Oh yes, I’ll ‘fess up to owning a small but fine selection of William Shatner albums over which I’ve enthused to my beard-stroking chums who’ve silently pondered which medical assistance I required.
For me, the words “William Shatner sings” were never a rhetorical question but an invitation to accompany the great man on a Euterpean mission to boldly go where no man had gone before. Just take a listen to albums such as The Transformed Man, Live, Has Been, Seeking Major Tom, and of course, Ponder the Mystery and you might just understand what I mean. These are not just merely records but ports of entry into Shatner’s world—mini-musical biographies that really should be dipped into twice a day before, with, or after food but never while operating heavy machinery.
As you can probably imagine, if not I’ll draw you a picture, how delighted I am to find Mr. Shatner has covered the Cramps song “Garbageman” for a forthcoming album compiled by radio host and king of novelty songs Dr. Demento called Covered In Punk which is set for release in January 2018. This two-hour two-disc compilation features a host of big names like “Weird Al” Yankovic, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, the Misfits, the B-52s frontman Fred Schneider, Colleen Green, Shonen Knife, the Vandals, Nobunny, the Meatmen, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, James Kochalka Superstar, and the late TV Batman Adam West” tackling a selection of classic numbers like “The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati,” “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama,” “Suicide is Painless,” “Mah Na Mah Na,” “Telephone Man,” and “Monster Mash.”
Behold the “She Mask” a female version of the “Michael Myers” slasher mask created by Don Post Studios.
My enthusiasm for all things horror knows no bounds. I honestly can’t get enough of the genre and still look forward to Halloween with the zeal of a kid armed with a grinning, giant plastic pumpkin overloaded with enough candy to bring on diabetes overnight. One of my annual Halloween traditions is to watch the first three Halloween films during October—and it never gets old. For me at least. So, here’s the thing—even though I’d say I know my horror, I had no idea that the famous mask donned by “Michael Myers” in the film was made from a life cast of actor William Shatner’s face during the filming of 1975’s The Devil’s Rain.
But before we get to that, let me give you a quick history lesson on Don Post Studios who made the original William Shatner mask that would later become the face of evil incarnate thanks to Carpenter’s vision of a killer with a “pale face” and “human features.”
Known as the “Godfather of Halloween” Don Post founded Don Post Studios in 1938, the first company to create the rubber masks we all know and love today, including a line of masks based on the classic movie monsters of Universal Pictures such as Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolfman. In the 1970s DPS put out masks based on the characters from the television series Star Trek including one in the image of Captain Kirk and another of “Mr. Spock” as played by Leonard Nimoy. Though kids were digging dressing up like both actors, the sale of these rubber masks was dismal. This didn’t surprise the folks at Don Post Studios as they had originally wanted to put out a collection of masks based on the aliens and far-out monsters featured on Star Trek but were told by Paramount to stick with Kirk and Spock.
Both masks were sculpted by William Malone, a long time artist, sculptor, and mask maker who worked extensively with Don Post Studios. According to Malone (noted in the book Voices in the Dark: Interviews with Horror Writers, Directors and Actors), director John Carpenter once visited him while he was at work and made the suggestion that the Shatner/Kirk mask would be cooler if it was painted white—though Malone couldn’t understand why anyone, much less Carpenter, would be even remotely interested in such a mask. Of course, the release of Carpenter’s first Halloween film showcasing actor Tony Moran wearing the Shatner mask painted white in 1978 changed all that once the film gained popularity. Sadly for DPS, their licensing with Paramount for the Captain Kirk mask had expired and their backlog of masks were gone—making it impossible for them to cash in on the Michael Myers mask craze. They would later engage the services of sculptor Neil Surges to create a generic “Everyman” mask in 1986 which would become a huge seller for the company until they closed up shop in 2012.
So what about the “She Mask” version of Michael Myers? Well, that’s where this story takes a bit of a weird, left turn.
In 2001 Don Post Studios decided that a female version of their best-selling Michael Myers/“Everyman” mask should be a real thing. So they came up with the “She Mask” (which was also sometimes called the “Michelle Myers mask”) that came with long hair, pink lipstick, blue eyeshadow and a fierce eyebrow game. According to folklore about the mask, DPS only produced a small number of the deeply creepy monster mashup making it quite the covetable collector’s item. The mask did end up in a film in 2009 called The Poughkeepsie Tapes, but that’s all I’m going to say about that. I’ve posted a few pictures of the “Michelle Myers” mask below. If you need me, I most definitely won’t be hiding under the bed or in a closet.
The ultra-rare “She Mask” (also known as the “Michelle Myers mask” by Don Post Studios.
A still of the “She Mask” in action from the 2007 film ‘The Poughkeepsie Tapes.’
Throughout his life, the actor Leonard Nimoy appeared to be always open to discussing nearly everything in his life. He answered questions frankly and honestly on subjects as diverse as space travel, photography, or his own personal tastes in music or books. He answered these questions in a seemingly calm and rational way. His ability to do so was most possibly down to the very real personality changes brought on by playing Mr. Spock on hit TV series Star Trek. This was something Nimoy touched upon in an interview with TV Star Parade magazine in January 1968, where he discussed his thoughts about adult movies and the liberating potential of psychoactive drugs.
In the article “Leonard Nimoy Speaks Out on LSD, Religion and Dirty Movies—an unblushingly honest confession as told to Roger Elwood,” the actor was interviewed in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel. He is described as being “relaxed and comfortable” and sipping from a “glass of ginger liquid.” Who knows what was in this amber nectar but the main interest here was the actor’s comments on LSD and “dirty movies,” as Elwood wrote:
And so is the topic of LSD. The self-hallucinatory drug. The ticket to a trip somewhere at the farthest reaches of man’s intellect. Or so its proponents say without telling you of the dangers, the obstacles on the road to mental Utopia.
Leonard is especially outspoken on the subject, apparently one to which he has devoted a great deal of time and serious thought.
“It is a useful tool in the hands of proper medical experts,” he told me. “I am convinced, as a result of reports that I have read, that it will bring about some very useful effects in certain instances and under suitable and necessary medical controls. However, as it is being used by so many young people as a means of escape and personal investigation without control, I consider it rather dangerous.”
But Mr. Spock wasn’t finished there.
He paused, obviously thinking of his own children and hoping that, as they got older, they wouldn’t be similarly imperiled.
Then, clearing his throat, he continued, “There have been too many unsettling reports of young people using it without the necessary supervision and having difficulty recuperating from the trip. In many cases, I believe that young people resort to drugs with the excuse that it will help develop their minds, whereas they haven’t done the necessary work involved for themselves so that this could happen.
“The point is—they are looking for a drug or pill which will do the work for them, and this attitude in life is disastrous whether LSD is involved or not. The drugs can, I understand, be properly used, when the essential mental climate and conditions are already present—however, I believe in natural development processes of the mind. The creative process for me has always operated best at the very conscious level—in other words, only when I’m in complete control of my own thinking do I feel that I am creating at my best.”
As a sidebar, it’s worth noting that Nimoy was so in “control” of his personal life during the making of the original Star Trek series that he became (by his own admission) an alcoholic and ended up in rehab. This may have been as a result of Nimoy’s identifying with the character of Mr. Spock. He later claimed acting Spock twelve hours, five days a week, impacted on his personality making him more rational but less emotional.
I was in a record store the other day when I noticed an LP I’d never seen before—a sealed copy of a 1977 album called William Shatner Live with a $25 asking price. We’ve all heard about Shatner’s sublime 1967 album The Transformed Man, of course, but this record was another animal altogether. For one thing, it’s “a talking album only,” to quote the disclaimer on Elvis Presley’s 1974 album Having Fun with Elvis on Stage.
One of the hilarious things about William Shatner Live is the back cover, which has some of the most over-the-top liner notes I’ve ever seen. Here it is:
The overwrought, hyperbolic text is credited to Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath:
It is the first time the man has come out, alone to confront his legend.
And the legend has come out to confront him.
The audience, six years old and yet unborn when the ENTERPRISE flew—the rerun generation.
They came, college students—and college professors. Pre-schoolers—and Ph.D’s. Doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers. Truck drivers, dockworkers, drill sergeants. Both sexes. All ages. Every shade of difference, every degree of diversity. Feeling no generation gap at all.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the legendary Kirk is finding a place in the history of heroes which is unique, one-of-a-kind, unprecedented.
And the rerun generation is growing up never having known a world in which there was not at least one example of a hero who was profoundly open, willing to be real to himself and others.
On stage now the man who broke that trail a decade ago has gone on, WHERE-NO-MAN… The dramatic performance speaks of the flying, and is the flying. Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergerac, Galileo on the need for the freedom of man’s mind. Some of the rerun generation may not understand the words fully. It doesn’t matter. Their eyes never leave his face.
He shifts from the dramatic performance. He loves to let the audience reach out to him with questions, with a love which would register on the Richter scale. Now he is fast, funny, light, loving, with anecdotes from the STAR TREK years and now.
Shatner has said, “They’re not the screamers. They’re the people who say ‘thank you.’ They remember something I did many years ago. I’ve grown from a boy to a man on television in front of everybody. And now here they are, turning out in torrential rains to say ‘thank you.’ And I am—moved to tears, many times.”
The response was so tremendous that there will be other tours, other albums. The man will go out to greet the legend again—and undoubtedly astonish it yet again.
Recorded at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, William Shatner Live recalls a time when Shatner’s status as a universally beloved icon of movies and TV was considerably more in doubt than it is today. The original Star Trek series had been cancelled eight years earlier, in 1969, and the 1970s were proving to be a bit rocky for Shatner. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was still two years off, and T. J. Hooker was fully five years into the future. The Priceline ads were two decades away.
Three years earlier, Shatner had appeared in Roger Corman’s Big Bad Mama, and while we’d all think it cool to have a Corman movie on our résumés, appearing in one is probably not a sign that one’s career is heading in the right direction unless it’s your film debut. In 1976 Mark Goodman wanted Shatner to host Family Feud—true story—and Shatner’s most notable acting credit of 1977, the same year William Shatner Live was released, was the tarantula horror movie Kingdom of the Spiders.
Given these facts, William Shatner Live comes to seem like nothing so much as an extended audition reel to send to Hollywood casting agents, as the former and future Captain James T. Kirk shows off his acting skills, reading monologues by the likes of H.G. Wells and Edmond de Rostand, as well as a less expected author: noted Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht.
To hear Shatner essay the lofty and bracing registers of Brecht’s Life of Galileo is to ponder whether his signature declamatory style is a self-fashioned Verfremdungseffekt, or what we would call an alienation effect.
While the 17th-century scientist Galileo seems an odd choice for the originator of the space-traveling Kirk role, it makes a bit more sense when you realize that Galileo, as the astronomer par excellence, has reason to discuss the celestial bodies of outer space and the possibilities of the human mind. Indeed, it’s probably the most Roddenberry-ish thing Brecht ever wrote.
For those who want to read along, a similar (not identical) translation of the monologue can be found here.
In 2004, Ben Folds produced William Shatner’s album Has Been which included a surprisingly great cover version of Pulp‘s hit song “Common People.” Folds enlisted ‘80s icon Joe Jackson to sing on the choruses of that cover. The Has Been album was surprisingly well received by critics, and many agreed that “Common People” was the “hit” on that record.
Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker even praised the cover version, stating, “I was very flattered by that because I was a massive Star Trek fan as a kid and so you know, Captain Kirk is singing my song! So that was amazing.”
A fan has created a video for Shatner’s “Common People” using clips from Star Trek: The Original Series.
What makes this edit truly incredible is the attention to detail in matching shots with the lyrical content, even nailing specific lines of the song to lines spoken by Kirk in the show. Check twenty-seven seconds in where “I want to live,” or forty-seven seconds in where “I’ll see what I can do” sync perfectly. The amount of work that went into this is apparent and astounding.
You may remember a post we did a while back on the all-Esperanto art house horror, Incubus, starring the immortal William Shatner. Although the film is beautiful in its ambition, fascinating in its inscrutability and kind of hilarious in its absolute weirdness, it is not my favorite Shatner deep cut. No, that great honor belongs to The Intruder, a weird little anti-racist morality play directed by Roger Corman, the brilliant mind behind the 1960 Little Shop of Horrors, and producer of such classics as Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Death Race 2000. Oh, and more recently, Sharktopus.
While The Intruder definitely exhibits Corman’s trademark outrageousness, itt does so in an earnest effort to engage the audience’s humanity. Shatner plays a sneaky white supremacist that rolls into a southern town with the covert mission of sowing racial unrest into the recently integrated community. At the time he was a young Canadian theater actor looking to break in to Hollywood, and the role was pretty juicy and subversive—Shatner later said “I’d have paid him to play that role.”
As far as drama and social analysis of bigotry goes, yeah—it’s pretty heavy-handed and ham-fisted to the modern eye (I mean it’s Roger Corman and William Shatner), but Shatner’s performance is uncharacteristically understated. He’s sleazy and sly and generally threatening as all hell. The picture follows him charming the previously peaceful citizens of Caxton into a a paranoid frenzy, even going so far as to seduce a teenage girl before pressuring her to frame a black man for rape.
The mob violence and virulent hatred is tidied up quite neatly by a level-headed salesman who eventually (basically) just gives Shatner’s character bus fare to leave town. It’s a pretty rosy Hollywood resolution to an obviously complicated and dire subject—racism is treated as an “intruder,” not a part of civic and political fabric. The movie fails to really indict the white citizens of Caxton for their own horrific crimes, nor does it really seek restitution for its black victims.
But you’re not watching The Intruder for critical race theory… you’re watching it for an evil Bill Shatner in a convertible with the KKK.
Just before he signed-up to play Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek, William Shatner made a bizarre, little seen, art-house horror movie called Incubus.
It was little seen because the film’s original negative and nearly all of its prints were thought lost or destroyed not long after its initial screenings at film festivals.
Bizarre, well for two reasons, firstly because the whole movie, though shot in California, was performed in Esperanto, an artificial hotchpotch of a language created in the late 19th century by L. L. Zamenof to encourage peace and understanding between the peoples of different nations.
Incubus was written and directed by Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits. It came about after The Outer Limits had been canceled. Stevens was looking for a way to kickstart his career and curiously decided that an artsy low budget horror film in a language very few people understood could be the answer. William Shatner who starred as Marc in the film later recalled that Stevens’ script…
“...had a starkness and a simplicity to it - of good and evil, it was kind of Greek in its simplicity and the way that events marched, in the script, to their inevitable conclusion. So I read it and called him back quickly and said, ‘that’s wonderful, I’d love to do it.’”
At this point in his career, Shatner had appeared in numerous episodic television roles (including The Outer Limits episode “Cold Hands, Warm Heart”) and in supporting roles in a few notable features, such as Judgment at Nuremberg and The Outrage. His only leads in a feature at this point were for The Explosive Generation and more provocatively in Roger Corman’s The Intruder, which received very scant distribution.
Shatner said “when [Incubus] was presented to me I was in the throes of some good work and in demand, and this was a small picture, it was something that you might not think of as, in that famous phrase, a ‘career move,’ but it was so intriguing, and I so enjoyed working with Leslie Stevens, that I wanted to be in it.”
Stevens wanted to “put the film in a different place,” so he decided to have the actors speak in Esperanto throughout the movie. Stevens figured Esperanto was strange, exotic and archaic enough to create a mysterious sense of otherness. This was the second feature made in Esperanto, though the language had been used to atmospheric effect as set dressing in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, as Hitler had denounced Esperanto as a Jewish plot to take over the world.
When Incubus was premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival in October 1966 and a group of 50-100 Esperantists “screamed and laughed and carried on like maniacs” every time the actors mispronounced the language—Shatner’s Esperanto is considered especially bad as he used a nasal French-sounding manner to enunciate the language. (He was raised in Montreal.)
The movie was further “bizarre” not just for its art house style (kinda Cocteau meets Bergman) but because of the strange incidents associated with a curse supposedly put on the film.
In his commentary for the DVD, William Shatner recalled an incident that occurred when the cast and crew first arrived in Big Sur, California. He remembers a “hippie” man approaching the company, and inquiring into their endeavor. Shatner says that the cast and crew reacted with some hostility to his interest, which angered him in turn. The “hippie” then loudly put a curse on their production, which some people believe came in effect.
The curse was blamed for a series of incidents that occurred within a year of the film’s production. After its initial, limited release the film was considered lost after being destroyed in a fire (or accidentally destroyed by a French film lab, it’s unclear); one of the main actors Milos Milos, who played the Incubus, killed his lover Carolyn Mitchell (estranged wife of Mickey Rooney) and then committed suicide; while actress Ann Atmar who played Shatner’s sister Arndis in the film also killed herself. Even the composer, Dominic Frontiere was convicted and spent some time in prison for scalping literally thousands of Super Bowl tickets in the 1980s
Tragic events and criminal activity aside, a print of Incubus was discovered at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris. A new print was created frame-by-frame, with English subtitles superimposed over the French ones.
So what’s it all about? Well, Incubus tells the story of an ancient Deer Well and the succubus who prey on sinful people who use it. If a corrupt person drinks from the well the water will taste salty, only a person pure of heart can benefit the healing properties of the well. Tired of killing the bunch of sinners who drink from the well, succubus Kia (Allyson Ames) schemes to lure a man pure of heart to the well as a sacrifice to the God of Darkness. Cue William Shatner as Marc, a wounded soldier, who Kia falls in love with, causing her sisterly demon Amael (Eloise Hardt) to raise an Incubus (Milos Milos) to bring revenge on Marc and his sister Arndis (Ann Atmar).
It’s likely you have listened to William Shatner’s unforgettable rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and thought to yourself, “WHOA—what in tarnation was on Shatner’s mind there???”
We now have something of an answer—the answer is, Not very damn much!
Kevin Pollak recently interviewed Ben Folds on his long-form talk show. Folds has had (among other accomplishments) a fruitful musical collaboration with Shatner, most notably he was the man behind Shatner’s successful 2004 album Has-Been, featuring such actual, talented musicians as Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann, and Adrian Belew.
Folds related a conversation he had with Shatner about his legendary first album The Transformed Man, released in 1968 (edited to eliminate crosstalk and the like).
Folds: Well, you know, when I was a kid and I was trying to, you know, I wanted to be a songwriter and Neil Sedaka had done it by the time he was 13 and I didn’t, you know, but I was still goin’ for it. One of the things I did in high school was, I really liked, at an art sale I bought … the William Shatner record The Transformed Man. And that’s the one that has “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Tambourine Man.”
Pollak: Yeah, “Tambourine Man”…. he just keeps screaming it.
Folds: It’s really good!
Pollak: So you see what I’m saying—there’s no perfection there….
Folds: He didn’t know what he had done, like I asked him about that record and he said, “Well, you know, it was a day and we were shooting Star Trek….” and it was one thing on his list and he did it in real time, it was like a 45-minute thing. He didn’t even know what he had done, it was just like, he just left. And then it became this huge cult classic.
So there you have it. Perhaps 45 minutes is a wee bit of an exaggeration, but the point couldn’t be clearer. Shatner went to the studio and just cranked out the vocals for those mothers and then went off and did something else that day. That was it—no big musical idea, no “concept,” just following through on an idea to cash in on a little bit of that Summer of Love zeitgeist and employ his unique actorly skills in a way nobody would ever have thought possible.
There can be no doubt that the track successfully captured that preposterous/genius thing that has always been a trademark of Shatner’s acting.
Here’s the Pollak interview; the Shatner section starts around the 28:50 mark:
It’s Canada Day, when all good Canadians celebrate the birth of their country.
Today marks the anniversary of the unification of three colonies under the name Canada, which came together through the enactment of the British North America Act, on July 1, 1867.
Canada now consists of 10 provinces and 3 territories, and is sometimes overlooked when compared to its noisy neighbor. However, Canada has a fine political system, a publicly funded health care system, was the first country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage, and has a wealth of incredible cultural talent, from David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, to Margaret Atwood and Robertson Davies.
Of course, Canada also has the iconic and irrepressible William Shatner. And here is Mr Shatner giving his version of the national anthem “O, Canada”.
Richard Matheson, the author and screenwriter, celebrates his eighty-sixth birthday today. Few writers have been as original or, as influential as Mr. Matheson, whose novels, stories, and screenplays have infused our cultural DNA. Watch / read any sci-fi / horror / fantasy entertainment and you will find Matheson’s genetic code somewhere in the mix.
Over a career that has spanned 6 decades, Matheson has produced a phenomenal range of novels and short stories, many of which have supplied the basis for such films as I Am Legend (the version with Vincent Price is better than Will Smith’s, though Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man is best), The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Legend of Hell House, Duel (Dennis Weaver has never been better), Button, Button (read the story, forget the film version The Box) and of course Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.
I’m a big fan of Matheson’s writing and firmly believe that if ever the Nobel Prize committee should think about reflecting talent rather than paying political lip service to short term causes, then they should seriously consider giving Richard Matheson the award for literature, as few writers, other than say Ray Bradbury or Stephen King, have inspired so many young people to write, and more importantly, so many to read.
Happy Birthday Mr Matheson! And to celebrate, here is the classic Twilight Zone episode of Mr Matheson’s superb short story Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Enjoy!
During the process of learning to play the old songs again we have been consulting the cover versions posted on-line… Vote for your favorites by ‘liking’ them - or upload your own rendition if you think you can do better.
There’s even “a musical prize” for the winner.
As “Common People” is Pulp’s best known song and the one that appears to encourage most cover versions (will anyone surpass William Shatner’s version?) here are 8 covers of “Common People” - just a small selection of the many videos so far uploaded onto the site. If you want to see more, vote for your favorite, or think you can do better check here.
William Shatner’s cover of ‘Common People’ as a Lego animation by niblickthe3rd