Thursday, April 8, 2010

Disaster on the Coastliner - a toupological analysis.

Disaster on the Coastliner is a 1979 TV movie that features an all-star ensemble cast, which includes Lloyd Bridges, E.G. Marshall and William Shatner.

The plot centers on a disgruntled former railroad company employee who, demonstrating great technological skills, commandeers a train and sets it on a collision course with another train on the same track, which is carrying the US Vice-President's wife.

"I'm the bad guy."

Unless his demands are met, the clock is ticking on a catastrophic collision.

"I'm the stubborn driver of the other train."

Back at train control HQ, dispatcher E.G. Marshall along with Secret Service agent Lloyd Bridges are stunned by the clever plot - the driver of the other train refuses to stop because the hijacker, pretending to be HQ, has told him that terrorists have taken over his train and he must not believe what he is being told to do by the authorities.

Lloyd Bridges and E.G. Marshall.

Bill Shatner plays a passenger on the commandeered train, a lovable conman on the run from the law.

This delightfully convoluted plot is also highly improbable. One suspects that there are far more ways to stop a train than are depicted here. Perusing the Internet, it is evident that nitpickers have been having a field day with this movie - one such example: "The script conveniently overlooks emergency brakes found in every car and has you believe there are no crossovers or switches of any kind for the 90 minutes the two trains are on the same track." (sourced here).

Nonetheless, as even most of these nitpickers concede, Disaster on the Coastliner is highly entertaining, fun and eminently watchable - one of the better disaster movies from this era. The pace is tight, the characters interesting and some of the stunts (a helicopter flying in front of a speeding train) seem frighteningly dangerous.

Bill Shatner, as he notes in his autobiography Up Till Now, performed many of his own stunts, which we'll deal with as part of our toupological analysis...

The actor is wearing his stage one curly "TJ Curly" weave here - the kind that he wore in the first two Star Trek movies.

Early on in the movie, we see his character donning fake fair and a mustache.

A little later, we see Bill Shatner removing this fake hair. These kinds of moments are always inherently fascinating to watch for obvious reasons.

Flash forward to Bill Shatner's character charming a woman on the train in order to throw on-board cops off his scent. The woman grows suspicious and opens his briefcase only to find a secret stash of fake hair (does actor Bill Shatner also carry spare toups when he travels?).

A suitcase full of toupee secrets.

The rest of the movie appears to flow along without further toupological incident. Perhaps fans of the toupee should be satisfied with the above, right?

But, towards the end, Bill Shatner surprises and rewards toupee fans with an extraordinary feat of toupological endurance that precedes his underwater antics in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and casts aside his hat-wearing apprehension from only a year before in The Crash of Flight 401.

Stepping out into some potentially toupee-lifting gusts, Bill Shatner climbs on top of a speeding train carriage.

Bill Shatner's toupee is thoroughly tested in this movie.

In all but a few wide overhead shots in which a stuntman doubles for the actor, that really is Bill Shatner on the train!

There is a great sense of double-jeopardy here - the audience fears not just for the safety of Bill Shatner and the character he portrays, but also for the safety and security of the toupee. It's a real nail-biter!

Many of you might be wondering how such seemingly dangerous stunts could have been performed. Have no fear! We have no doubt that all precautions were taken beforehand, including various tests and rehearsals, to make sure that the toupee was safely attached to Bill Shatner's head at all times. Such stunts could easily end in disaster, but thanks to generous sprinkles of Hollywood skill, professionalism and very strong toupee glue, we are confident that the toupee was never in any real danger.

Sadly, this movie is unavailable commercially, but can be viewed, at present, on YouTube. A fun film and well worth watching.

"Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up appearing in disaster movies!"


  1. Holy Shat! thats a real find!

    i nearly fell out of my chair when i saw the photos atop the train, the shats hair blown back at full force - makes you question the whole Toup thing

    on another non Toup note - is this where they got the idea for the climax of the first Misiion Impossible movie?? - its not 'impossible' - after all the writers of TNG stole the cliff hanging on vacation opening of Trek V for Mission Impossible 2...

    this site has brought to my attention the sheer volume of work The Shat has done (esp in his 69-79 'Lost Years') i just thought he did the odd Columbo and sat at home waiting for Trek to come a callin'... the man mustve been working flat out with a vengence...

  2. that's supertoup abilities alright, mighty impressive, a real cling on toup! What's the betting the Shat requested this stunt to show off the latest indestructable hair "system"...?

  3. Shats mustve made this with the knowledge that he was going to play the lead in a mega budget Star Trek movie directed by Robert Wise....

    i imagine he was on frickin fire at that time - confidence was in warp the above poster said Shats may have taken this role on or even requested the stunt SPECFICALLY to show off his super kling-on Toup to prepare the world for its appearence in The Motion Picture...

    perhaps the Shat felt that the people of world would not be ready for the great mystrey to be revealed full on in movie theatres the world over xmas 79 and was trying to help them understand...

    it really is amazing this - on the same level as the whale saving at the end of Voyage Home...

  4. The two helicopters chasing the train and the two stuntmen leaping from a moving train into a river make this worth a look for the action alone.

    Besides being the best Shatner telemovie.

  5. Notice in the stills you see a remarkably high hairline when the hair is blown back. Compare and contrast this with Shat's current transplant which reveals a remarkably lower hairline. Evidence indeed of trickery and concealment. Shattoup- I submit to you this is an important chapter within the cannons of Toupology. You have indeed made a Toupological leap!

  6. Amazing! The toupee was almost gone!

  7. Cornelius T. HairnetApril 8, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    He should never act out of doors.

  8. A guy on youtube wrote this:

    jimmys1978 The special effects aren't bad. The most amazing effects are the ones that managed to keep William Shatner's hairpiece in place under those wind tunnel conditions. LOL. Sorry Bill

  9. As a point of timeline clarification, this would have been filmed after ST:TMP. Bill no doubt felt confident about the stability of the system (toupee, for you laymen) as it was a major studio-produced one. The Lost Years system(s) would never have taken anywhere near that kind of pounding.

  10. I watched this here in Brazil in the early eighties, quite enjoyable. I was naive, didn't know about the toupee business. And this movie made me believe at that time that Bill really had hair of his own. The toupee should have won an Emmy!

  11. very strong toupee glue


  12. Bill in a discussion meeting prior to filming this telemovie:

    Bill: - Dont quote rules to me...Im talking about loyalty and toup has died for us..another with deep applicational problems...

    studio exec:- Bill this business about the new toup...honestly ive never understood toup dynamics

    Bill: - ye dont...have…to believe it...imnotevensureido...but if theres even a chance that it can take the wind..then its my responsibility..

    studio exec - yours?

    Bill: - as surely as if it were my very own....give me the new toup..with the glues help i can..

    SE: no Bill the toup wont take that kind of pounding and you know it...

    Bill: then i'll find a toup...I'll hire a toup

    SE: - OUT of the question my friend...Bill..your life and your career stand for rationality not toupee chaos..keep up this behaviour and you'll lose'll destroy you understand me bill..?

    Bill: - i hear ya...i had to try....

    SE: - of course

    Bill: - thanks for the drink..

    SE: - anytime!

  13. LOL, Mr. Thatcher!

    Hey it's the evil head prison guard from "Midnight Express"!

  14. This movie should be remade.. with Ben Affleck on Bill's role

  15. I love the TJ toup. Even though, or perhaps because, it's the most unlikely "hair" ever. Also reminds me of Goodfellas - "Maurie's wigs don't come off".

  16. the TJ Curly was awesome...beautiful in fact

    it gave Shatner a sort of angry severe, dont fuck with me im on fire look (im talking the TMP/TWOK/season 1 and maybe 2 of TJ...not the full on hat like complete toup with the clumpy sides of Trek III/IV and the later TJ seasons) the near starvation diet he went on to get in shape for TMP helped with the look...

    imagine the abrasive TMP Kirk with TOS season 1/2 hair or kirk screaming KHHHAAAAN with a Lost Years toup or early Hooker with a Denny Crane special

    just not the same

    on another note theres a telemovie i remember seeing a while ago with Shats called Secrets of a Married Man (1984) i think he mustve filmed it after Trek III and maybe inbetween TJ it hes married to the singer out of the Mamas and Papas (who also appeared in TNG season 1) but gets borad and goes looking for action was such an off beat thing i often wonder why shat did this movie (or found teh time inbetween Star Trek movies and TJs)..i hope this site covers it soon...(unless it already has)

    also has the tv movie Horror at 37,000 Feet been covered yet? and what about the iconic Nightmare at 20,000 feet?

    1. "...the near starvation diet he went on to get in shape for TMP..."

      It worked! Am I the only person who noticed what *incredible* shape Shats and the rest of the cast were in in TMP? Those bodysuit costumes were reviled by audiences and performers alike but I kind of love them because the cast really rocked them...especially Shat. If one ignores the obvious toupiness of the toup he looked fantastic. TMP had Shat at his handsomist...

  17. Thanks for your comment "just not the same". Among the columns along the right-hand side of this page, you'll see a section called "Full Toupological Analyses" where you can click on our previous studies. The Horror at 37,000 Feet is a movie that we'll be looking at very soon. -ST

  18. LOL no that was still me 'MR THATCHER'...'just not the same' was just part of my post

    Horror at 37,000 was great and also starred The Invaders Roy Thinnes who had awesome hair. in The Invaders he had a hair style that was very similar to Shatners TOS wave...i remember always wanting my hair to be like that..In fact Thinnes played an arcitect in both Invaders and 37,000 so i like to imagine it really is Vincent on the plane along with Shatner playing a stranded in the 20th century alternate universe Kirk who has turned to the preisthood and drink after losing his ship (e.g. if he had failed in his mission in 'City on the Edge of Forever')

  19. I have been prompted to seek out this EXTRAORDINARY site, and it is indeed every bit as peculiar as I was told it was. I don't quite know what to say - I'm in Europe at the moment, and very tired but happy - but I guess I should say congratulations, and assure you that Bill is a lovely human being. With a hairy head!


    Ive never been able to forgive myself for missing out on having you sign a copy of your book I AM SPOCK at a bookstore in london in the mid 90s. I got there just after youd left and was told you stayed until everyone who queued got a signed book. i was too late. I still bought one though (signed so i guess you mustve done a few for latecomers like myself:)

    i hope to see you and Mr Shatner in the trek sequel summer 2012! (dont retire)

  21. wait a second - arent you supposed to be in Vancouver (according to L Nimoy on Twitter)?

    maybe you are the mirror universe Nimoy LOL

  22. Shat looks pretty freaked out on top of that train.

  23. "All I ask is a toupee, and a super glue to affix it!"

  24. Ratty Lost Years PieceFebruary 11, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Saw "Unstoppable" w/ Denzel and the new Kirk, Chris Pine. It's another train disaster movie, with many potentially-toupologically intriguing scenes. With new Kirk as the lead, I couldn't help but think of what might have been with Shatner in the role. The film just isn't as interesting when the actors have real hair.

    Every time Pine stuck his head out of the locomotive window, jumping between cars or getting blasted with flying grain, I could imagine the Shat, rocking a TJ, glued to the hilt, doing his own stunts. Luckily, Shatner already delivered the goods with "Coastliner."

  25. i watched it on netflix earlier today! it was hilarious.

  26. What a fantastic site this is! Hilarious, am now addicted. Will have to show my husband who is "follicly challenged" but thankfully rug free! Such a shame looks like no role for Bill Shatner in the sequel to new star trek movie either.