Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Land of No Return - a toupological analysis.

"I'm a land...IT man!"

Land of No Return (aka Challenge to Survive, Snowman or Survival Elements) is an obscure 1978 movie that was filmed in 1975 but not released/broadcast until three years later.

The movie stars musician Mel Tormé as an animal trainer who crashes his light airplane while flying over a snow-covered mountain wilderness in Utah. Also along for the ride are an eagle and a wolf (called Caesar and Romulus).

Bill Shatner, in a curious "guest starring" role, plays Curt Benell, Tormé's business partner, who, after the authorities have given up searching for the lost pilot, funds the rescue effort out of his own pocket.

That's the plot - as for the story, there really isn't one. The movie focuses on Zak O'Brien's (Mel Tormé) struggle to survive, battling against the elements, whilst waiting to be rescued.

To make matters even more pointless, Tormé's character breaks one of the basic rules of survival and leaves the crash site (which is soon located by rescuers) and spends the rest of the movie wandering around aimlessly, while slowly freezing to death.

Where to begin? This movie is appalling - from every conceivable angle, Land of No Return truly stinks. Tormé's voice is (badly) dubbed over throughout (seemingly by another actor) enabling the insertion of bucket-loads of additional and highly extraneous dialogue, concealing the lack of lip movement by means of landscape cutaways etc. Yet, not even such drastic post-production surgery could save this project.

Add to that, O'Brien, all alone, talks not to his animals, but to himself, strangely telegraphing every thought and every action: "That cave over there...if I can just make it...could provide shelter...yes...need shelter." - this completely undermines the believability of the character's struggle and leaves the audience with nothing to deduce, nothing to feel and nothing to hope for (a kind of Deanna Troi syndrome) apart for this movie's quick conclusion.

"Must eat! Food good...needed to survive...if don't get....may lose energy..."

The direction is hopeless and amateurish, the music score stunningly inappropriate and the dialogue couldn't be worse if you just let the actor's ad lib. And if this farce wasn't bad enough, there are also entire lengthy scenes (padding out the movie) focusing on animals, for example a wolf encountering a porcupine...

...or a sub-plot about a lynx cub being taken from its mother...

There's also a jarring flashback to a movie set...

...and then there are the scenes with Bill Shatner, whose character is completely incidental. He, like all the other actors, seems to have no idea what he is supposed to be doing in this movie.

Shats is only in a few scenes and then, bizarrely, is seen no more. The actor's final scene (about a third of the way in) is the most odd: a portentous, overwrought, expository monologue that includes a weird puppy story (which Bill Shatner seems to just be ad-libbing) and is strangely similar in style to the actor's legendary performance of Rocket Man several years later. Watch below - one of the weirdest Bill Shatner moments you're ever likely to see - and wonder what the hell is going on!:

"Have you got any milk?"

Let's move swiftly to the hair.

Interestingly, the toupee again debuts before the actor:

Bill Shatner dons a hairstyle common for this particular period, the nadir of his "Lost Years" period. We also class this particular appearance as a "high hairline" moment, as we see a little more forehead than is common.

There's also a "Real Hair Reflex" at one point:

And that's about it. It's possible that Bill Shatner wrapped up his commitment to this movie in one shooting day, as his role really is very small. The actor likely forgot that he ever made this film in even less time. A mind-numbingly dreary mess. Land of No Return, which will almost certainly never be released again commercially, is available on VHS - it is also up on our new YouTube page.


  1. She packed my toup last night
    pre-flight Zero Hour, 9 A.M.
    and I'm gonna another bad movie...again

  2. Ouch! Bad movie, bad toupee. But Mel Tormé was a great singer. And a toupee friend, too!

  3. The prints of the movie should been buried along with the toupee.

  4. That's not a porcupine the wolf is inspecting. It's Shatner's hairpiece. Shatner was often known to cool his wigs down in snow, if a freezer or fridge was not available. This would put it in a state of suspended animation, fresh for the next take!

  5. Shatner actually performed "Rocket Man" at the Saturn Awards in early 1978, probably before this film was broadcast (though probabaly after it was filmed).