Tag Archive | William Shatner

A Pure Crystal

Can anything prepare you for a first time listen of The Transformed Man? As a forty-something already familiar with the rest of William Shatner’s career in kitsch and irony before giving this a spin, I will say no. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard his embittered take on “Rocket Man” or that logic-defying run through of “Common People.” Hearing 1968’s The Transformed Man after all that is like picking up the first Ramones album after Ramones Mania, which was absolutely my experience in high school. You have this kind of cutesy framework that’s obliterated by the raw element. Like, God, this might really be from another planet.

According to the text on the back cover, The Transformed Man came about because Shatner was enamored with a couple poems by Frank Davenport and wanted to bring them to life. Davenport’s work came to Shatner via a co-worker on “Star Trek,” Cliff Ralke. Ralke’s father Don, a music industry figure best known for helping launch Ed “Kookie” Burns, wound up producing The Transformed Man. Having an actor recite poetry and Shakespeare and even some pop music lyrics over an orchestra isn’t that bizarre conceptually, even for 1968. Of course, it’s not the material, it’s the delivery, and Shatner floors it the entire time. You know you’re in for the ride for your life from the get-go; the LP opens with a white-knuckle reading from Henry V that suggests Shatner was there to help the English seize Harfleur.

When Shatner does a whimsical dance through Cyrano, I laugh. When he is tormented by Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” my jaw is on the floor. This is just the first 12 minutes of The Transformed Man. Make it to the conclusive title track and you’ll be rewarded with one final dose of crazed conviction as Shatner recounts a baptism through nature.

“I became as a pure crystal submerged in a translucent sea and I knew that I had been awakened…I had touched the face of God!” Those final words are barked like a mongrel, and it’s interesting to juxtapose that against Shatner’s recent trip to stars. Did he touch the face of God? Did he even see God?

“All I saw was death,” he said of space’s infinite vacuum.

Boo, I Tellsya: The Absolute Toppest Horror Movies Ever

The chilling climax of Assisted Living Dracula, which did not make the list.

Since I wrote a book about a horror punk band maybe people care to know my favorite horror movies. Emphasis on “maybe.” It’s understandable if you’re only here killing time until the next dumb cat video.

AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

So close to perfection you can barely talk about it. Seems like the most accurate portrayal of what lycanthropy might be like (see: uncontrollable gore, psychological fraying, corpse humor). David Naughton and Griffin Dunne are genius together, the Hope and Crosby of onscreen bloodshed.

THE BAT (1926)

Bob Kane copped much of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego from this story, and it’s not hard to see why. Such striking imagery, thick atmosphere (particularly for a movie that takes place almost entirely in one house). The Bat is the best pre-Burton Dark Knight, though this flying rodent has no heroic intent.

THE BLACK CAT (1934)

Lugosi. Karloff. A torturous secret. Great suspense. Delicious turns from two spook masters. Should be up there with Dracula, Frankenstein, et al.

EVIL DEAD 2 (1987)

Gonzo horror at its finest. Could you breathe the first time you watched this one? Bruce Campbell delivers a career-defining performance. Makes Elm Street look like “Sesame Street,” Friday The 13th look like Nancy Drew.

FREAKED (1993)

Bonkers carnival movie that also succeeds at skewering our country’s sick tabloid culture. Funny, sardonic, but I can’t stand to even glance at Alex Winter in that mutant bat makeup. Also, those giant sentient eyeballs with arms and legs (that are also Jamaican for some reason) wig me out.

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)

The ultimate power trip: harnessing the fury of the atom to capture evil spirits for profit. Only bureaucracy stands in our heroes’ way. Even when it does, they still have that boss car and an endless stream of wisecracks.

HALLOWEEN (1978)

The first time we realized William Shatner’s pasty visage could be an instrument of evil. What’s more horrifying, though: the anonymous killer hunting teenagers or the fact these teens have no grasp of local history?

JAWS (1975)

Frightening beyond belief because there is no supernatural element. Sharks are real, and there’s nothing fantastical about them nibbling on a human.

NOSFERATU (1922)

Max Schreck’s makeup is amazing and his movements are hypnotizing. On top of that, Murnau’s direction is wonderfully feverish. None of it seems real. Sticks in your craw like the best kind of haunting.

PSYCHO (1960)

It’s a testament to this film’s genius that so many decades and parodies later you can still watch it and hope against hope that Anthony Perkins is innocent. The score might be the greatest in horror history. The entire score, that is, not just the “ei ei ei ei!” part.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)

Everything is sort of romantic and intriguing until Lon Chaney’s mask comes off. Then the fur starts flying. Unlike most modern horror movies where the titular evil is allowed to escape in case of sequel, here we get to watch a zealous crowd beat their ghoulish tormenter to death. Cathartic.

POLTERGEIST (1982)

“The Simpsons” made a joke out of “can’t sleep, clown will eat me,” but in Poltergeist that terror is all too real. Ground zero for the movement against all grease-painted jesters. Not that I’m downplaying the movie’s bigger theme: manufactured communities are evil, as are those who develop them.

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991)

Not traditionally in this genre but sneaks in thanks to its bleakness. Two robots fighting over the seed of the only woman who has foreseen the apocalypse. Of course no one believes her, so they have her committed. Also, one robot is comprised of an indestructible liquid. Any way we can downgrade to evil clowns?

Please feel free to bombard me with angry comments and angrier e-mails concerning the lack of Leprechaun movies on this list.