Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hey, presto(up)!

Things that go bump in the night...

Bill Shatner suspects that his new neighbor wears a toupee. He becomes obsessed; dreams of trying on this mysterious piece overwhelm the actor.

In the middle of the night, he breaks into his neighbor's house and makes his way to the safe.

There, he finds a suitcase.

Inside is paradise: a wealth of irresistible artificial hair.

First, the actor puts on a mustache he finds. The feel of the fake hair against his skin adding to the thrill of the moment.

But there's more...

A toupee! --- But wait!

Who is that?

The neighbor appears, awoken by the commotion.

Bill Shatner has been discovered.

There's only one thing left to do.

He reaches for his weapon...


Okay, this is really a scene from a 1971 episode of the short-lived series Cade's County called "The Armageddon Contract".

Watch the full clip below:

Note an extraordinary piece of magic therein: as Bill Shatner places the wig on his head, we cut away just in time. In the next shot, he is wearing the new piece. As absurd as it seems, we suspect that this cut cleverly enabled Bill Shatner to take off his own toup and place the other piece on his now bald head, preventing a potentially universe-shattering toup-on-toup scenario.

The "application" shot is never actually seen.

The director yells "Cut!", a quick toupular exchange takes place and filming can continue. Hey, presto(up)!

Next time you hear something go bump in the night - don't worry, it might just be Bill Shatner rummaging around your house, looking for toupees!

On another note, some great news: Impulse director William Grefe has confirmed (earlier reports) that a new DVD will indeed be released of the movie. It is "in the works" he exclusively told Shatner's Toupee. Impulse is a movie so awesome that we have committed to a brand new full toupological analysis upon the DVD's release.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Judgment at Nuremberg - a toupological analysis.

Judgment at Nuremberg is a 1961 movie that presents a fictionalized dramatization of the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials. By fictionalized, we mean that the specific events and characters in the movie are entirely fictional, but do allude to similar real-life scenarios that took place during the actual Nuremberg Trials. Thus, the movie's "Feldenstein case", closely mirrors the real-life "Katzenberger Trial", while the overall setting mirrors the real-life "Judges' Trial". (Wikipedia has plenty of information about this.)

The film, directed by legendary director Stanley Kramer, boasts a truly stellar cast, including Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Spencer Tracy and, in a relatively small role, William Shatner as young court clerk Captain Byers.

The year is 1948, with much of Germany still in ruins after the fall of the Third Reich and the country's occupation by Allied forces...

Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) and three other judges who functioned under the Nazi regime are brought before a US-led military tribunal in Nuremberg to be tried for war crimes. There, a panel of three judges, headed by the American chief justice in this case Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy), preside over the proceedings.

Janning was an esteemed judge in Germany before Hitler's ascent to power. So why did he continue on the bench after it became evident that the Nazi regime was interfering in justice following the adoption of the "Nuremberg Laws" and other Nazi legislation that legalized antisemitism and the principles of scientific racism?

Colonel Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark) prosecutes the case against Janning, trying his best to prove that because Janning was already a noted judge prior to the Nazi regime, he therefore made the conscious decision to continue in a profession where justice was slowly being warped and inhuman practices supporting Nazi ideology were slowly destroying the principles of an impartial judiciary.

Richard Widmark as Col. Lawson.

Meanwhile, Janning stays silent, seemingly viewing the entire proceedings with contempt.

Burt Lancaster (left), Spencer Tracy (center) and William Shatner (right).

At issue is a case involving a elderly Jewish man tried in Janning's court and subsequently put to death in 1942 for "race defilement". Specifically, the man was accused of having an illegal sexual relationship with a sixteen-year-old "Aryan" girl, Irene Wallner, portrayed by Judy Garland.

Wallner is at first reluctant to testify in the case, arguing that it is better to just let bygones be bygones. But she is ultimately persuaded to come to the court.

William Shatner and Judy Garland.

Meanwhile, the German defense attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell) provides Janning with an undeniably passionate and brilliant defense.

As all of this unfolds, Judge Haywood takes time... try to learn a little about the country he barely knows.

He also meets the widow of a German general (Marleine Deitrich) who presses Haywood that guilty verdicts won't help post-War Germany to move forward at all.

Add to that, the rapidly escalating Cold War, which is dramatically shifting alliances - now (West) Germany is a key ally against the Soviet bloc (as this film was being made, this was as true as ever, with the the erection of the Berlin Wall by communist East Germany and a famous visit to West Berlin two years later by JFK). Pressures are building to end the Nuremberg Trials as expediently as possible - guilty verdicts might even be politically undesirable...

Will the judge be swayed as the situation increasingly takes on numerous shades of gray?

So what to make of all this? We found Judgement at Nuremberg to be an absolutely terrific piece of drama. A number of potential dramatic pitfalls to telling such a story are very cleverly avoided. Crucially, rather than presenting a drama in which the indefensible principles of Nazism are easily and predictably defeated on-screen, the movie travels a far more complicated road. Defense attorney Hans Rolfe raises many nuanced issues of moral responsibility, very similar to those seen in the Bill Shatner 1971 drama The Andersonville Trial.

Isn't honor represented by following orders and serving your country? Isn't staying in one's post and trying to make things a little less horrible better than simply resigning in disgust? Are the entire German people on trial for the concentration camps, the genocides, the crimes against humanity? Was it a few top leaders? Just how far down the ladder can blame be apportioned? Those are the issues raised by the defense in the movie...

"You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend..."

Looking to today's events as the regime of Col. Gaddafi mercilessly bombs civilians in the rebel-held city of Misurata, one can't help but wonder how loyalist soldiers could possibly commit such heinous acts. "We were told we had to cleanse Misurata. There were invaders from Egypt and we had to fight against them," one 17-year-old Libyan conscript recently told the Daily Telegraph; another teenager said: "We were told Misurata had been occupied by militant gangs and drug addicts." Evil? Ignorance? Misinformation? Fear? Does such knowledge of the other side 's motivations muddy the waters?

Who knew what and how much is an important and complex issue in Judgment at Nuremberg...

The defense reacts to the presentation of horrific (real-life) footage of liberated Nazi concentration camps.

Without exception, the performances in this movie are absolutely superb. Particularly notable is Burt Lancaster - rigid, proud, a powder-keg of compressed and complex emotions (as always). And also the German actor Maximilian Schell, whose energetic (Oscar-winning) performance as a man doing the best job under the worst circumstances is truly spellbinding.

We must also single out the remarkable camera-work in this movie. Much like the best photography of the Enterprise bridge in Star Trek, the camera often sits below eye-level, elevating the players, with slow axial (circling round the subject) tracking-shots giving the entire proceedings a sense of majestic importance. Sublime...

Meanwhile, Bill Shatner's role is certainly Sulu-esque, in that it is rather inconsequential, but the young actor exudes a surprisingly confident (his first line is a very Kirk-like "You both know your duties...") and even charming on-screen persona, despite being surrounded by such an illustrious cast.

And he's always there, quietly sitting in on the entire court proceedings - if only there were more classic movies (Casablanca?) in which Bill Shatner just sat in the background quietly. That might be strangely weird/fun!

Let's move swiftly to the hair...

William Shatner studies his fellow actor's very real Jim Kirk-like hair.

Bill Shatner is wearing a "Jim Kirk lace" - nothing unusual there, although the hairline looks somewhat thicker and a little more pointed than usual, the former perhaps underscoring that this was a pre-shave lace, in which a real, albeit thinning, hair-line was still preserved underneath (later shaving or increased baldness may have allowed a more realistic "frontal swoosh" - more in this recent post).

The mechanics of the former were explained (as Bill Shatner watched on) in "The Project Strigas Affair":

Incidentally, Bill Shatner isn't the only "laced-up" actor on-screen:

Given the actor's small role, there really aren't any toupological moments to speak of per se.

However, in a marvelous piece of directorial subtlety - one no doubt overlooked by even the most analytical of film critics - Stanley Kramer does appear to provide viewers with some toupular symbolism:

The camera lands with Shatner perfectly framed between two light-bulbs.

Notice how Bill Shatner is framed: between two bald, shiny objects. The light-bulb often symbolizes enlightenment or an idea. On one side, the light shines; on the other, it does not. In between, a third light-bulb - but something is different. The middle light-bulb - a human head - is blocking the electrical current. Is there an insulating material at work. A toupee? It's an extremely complex image to decipher and throughout the course of the year our staff will certainly be publishing several books analyzing what Kramer may have been trying to say.

Toupular symbolism?

Also, reader "TMK" recently pointed to a behind-the-scenes image from Judgment at Nuremberg featured in a documentary about William Shatner.

Is it a toup-less image?

The last probable toupless photo we have is from 1960, and sharply contrasts with Bill Shatner's on-screen follicular lushness (more info on this image here):

The same appears to be evident in the image from Judgment - however, our toupologists tell us that they need a better resolution image before they can make a more definitive analysis. We have to be very careful with such calls as world financial markets could easily be sent into a needless tailspin as the result of an erroneous call!

Bill Shatner's autobiography Up Till Now contains some interesting stories about the actor's experiences working with Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster in this movie and they're well worth reading.

Anyway, to sum up: we thoroughly recommend Judgment at Nuremberg - simply great drama. The movie is available on DVD.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Poll result and headbanging...

Our latest poll sought your views on how you might have reacted as a child to learn that the actor who played Captain Kirk was actually bald and wore a toupee. It's an issue that may be at the very core of Bill Shatner's toupological psyche, yet only one single voter (rounded down to 0%) chose the "It would have made me less of a fan of Kirk/Shatner" option.

Meanwhile, for 7% the news would have confirmed existing suspicions, while for another 7%, such news would have made them even bigger fans of Kirk/Shatner (is the toupee such a draw in itself?).

Did the toupee help make Star Trek seem more "far out" and unusual?

10% said that as children, they simply would not have understood such matters, while for 12% of respondents, the news would have been devastating - worse that learning that Santa Claus was not real; for 17%, such revelations would have made Star Trek seem more fascinating and unusual, while 20% of voters say that they would simply have refused to believe it!

Notice the sprouting artifact - was Star Trek loaded with complex toupological symbolism?

The winner, with 23% of the vote is "I wouldn't have cared" - a result which a young Bill Shatner would certainly have found astonishing.

Thanks, as always, for voting!

Meanwhile, as many of you will surely know, Bill Shatner recently released the seriously impressive line up for his upcoming metal album Searching for Major Tom. Alas, no Brian May - were hair differences just too much to overcome? The artist still known as Shatner will also receive an "Honorary Headbanger Award" later this month at the Revolver Awards - for embodying the spirit of heavy metal music.

Just how important is hair in headbanging? This video seems to think it is very important...

But while Bill Shatner may not have the hair, the award recognizes that with the right spirit (or toupee), such problems can easily be overcome.

Our toupologists tell us there'll be a new full toupological analysis later in the week!