Monday, July 26, 2010

A Whale of a Tale - a toupological analysis.

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...

...including dolphins...

...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.

Oh, dear...

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.


  1. The plot doesn't sound any more ridiculous than Star Trek 4 (the other whale movie) or ST 5: The Final Frontier.

  2. Thanks for the upload. I'm interested in marine life, so I'm watching it right now.

  3. Bill´s name on this is Dr. Jack Fredericks...
    And you would still want a nift toupee?

  4. I wish I knew what Shat was thinking. To go from the Jim Kirk Lace which was a totally different color, texture and density to this used car salesman look. How could he ever dream of fooling anyone? Thanks Shat toup for yet another addition to the annals of touplology.

  5. I know! Even if price was an issue, why choose this almost black colour! The toupee would have looked better in light brown; at least there would have been less contrast between his hairline and skin.

  6. A truly desperate toup, oh dear!

  7. Shatner wouldn't do ST IV with this kind of toupee!

  8. I just watched the "toupee in the wind" segment. It seemed like some of the dialog was ad libed. There was a good amount of the trademark "Shatner Pause" as well. Bad dialog, bad toupee, bad acting = great movie for Shattoupe fans!

  9. @Most Jerk "Toupee in the wind" is a great phrase. Could Bob Dylan's "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind..." really have been an early tome hinting at the truth about Bill Shatner's toupee? -ST

  10. My God, Bones... what have I done?
    What you had to do. What you always do: turn baldness and near-career oblivion into a fighting chance to live.

  11. Ratty Lost Years PieceJuly 28, 2010 at 6:06 AM

    An excellent find, ST. Well done: This site is really on a roll.
    Last Monday, I started my week with a monster TJ Curly-Phase I.
    This week, the appliance on Bill's head crosses the boundary of good taste that separates "toupee" from "rug."
    The way things are going, next week, Shatner will have glued on a muskrat.

  12. As Most Jerk said, the Shat-Pauses seem to be excessive in this film.
    His irregular rhythm of speaking took root, remember, when he was trying to shorten and enhance the then-failure Broadway play, The World of Suzie Wong.
    Might it be that Bill subconsciously copes with the anxiety of starring in particularly unsavory works by accentuating these irregularities?

  13. somekindof.....creatureJuly 28, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    A truly awful performance by both actor and hairpiece.

  14. Yeah

    Acting - 3
    Rug - 1

  15. @Margret I took a peak at your profile and noticed you were 19. It's so encouraging that the younger generation is interested in toupology and the study of Shat's toupee. It gives me great hope for the future

    ShatToup Then
    ShatToup Now
    ShatToup Forever!

  16. I'm watching this one on Amazon Prime now. This is got to be a low point. BTW, I saw WS a few weeks ago at Megacon in Orlando. He looked great and had high enery + Denny Katz was in place. Poor Nichelle Nichols was in a wheel chair and looked terrible. Her toupee (Wig) needs an analysis too.