6:52 PM on November 16, 2007

Or, better put, by a gifted friend:

MISTER TAMBOURINE MAN!" (makes teh noise)
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:06 PM on November 16, 2007

Shatner was born to play Pinter.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:07 PM on November 16, 2007! Never seen so....many....good....Shatner links in.... one place.....before.
posted by RichAromas at 8:21 PM on November 16, 2007

And he's not half bad as the Priceline Negotiator, you know...
posted by darkstar at 9:27 PM on November 16, 2007

I have a dream of making an adversarial buddy-cop-type movie with William Shatner and Adam West as rivals who must become allies to defeat their arch-nemesis: Christopher Walken. It involves air-traffic controllers, used car salesmen, a bank heist gone awry, and the three main characters having an dialog scene that would be imitated for decades to come.

Whenever I think about the script concept, the words 'instant cult classic' pop into my head.

[script for sale for a pile of cash and a writers credit. after the strike... natch.]
posted by quin at 10:19 PM on November 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

What, no love for Pray for the Wildcats? It has Shatner, Robert Reed, Marjoe Gortner and Andy Griffith as a seriously mean corporate executive out on a tear. And they're all on dirt bikes in Baja for most of the film. I'll never forget the moment when Shatner holds up two fingers, showing sugar that he found around the gas cap of Robert Reed's motorcycle, the damning evidence that Reed has disabled it himself, and shouts, "HOW MUCH, SUGAR, DID IT TAKE?" It's like the world turned 3D for me at that moment.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:25 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

His excellent cameo in Airplane II: The Sequel.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:26 PM on November 16, 2007

Shatner has transcended every genre and even his own bad self. He has become - and I am very careful to use this term - a living legend (well, within the entertainment industry).

He will be remembered long, long after he has departed us; far longer than 99% of the other actors we all currently enjoy.
posted by davidmsc at 11:56 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

No one has mentioned the wigs?
posted by A189Nut at 1:54 AM on November 17, 2007

what he said!
posted by Wrick at 4:51 AM on November 17, 2007

And there's a font named for him too.

posted by Devils Rancher at 6:12 AM on November 17, 2007

Anyone remember a daytime show called Stump the Stars, in which various has-been actors (including Star Trek's Harry Mudd, Roger C. Carmel) played charades? I remember when Shatner appeared on the show. You haven't lived until you've seen Shatner play charades. I do, however, recall one time when he was acting out something about Japan, and he kept clicking his teeth together. No one got the clue, and at the end Shatner said he had been "nipping." Get it? Nips? Well, he tried to justify it by saying the Japanese themselves call their country Nippon, but even as a kid I felt embarrassed for him. I'm not sure what George Takei would have felt.

He also played the villanous Stapleton in a made-for-TV version of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I haven't seen it since, and the critical reaction to it is uniformly negative, but as a pre-teen in the thoes of Trekkie-dom and just beginning a life-long Sherlock Holmes addiction, I considered it must-see TV.
posted by Man-Thing at 6:39 AM on November 17, 2007

You had me until you said this:

koeselitz writes "Shatner really is a good actor."

He's overdone. A ham. But he was so unashamed of it early in his career and is happy with laughing at himself now, so good for him. The Comedy Central roast of him is so emblematic of this phase of his career. If nothing else, he is distinctive and unmistakable, and he has left his mark, but he can only play himself. But I'm happy he's doing well now, and he does seem to be reveling in his cheesiness. My life would be poorer without Captain Kirk, Transformed Man, the Corman flicks he was in, and most of the rest.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:04 AM on November 17, 2007

The Dangers of "Cake" (YouTube):

"It stimulates Shatner's Bassoon - the part of the brain that regulates time perception." (about 1:45 in the clip)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:51 AM on November 17, 2007

There was a movie he was in that almost everyone I have met thought they dreamed: the one about the ghosts of the US bomber trapped around the wreck in the middle of the desert. I thought I dreamed this movie from childhood but it was real, I eventually found out what it was, it was made circa 1974 I think. Many, many other people thought the same thing, which I think particularly odd.

Shatner has done a lot of shit, but he's generally underrated. Big Bad Mama is a great movie for the sex scene between him and Angie Dickinson. Holy fuck, Shatner is hung like a horse!!!!!

The thing about Shatner is.. what people don't understand.. as a person.. he's really weird.

Also, alcoholic.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:34 PM on November 17, 2007

The thing about Shatner is.. what people don't understand.. as a person.. he's really weird.

Also, alcoholic.

Surely you don't think those are negatives. Before you answer think about where you are...
posted by tkchrist at 5:43 PM on November 17, 2007

What, no Free Enterprise? Featuring Shatner as himself? Now THAT is some fine self-parody.
posted by clavicle at 8:10 PM on November 17, 2007

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