VHS Revival looks back at some of William Shatner’s lesser known forays
Most people know William Shatner from his iconic role as the USS Enterprise’s Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek.
Predominantly a television actor, during the ’70s, he made a slew of B movies between the demise of Star Trek and the advent of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I decided to get in the way back machine and take a look at some of these classic flicks. Not surprisingly, several of these films fall underneath the horror genre. First up is the 1974 horror/thriller, Impulse. Shatner stars as a gigolo with a penchant for leisure suits and murdering wealthy widows. Already this sounds like a must-see production. The former esteemed Starship captain as a serial killer? Yes, please! Where do I sign up for this one? Another fun fact is that Odd Job from the James Bond films, Harold Sakata also stars in this film.
Next up is a Roger Corman production, Big Bad Mama. Falling under the category of action/comedy/crime, in addition to Shatner the film stars Angie Dickinson, Tom Skerritt and cult movie favorites Dick Miller and Sally Kirkland. Dickinson portrays a mother who goes on a killing spree with her daughters. Whenever I think of Angie “Dressed to Kill” Dickinson I automatically think hardcore gangster. She meets Shatner who is a gambler and the two fall in love (of course). Already you can see in true B movie fashion that this pairing is only going to end in tragic circumstances.
Then in 1975, Shatner found himself in the horror flick, The Devil’s Rain. This was a veritable all-star bonanza with such old timey favorites as Ernest Borgnine (McHale’s Navy), Keenan Wynn, Eddie Albert (Green Acres) and original B Movie director, Ida Lupino. It also featured a very young, John Travolta along with Tom Skerritt. I am really beginning to think that Skerritt is stalking Shatner at this point.
This film is about Satanism and a book. Does everything boil down to a book that can conjure up the Devil? In true Shatneresque form, he tries to play the hero and faces off against Borgnine who is the head of the Satanic cult. The result is definitely not favorable. He ends up being sightless and a mindless minion.
Two years later, Shatner was in the sci-fi/horror film Kingdom of the Spiders alongside the legendary Woody Strode of Spartacus. I must say I saw this film years ago and he has what could quite possibly be the best character name EVER, Rack Hansen. He sounds like a soap opera hero. Shatner plays a veterinarian who stumbles upon a massive spider hill after local livestock start dying mysteriously.
Of course, these are not ordinary arachnids. They just happen to be super pissed off tarantulas who are hellbent on destroying the town. He gets attacked by these demon spiders only to be saved by his female co-star. However, all is not well for the Shat and the survivors of the town. After taking refuge, they awaken to the entire area being enveloped in a cocoon. Tarantulas -1, Captain Kirk – 0.
The last movie in the Shatner B Movie chronicles is a hot mess called The Third Walker. It also stars legendary actress, Colleen Dewhurst. This is the story of twins that are separated at birth and a mother’s obsession to find her son. Apparently, at the hospital where Colleen Dewhurst gave birth a mix up occurred and she went home with another woman’s son.
Years later, a boy ends up in the same school as Colleen’s twins and looks exactly like her one son. As it turns out, the boy is actually her child and not the other twin that she raised as her own. Confused yet? Me too. This is beginning to sound like a Lifetime movie. Shatner plays Dewhurst’s husband who can no longer deal with her obsession of getting their biological son back so he leaves her. Only to return later and die. Lovely. Maybe it was payback for all those red shirts meeting their untimely demises on Star Trek.
I hope you had as much fun as I did reviewing the past through William Shatner’s career in the 70s. It is varied, it is different and definitely not boring.
As a matter of fact, it’s “Shatastic!”