Monday, June 28, 2010

Too much squama frontalis?



Shatner's Toupee readers have pointed to an interesting picture of Bill Shatner, in which an unusual amount of forehead (squama frontalis to our toupologists) appears to be on display. Judging by the watermark, the image was sourced from an eBay sale - we have no idea when or what it is from. A rough guess would be the very late 1950s, perhaps 1959, by which time Bill Shatner was just beginning to wear his "Jim Kirk lace" in a professional capacity and he was certainly balding (though far from bald) at this point.


It's difficult to make any firm judgements given the low resolution of the image (it could all just be a trick of the light), but it does appear to show a combover. Above Bill Shatner's left ear at the right side of the picture is what appears to be a parting of the hair, indicating it is being combed up and over. The roundness of the hairline would appear to confirm this. But there is evidence to the contrary too:


The above image is, we believe, of a young Bill Shatner on stage in 1954. Combover? Perhaps for character effect, but certainly not to conceal any thinning - not yet. That would start slowly in 1956, gathering pace over the next few years. Does the bottom image have a lower hairline, while the "Popeye" image shows too much forehead (ergo thinning)? Must it thus be dated to a time when balding had already begun from the late 1950s?

Questions, questions...our toupologists are reluctant to make a firm call one way or another until we know more about the image. Any help in that regard form our readers is always welcome!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kingdom of the Spiders - a toupological analysis.



Kingdom of the Spiders is a 1977 feature-film starring William Shatner as Dr Robert "Rack" Hansen, a local vet in the US state of Arizona. The film begins with a cow mysteriously dying, akin to the famous shower scene from Psycho:

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Meanwhile, the star is riding around on a horse...


And fooling around with his late brother's widowed wife, portrayed by Bill Shatner's then real wife Marcy Lafferty.


A dog dies too...


...so a feisty entomologist is sent to investigate, with Bill Shatner's character also trying to seduce her.


There be spiders everywhere causing the deaths!


Slowly, more and more spiders invade the local town.


Panic ensues.


A spider climbs on a man's bald head.


Hiding inside a barricaded house proves futile...


...as finally, the spiders get to Bill Shatner.


What to make of all this then? Hitchcock's The Birds but with spiders? Sadly, not quite. More like The Devil's Rain, with spiders instead of satanists. Certainly not Jaws with spiders (more plot and analysis of films that possibly inspired Spiders in Wikipedia's entry for the film). We really wanted to like this movie, hoping for some kind of kitsch classic (not really expecting the movie to be scary), but found that Kingdom of the Spiders just wasn't anywhere near as entertaining as it could be.


The pace of the movie is deadly slow, with the spider-induced drama really only coming about during the movie's conclusion. The characters, including Bill Shatner's vet are all pretty two-dimensional and uninteresting. Dare we say that Bill Shatner's performance isn't really that good in this movie - he doesn't seem to know who his character is. The horse riding and adding of Marcy Lafferty to the movie - her performance really is pretty dreadful - all come across as concessions to a star rather than having any dramatic merit.

In short, there's a plot - spiders attack town - but there is really no story to carry that plot, nothing really to hold the viewer's interest beyond the next spider-induced fright. So the audience is left waiting for something to happen...it never really does.


Let's move on to the hair, which proves far more interesting. The style is certainly early "TJ Curly", but also something of a hybrid toupee in that the hair is still quite straight, far more like the previous "Lost Years" style. Interestingly, at times it is straighter in the movie...


And at other times, it is curlier - a clear transition taking place before our very eyes...


There's a scene where we see Bill Shatner stroking through someone else's hair:

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And then there is the crucial scene at the end of the movie - Bill Shatner and his toupee being attacked by spiders:

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There's a wealth of potential toupee metaphors that we can interpret here. Did the writers want to create a kind of anti-Tribble? A toupee that instead of being cute and cuddly, is frightening and dangerous? What if the toupee came to life? What if its spawn crawled off the mother head and began to multiply - and then decided to return? Yet another toupee nightmare?


Kingdom of the Spiders is available to buy as a recently released remastered special edition DVD. A film that one can't help but wish were better than it actually is.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The scalp of toupar.


What exactly are the trio behind Bill Shatner looking at?

A while back, we brought you a brief glimpse of Bill Shatner inadvertently lifting the lid on his toupee use in the Star Trek episode "The Empath" (see here for the images). A similar example can be found in the episode "Turnabout Intruder" (see here). Now, thanks to reader Margaret, we have a third example from Star Trek's infamous Season 3 from the episode "The Lights of Zetar".


In this instance, the rear of the toupee appears to have been neglected by the hairstylist, leading to visible bald patches showing through on either side of it - quite remarkable really. Here's the first example, first at regular size and speed, then zoomed in and slowed down:

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And here's the second, far more pronounced example:

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But rather than just pointing to these kinds of toupological slip ups, a crucial part of what we at Shatner's Toupee try to do is to understand their meaning, placing them in an appropriate context. Much like reading tea leaves (known as tesseography or tassology), toupology seeks to find insight based on the contours of Bill Shatner's toupee. What is it saying about society; about mankind; about the times; or about the declining quality of Star Trek?

"The Lights of Zetar" - embarrassing nonsense

In our humble view, "The Lights of Zetar" is the single worst episode of the entire original Star Trek series. Unlike the notorious "Spock's Brain", which is at least entertaining, albeit ridiculous, this episode is arguably a complete unwatchable mess from start to finish. Scotty suddenly so in love with a woman that he stops loving the Enterprise's engines? Just one example highly indicative of the lack of attention given to characterization during Season 3.

So, were the holes in Bill Shatner's toupee commenting on the character and plot holes in the episode? The script is unfilmable, and so the toupee will also be! And is it really a coincidence that what most will surely agree is one of Star Trek's worst episodes also contains one of the worst Bill Shatner toupee moments in the series? One lesson is clear - if the toupee isn't happy, then producers take note...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Poll and caption contest results and more...



Not a clear-cut result, but 42% of voters believed that if Bill Shatner wanted to give up the toup in the future, the best way to do it would be to simply appear bald in an upcoming project. Almost a fifth of voters believed that a live prime-time press conference with a formal unveiling would be the best way, with a quarter backing a more devious plan (see above). Thanks for voting!

Now let's turn to the results of our caption contest...

"The glue leaked thru and now I can't get this damn thing off!"

Our valued readers put forward a number of very funny potential captions, giving our nine-member panel of judges a very tough time. But, in the end, they decided that reader "Bobby G" was the winner with "The glue leaked thru and now I can't get this damn thing off!" Congratulations! An iTouposcope "will" "be" "in the post" (as soon as several technical issues with this device are ironed out).


Finally, an interesting tip from a reader via our Twitter page. You may have noticed a commenter or commenters mentioning at various intervals that there was a Bill Shatner novel with a curious "unpeeling" toup photo. Well, apparently, the picture in question is on the back of the (or a) hardcover version of Bill Shatner's novel The Ashes of Eden.


If anyone has this or manages to locate it, please let us know. We are as curious as, no doubt, all of you are to see what this apparent unpeeling toup is doing! Thanks!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Devil's Rain - a toupological analysis.



The Devil's Rain
is a 1975 horror movie starring Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt and William Shatner and was apparently made to cash in on the success of 1973's The Exorcist. Here's a trailer:



The plot is pretty indecipherable. To quote this review:

"The story is all about the Preston family and their age long problems with Jonathon Corbis...and his merry band of soulless miscreants. Jonathon was killed hundreds of years before for his wicked ways, but he came back to life cuz' he's just that damn evil! Plus he wants his book. Apparently he captured the souls of his eyeless crew by having them sign a book. And them dang ol' Preston's done stole his book! "Where's my cake, Bedelia?" So John wants his book and Mark Preston (William Shatner)...wants his kidnapped Mom back."

Ernest Borgnine as the Satanic priest Jonathon Corbis.

Confused? It really doesn't matter - the plot isn't important (Wikipedia has more). The movie, in fine clichéd form, starts on a dark and stormy night. Bill Shatner's character, Preston, watches his father inexplicably melt (there's lot's of melting in this film).


He decides to investigate and finds some Satanist church in the middle of a ghost town.


The Satanists go after Shatner.


His mother having already been zombified.


Bill Shatner is caught and eventually zombified too.


But not before he is tortured.


At this point, the script tries to do what 1960's Psycho did - getting rid of the lead character early on in the movie; in this case that means essentially ditching Bill Shatner. But that trick arguably worked in Psycho, because the audience was left alone with the person (Norman Bates) who had killed the leading lady (Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh). Here, the contrivance of shifting the focus to two new characters just feels very jarring. Bill Shatner is largely absent from The Devil's Rain from this point onwards....


...except for some flashback to the 17th century where he wears a strange wig. In the flashbacks, he portrays another member of the Preston family - for generations they have kept Corbis' evil book hidden. Corbis, you'll remember, needs this book in order to fully give his followers' souls to the devil.


Shatner's character is then burned at the stake.


Still confused? Let's quote this review:

"All right, yes, it's never entirely clear why Corbis just can't take the book from its not-terribly-clever hiding place; and yes again, it's never made entirely clear why the Prestons insist on doing stupidly heroic solo missions to find out what Corbis is doing. Anyway, the Prestons come up against Corbis' congregation of damned souls, black-hooded zombies with eyes gone solid black. These zombies dissolve in water, leaving behind only a puddle of wax -- somehow when their bodies are deprived of their souls, they exchange material with the wax dolls that are used in the ceremonies."

Flash forward and Bill Shatner is still being zombified.


At last!


The rest of the movie has all sorts of Satanic rituals.


And all kinds of strangeness, which highlights some of the film's strengths, namely decent cinematography, solid production design and some very interesting shot compositions:


Bill Shatner re-appears as a mask.


And then everybody melts in a very, very long ending, which can be viewed in full here.


Let's move swiftly to the to the hair...

As with The Andersonville Trial, Bill Shatner's toup is introduced first, before we see the actor's face.


The hair (of the "Lost Years" variety) is actually fairly decent - 1975 was a year when the toups Bill Shatner wore significantly increased in quality (see here for more on that) in comparison to the previous few years. Perhaps the prospect of Star Trek's return led Bill Shatner to start attending to his appearance more closely.


Early on in the movie, Bill Shatner removes his hat, lets the toup flail in the breeze, and then puts the hat back on again.

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A little later, the toup gets slightly ruffled:


We don't know if such moments were contractually stipulated. Did Bill Shatner have a legally binding agreement with the toup that it must be given at least a couple of decent moments in each project?

Anyway, The Devil's Rain decidedly fails in the fright or horror departments - you're far more likely to guffaw your way through the bits that are supposed to be scary. However, the movie's sheer kitsch-ness has turned it into something of a camp, cult classic. Taken with a heavy pinch of salt (there really is no other way), it makes for a relatively entertaining and baffling viewing experience.

The Devil's Rain is available on DVD - and, at present, is also up on YouTube in its entirety. A very, very odd movie.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shatner's "S-curl".



We've occasionally noted when Bill Shatner's toup featured an unusual Superman-style "S-curl". For example, in Incident on a Dark Street (1973):

Or in a 1971 episode of Mission: Impossible:



But the picture at the top of this page, date unknown (circa late 80s - early 90s), is perhaps the most interesting candidate for the "Audacity of Toup" award - one would think that there might be an effort by Bill Shatner to not needlessly divert others' attention towards the hair - not so - is he messing with our minds?