Friday, April 30, 2010

Big Bad Mama - a toupological analysis.

Big Bad Mama is a 1974 low-budget exploitation movie starring Angie Dickinson, William Shatner and Tom Skerrit. It was produced by Roger Corman (who directed William Shatner in 1962's The Intruder) and is set in Depression-era America, telling the story of a mother and her two nubile daughters who reject a conventional life and instead hit the road, embarking on a huge and very brazen robbery spree.

Along the way, they pick up a bank robber (played by Skerrit) and the gambler William J. Baxter (played by Shatner).

Skerrit proceeds to bed all three of the girls.

While Bill Shatner only gets one - Wilma, played by Angie Dickinson. His description of filming his famous (or infamous) nude scene can be read in Up Till Now.

Though Bill Shatner's character certainly wishes for more...

The exploits of the gang of five become more and more audacious.

The name of the game is Fizzbin.

Ending with a bungled kidnapping and extortion attempt.

As with Bonnie and Clyde (with a slight twist of Easy Rider) it all ends with...

...a shootout.

What to make of a movie like this? The tone is that of a Benny Hill-esque parody all set to contemporary-era music. is almost split 50-50 in terms of positive-negative reviews as are other review sites. The movie is perhaps best described as a silly romp, not to be taken seriously. Some may like it, others may think it an ultimately unrewarding experience.

Bill Shatner only appears in the second-half of the movie, and affects an interesting southern accent.

Now, to the hair...

Bill Shatner's hair here is very much of the 1973-74 curious piece variety, as seen in movies such as Impulse and Pray for the Wildcats.

It is probably the least flattering toupee-era of the actor's entire career (or was it the "T.J."?). Perhaps thankfully, the actor spends much of the movie in a hat, and generally resembles his mobster-persona in the Star Trek episode "A Piece of the Action".

Toupological moments center around various ruffling of the hair induced by Newtonian principles.

There are quite a large number of these in the movie.

Here's a clip with a couple more ruffle moments:

There are more of these during the character's death at the end.

Big Bad Mama is available on DVD - neither great, nor awful - somewhere inbetween.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bill Shatner: "It's my hair I was worried about!"

An interesting moment during an April 27th 2010 interview by Joy Behar of "The Joy Behar Show" (on CNN's sister network HLN), with Bill Shatner. After showing Shats a clip from the Star Trek episode "This Side of Paradise", Behar asks:

"Tell me - does [Nimoy] ever regret that hairdo?"

Shatner laughs before replying:

"It's mine I was worried about!"

Watch below (fuller exchange here in which Shats, seemingly lightening up in old age, also cracks a joke about his weight) :

The question is: what did Bill Shatner mean by that? Truth is, the statement seems like one of those completely meaningless jokes a person makes from time to time in public; once you've made it and seen the other person inexplicably laugh, you wonder what the hell you just said. In Bill Shatner's case, making a joke about his hair adds a whole other layer of meaning.

Surely, Bill Shatner wasn't saying "I'm the one that wore a toupee! It's worrying about that, which consumed my time, not Nimoy's bowl-shaped do!"?

Or was it, conversely, an affirmation of the 'hair is real' falsehood: "I, with my very real hair had an interesting hairstyle too."?

Entire books could be written about this tiny exchange (The William Shatner School of Toupological Studies is already working on several), analyzing both overt and unintended meaning. What was consciously said? What slipped out unconsciously? Did Bill Shatner, as he appears to, realize the weight of what he had said the second it came out? One thing is sure: Bill Shatner is a master of his craft - like any great performer, his toupee revelations always leave the audience wanting more!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The fluffy syndrome.

During the entire run of the original Star Trek, Bill Shatner stuck to a long-established toupee style, which we call "The Jim Kirk lace". But there are a few examples within Star Trek's run in which Kirk's hair was altered. One such example, perhaps the most subtle, is the third season episode "The Paradise Syndrome".

In the episode, Captain Kirk loses his memory and is left stranded on a planet of primitive yet contended Native American Indian-like people. Kirk inadvertently becomes their god, Kirok, and also falls in love with Miramanee (pictured below).

Crucially, Bill Shatner's transformation into a softer, gentler character in the episode is also reflected by the subtle transformation of the toupee. It becomes less greasy and just a little bit more fluffy. The sideburns - are they real or not (probably not)? Does the hair look more or less realistic overall? Conversely, these kinds of dilemmas cleverly direct the viewer to never become too contented with Kirk's new reality - after all, fluffy toupee or not, the entire planet he is on faces destruction from an asteroid if Spock, up on the Enterprise, fails to halt it.

And on a side note - an interesting bit of trivia: Bill Shatner's moccasins are without the "lifts" that his regular boots contained to make the actor appear taller - thus, Bill Shatner appears noticeably shorter in parts of this episode:

"Jim, have you shrunk?"

Image sourced from

Anyway, we think that "The Paradise Syndrome," written by Margaret Armen, is one of the highlights of the often dreadful third season of Star Trek and possibly of the entire series. Most notable is its portrayal of a surprisingly multi-dimensional and emotionally mature Captain Kirk (the episode ends not with the usual humorous banter, but with Kirk facing the death of his wife and future child), underscored by a uniquely soft and sensitive toupee style.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Horror at 37,000 Feet - a toupological analysis.

The Horror at 37,000 Feet is a 73-minute 1973 TV movie directed by David Lowell Rich starring William Shatner, Roy Thinnes (the guy from The Invaders) and several other actors including Star Trek guest-stars France Nuyen (also see here) and Paul Winfield.

The plot, from

"An architect and his wife are flying from London to L.A. with an altar from an ancient abbey secured in the plane's cargo hold."

A boxed-up abbey.

"Also aboard the flight are Buddy Ebsen as a pushy millionaire, William Shatner as a drunken, cynical ex-priest, Tammy Grimes as a nutcase, and Chuck Connors as the lantern-jawed pilot."

Bill Shatner with Paul Winfield

The plane is mostly empty, with only a few passengers - two stewardesses and the flight crew - on board.

The stewardesses wear very short skirts...

Yet, something spooky is going on...

The plane seems stuck in mid-air, no matter which direction it turns.

One of the passengers starts to hears strange and horrific sounds coming from the cargo-hold...

While Bill Shatner's character, a mysteriously defrocked priest, laments away, drinking one cup of something alcoholic after another...

The crew investigates. There is no hull breach, yet a freezing cold is penetrating the plane from down below...

What the hell is this?!?!!

We're not going to give away any more than that - except to say that strange rituals with dolls ensue (something to do with druids and the Summer Solstice)... which they are covered in make-up:

There is also some stuff to do with fire:


And yet more fire - this time involving Bill Shatner and a lighter:

By this point, some of you are probably wondering if this movie isn't yet another mid-seventies Bill Shatner turkey. Well, not so fast...

In undertaking our toupological analyses we have found both the good, the mediocre and the bad. And then there is another rare category known as "so bad its good" - something we last found with the movie Impulse.

We also very much feel that The Horror at 37,000 Feet qualifies for this honor. The movie is terrible, but it is also brilliant. It really is great in a totally lame kind of way! Simply put, this movie is awesome; quite possibly the best bad movie ever made! Make sense?

The Horror at 37,000 Feet is pretty much a kind of feature-length episode of The Twilight Zone (entirely unofficially, of course) and mirrors the sense of terror of Bill Shatner's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" - the similar names, no doubt not entirely coincidental. That and a healthy dose of Scooby-Doo, with an airplane substituting for a haunted house.

Rather than just being yet another tacky disaster movie, The Horror at 37,000 Feet makes some clever and original choices, for example having a nearly empty airplane. The dialogue is pretty risible at times, but what stands out is the genuinely unsettling atmosphere crafted by the director and assisted by an impressive musical score and some wonderfully eerie sound-effects.

As to why the pilots don't just land the damn plane right away - there really is no explanation for that offered in the movie.

As an example of just how truly awesome this movie is, witness Bill Shatner's bizarre and strangely pointless introduction:

Now, to the hair.

This movie is an example of Bill Shatner's brief relatively long hair phase during the early seventies.

Add to the long hair, a very, very strong toupee side-parting:

During one scene, some strange ruffling goes on at the rear by the neckline:

Was this Bill Shatner's Rubber Soul period?

There's also a scene where Bill Shatner's toupee meets a gust of decompression - but we won't spoil the moment by revealing any more than that.

Anyway, we really enjoyed this TV movie and thoroughly recommend it! Sadly, The Horror at 37,000 Feet is not presently available on DVD (hopefully it will be one day) or even VHS. However, if you search the Internet, you'll find it, we promise (for example, here)... Oh, and a great companion piece to this movie is 1975's equally awesome Murder on Flight 502, which can be watched here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poll result.

Thanks for voting! 38% of voters, the largest share, believe that Bill Shatner is using his probing interviews with guests on Shatner's Raw Nerve to himself learn how to open up about his toupee wearing. There is some evidence that would appear to support this, at least indirectly.

During a recent extensive interview with radio DJs "Opie and Anthony" (the air apparently having been cleared after this earlier encounter) Bill Shatner was very passionate in explaining how much he enjoys getting under the (lace?) skins of his interviewees, having them reveal aspects of their personalities that they might otherwise be reluctant to discuss. At around 17 minutes in to this very recent appearance at Anaheim Comic Con, Bill Shatner discusses yet another deep and probing interview show he is hosting called "Aftermath". The series focuses on people who have had their fifteen minutes of fame or infamy, years on after the event that brought them into the public spotlight.

Why is Bill Shatner doing all this? Is he showing other interviewers how it's done? "I want to talk about the toupee, but I just need to be asked in the right way - like this!" or is he perhaps studying his subjects, admiring their bravery in tackling sensitive issues? Maybe, all of the above, in which case a deep and moving discussion of the toupee may yet be forthcoming!

During his recent Comic Con appearance, Bill Shatner paid tribute to the late Columbo star Peter Falk - just one more thing: problem is Falk is still alive!

Monday, April 19, 2010

"The greatest hairpiece of the twentieth century."

Bill Shatner as T.J. Hooker. Image sourced here.

A must-read GQ profile which does a great job of trying to explain the nature of Bill Shatner's iconic status and complex personality. Featured within the piece is the following:

"...Of course, Shatner refers here to T. J. Hooker, the early-1980s television show that served as a vehicle for the Caligulan feast of a toupee that The Washington Post once dismissed as a 'goony rug' but that is now universally acclaimed as the greatest hairpiece of the twentieth century."

In a literal sense, the opposite would appear to be true - that very few people see Bill Shatner's hairpieces (particularly those from the 1980s) as the greatest of the twentieth century. However, in a far broader sense, it's arguably the combination of Bill Shatner the man and Bill Shatner the toupee-wearer that have made his pieces the "greatest". Together, they are more than the sum of their parts.

Over the years the toup has done everything from subtly pointing to the emotional complexities of on-screen characters, to inspiring Star Trek's writers, to commenting on global political events. In that sense, Bill Shatner's toupees really are the greatest of the twentieth century...and here's to the twenty-first!