Monday, January 18, 2010

Sole Survivor - a toupological analysis.



A full toupological analysis is no small matter. Thousands of toupologists at the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies must be briefed, touposcopes and other instruments calibrated and then put into use; our various departments must report their findings and collate results and these must then be analyzed and prepared for publication here at Shatner's Toupee. Sometimes, an individual toupologist or a toupological team will make a stunning find - other times, the effort yields very little. That is, alas, the nature of scientific inquiry.


Which brings us to Sole Survivor, a 1970 TV movie featuring William Shatner in a supporting role. The plot, such as it can be deciphered, revolves around the ghosts of a crashed WWII bomber hanging around in the desert by their wrecked plane seemingly awaiting rescue. Bill Shatner plays a Lieutenant Colonel sent years later, along with an army team that includes the lone survivor, to the crash site to understand what went on.


Confused? So were we (click here to read a more comprehensible plot summary). To put it bluntly, we thought this film was downright dreadful. Watching toupee glue dry might have been more entertaining. Endless torrents of over-earnest, badly-written dialogue could barely conceal the complete lack of either meaningful action or realistic characters.


"Don't you understand Devlin? The system's been good to me."

The entire film is based upon the one contrivance about the survivors being ghosts (the story apparently taken from a Twilight Zone episode; Star Trek: DS9's "Hard Time" also did a far more effective and powerful job of telling this kind of story). Bill Shatner is wasted in his role as LtC Josef Gronke, clearly struggling as an actor to give dramatic meaning to the aforementioned incomprehensibly muddled and meaningless 1950s-soap-commercial-style dialogue.

In a desperate effort to try to add some entertainment value to Sole Survivor, Bill Shatner resorts to Karate-chopping a piece of cloth.

Lou Antonio, who coincidentally guest-starred in Star Trek's most verbose episode, third season's "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" also appears in this movie. Sole Survivor is very much like that Trek installment - based around one gimmick with endless talking, talking, talking filling in the rest.

Lou Antonio in Sole Survivor.

Now, to the hair...

In this early post-Star Trek period, Bill Shatner still has a relatively decent toupee; it would go downhill fast in the next few years.


Shats spends much of the film in hats (or Shat spends much of the film in a hat) - considering the amount of footage that was filmed in the hot desert, that was probably a wise decision. Whether he took off the toup for these scenes, we'll probably never know.

33 minutes in, a man tells Bill Shatner's character "Your hands must be pretty sticky by now." Was this a subtle reference to toupee glue?:


But only one real moment of toupological interest emerged:

video

Towards the end of the movie, Bill Shatner's character speeds along in an automobile (we wish we could say why, but our staff was numb with boredom by this point), his toup exposed to a considerable gust of wind (was this an expression of relief that the movie was almost over like in Pray for the Wildcats?).

Bill Shatner's toup flails in the wind.

If anyone out there feels we've been unfair and has anything good to say about this movie, please help us out in the comments section! Try as we might, we really can't recommend Sole Survivor on any level - we'd feel guilty for wasting your time! An admittedly very poor copy of this TV movie can be watched on YouTube or at Google video.

9 comments:

  1. Well, I watched this movie here in Brazil a long. long time ago. It waa dubbed in portuguese and I recall that they gave a horrible voice for Bill. And the toupee is cheap, too.

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  2. It seems to strike a chord with a surprising amount of people, so maybe it has some redeeming qualities.

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  3. Given how chubby he was getting in Trek season 3, I'm surprised he looked good enough to take his shirt off in this.

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  4. holds his head down a bit on that bike/windy shot...lest the toup lip should catch a lifting, destructive rush of air!

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  5. The toupee he's wearing in this film looks a lot like the one he was wearing when he appeared on that talk show in 1969, just after filming on TOS/3 was completed.

    I always suspected that after the cancellation of TOS (which resulted in him losing access to his Jim Kirk look) plus his divorce (guessing his own personal collection bit the dust here) forced him to start using these more obvious-looking hairpieces.

    Physically I thought he actually didn't look that bad in the latter half of Season 3. He looked pretty chubby in middle of Season 2 though.

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  6. My wife, who is not a Shatner fan, (unlike me) liked this movie. Me too.

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  7. The movie I found to be very atmospheric. Cheesy dialogue but they did a good job of creating a very melancholy feeling. Must have been like that when they found the Lady Be Good in the Libyan desert.

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  8. I saw the movie as a child when it first aired. The dialog was reminiscent of the 60's as was the drinking. It made a striking impression on me then. I recently watched it on utube. The dialog could have been better, and Shatner was a supporting (sort of) actor. I entirely missed the wind tossed toupee as a child...
    The gostly crew did a great job, with Lou Antonio knocking the ball out of the park!

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  9. I saw the movie as a child when it first aired. The dialog was reminiscent of the 60's as was the drinking. It made a striking impression on me then. I recently watched it on utube. The dialog could have been better, and Shatner was a supporting (sort of) actor. I entirely missed the wind tossed toupee as a child...
    The gostly crew did a great job, with Lou Antonio knocking the ball out of the park!

    ReplyDelete