A Whale of a Tale (aka Joey and the Whale) is a very obscure and very low-budget film starring William Shatner that was released in 1977 (though copyrighted in1976 and likely filmed as early as 1972-74).
The movie is set in the since-closed Marineland of the Pacific with Bill Shatner portraying a marine biologist, comedian Marty Allen playing a fisherman employed at the center and Scott C. Kolden playing Joey, a young boy who also ends up working at Marineland. This brings us to the plot, which may seem to some of you that we are relaying in a somewhat sarcastic manner - honestly, we're not! Here goes:
Young Joey, on his summer vacation, tries to illegally break into Marineland. His attempts thwarted by a security guard...
...Joey instead walks around to a side-entrance...
...and breaks in that way.
He then meets a fisherman called Louie (Marty Allen) who instead of having the kid removed from the premises, befriends young Joey.
Joey then spends a considerable amount of time looking at all the great attractions in Marineland.
All the while continuing to evade the security guard.
The boy then meets the top marine biologist at the center (William Shatner).
Instead of having the trespassing kid removed from the premises, Bill Shatner's character, Dr. Jack Fredericks...
...offers Joey a job.
Dr. Fredericks then calls the boy's mother to tell her that it is OK for Joey to be working in Marineland.
Joey gets to see all kinds of marine life...
...and even a dog!
But soon Joey gets a little hungry, so thank goodness there's a McDonald's near by!
Where the boy orders a Big Mac!
Yummy! But not for you, Mr. Whale!
Meanwhile, Joey's mother and aunt - alas, no father - are becoming slightly concerned at Joey's new and potentially dangerous job.
So Bill Shatner's character makes another call, this time inviting Joey's mother to come and visit the center - which she does.
She gets to meet Dr Fredericks, who takes an instant liking to the single mom.
They then sit down for a drink.
Meanwhile, Louie (suspiciously eager to be alone with the young boy?) takes Joey out shark hunting.
This doesn't sit well at all his his mom and aunt!
Back at Marineworld, Bill Shatner's character thaws out an octopus:
Did Bill Shatner's knowledge of handling toupees prove useful when dealing with the toupee-resembling octopuses?
But then Joey's aunt turns up at Marineland threatening to spoil all the fun.
Joey panics, steals a boat and heads out into the Pacific Ocean.
Everyone heads out into the ocean to try and find poor Joey...
But, warns Bill Shatner's character, the chances of finding a boat so small in an ocean so big are remote. Joey is in real danger!
Thankfully, a dolphin comes to the rescue and pulls Joey's boat towards the other ship...
All's well that ends well!
Back at Marineland, Joey has his old job back! Hooray!
And everyone (meaning two newly-paired couples) is just delighted with that!
What on Earth can we possibly say about a movie with a plot like this? Some of you will no doubt have childhood memories of being asked to write stories for a school assignment. Inexperienced in storytelling, you'd just string together a sequence of highly improbable events: "and then my friend landed a spaceship in my garden and then we flew it to school and then some aliens came and then and then and then...". That's how this film is written - a series of ever more improbable events strung together, seemingly unconstrained by the rules of storytelling (causes and consequences) or the need for any kind of viable plot or characterization - and padded out with plenty of drawn out sequences of performing marine animals.
All this would be understandable if A Whale of a Tale had actually been written by a child. But it wasn't - the writer-director Ewing Miles Brown was indeed an adult when this film was made. The idea that a children's film, because it is targeted at children, shouldn't need to adhere to the basic rules of storytelling is just complete nonsense. The best children's movies (The Flight of the Navigator, anyone?) don't make the mistake of patronizing their young audiences, and are actually just as watchable and enjoyable for an adult audience as they are for children. Surely even a child would have severe believability issues with A Whale of a Tale.
We suspect that this film may have been funded by Marineland as little more than a glorified promo for the center (with an additional several thousand bucks provided by a gratuitous visit to McDonald's in the movie). Yet, despite all this, it's hard to get too worked up about the sheer awfulness of this movie. There's an innocent charm that runs throughout, almost as if the movie wasn't really even made by professional filmmakers, but rather a bunch of people just having a little fun in attempting to make a feature-film (though some have other theories).
Let's move swiftly to the hair...
Along with Incident on a Dark Street, we felt that this movie represented that absolute nadir of Bill Shatner's 1970s "Lost Years" period. You can't help but watch A Whale of A Tale and wonder how the hell Captain James T. Kirk's career managed to sink to such a level as to have to take work like this. And it's surely no coincidence that both of these two movies feature an equally fitting (meaning ill-fitting) toupee style that just seems to scream "Help!" to whoever will listen.
We have a high hairline, that is also very, very thick. While the color of the toupee, almost black, is also unusual and noteworthy. Was Bill Shatner subtly lobbying to be cast in the next Superman movie?
The toupee is exposed to considerable wind in parts:
While a color mismatch at the back is also visible:
And that's about it! A truly terrible movie, though not without some charm, that for some reason feels like a kind of bastardized "I'm Just an Employee at Marineland" version of the classic Schoolhouse Rock!: "I'm Just a Bill" animation from 1975.
We doubt that A Whale of a Tale will ever be released commercially again. So, in the interests of film preservation, we've put the whole thing up on our YouTube page.