Disaster on the Coastliner (1980, directed by Richard C. Sarafian)

A completely computerized passenger train is traveling across the country, with the Vice President’s wife as one of the passengers.  When Jim Waterman (Paul L. Smith), a man who blames the railroad for the death of his family, manages to hijack the train he plans to ram into a locomotive until his demands a met.  He wants railroad president Estes Hill (Raymond Burr) to take responsibility for the crash that killed his wife and children.  With Waterman determined to crash the two trains, it falls to dispatchers Al Mitchell (Lloyd Bridges) and Roy Snyder (E.G. Marshall) to try to figure out a way to stop the collision.  Helping them out on the train is a con artist named Stuart Peters (William Shatner!) who may be wanted by the police but who is still willing to do whatever it takes to save his fellow passengers.

Disaster on the Coastliner is an above-average made-for-TV disaster movie.  Even though it was obviously made for a low-budget and that the majority of the money was probably spent on securing the B-list cast, there are enough shots of the train careening on the tracks to bring happiness to the hearts of most disaster movie fans.  The cast is full of the type of people who you would typically expect to find in a movie like this, people like Raymond Burr, Lloyd Bridges, and William Shatner.  Bridges, interestingly enough, gives the same performance here that he gave in Airplane! and when he starts ranting about how everything’s computerized, he sounds like he could be reciting dialogue from that film.  The only difference is that Airplane! was a comedy while Disaster On The Coastliner is meant to be a drama.  Raymond Burr also does a good job hamming it up as the president of the railroad.  He spends most of the movie sitting behind his desk and looking annoyed, which was pretty typical of Burr in the years after Perry Mason and Ironside. 

For a lot of people, the main appeal of this film will be seeing what William Shatner was doing in between Star Trek movies.  This is a typical early 80s Shatner performance, when he was still trying too hard to win that first Emmy but also when he had just starting to develop the self-awareness necessary to poke fun at his own image.  Shatner really digs into the role of a conman with a heart of gold.  He delivers his lines in his trademark overdramatic style but, in scenes like the one where he sheepishly discovers that a door that he’s been pounding on was unlocked all the time, Shatner actually seems to be in on the joke.  Shatner also did his own stunts in this film, including one where he had stand on top of a speeding train.  In his autobiography, Shatner wrote that he wasn’t even wearing a safety harness in the scene so give it up for Bill Shatner.  That took guts!

Fast-paced and agreeably unpretentious, Disaster On The Coastliner is an enjoyable runaway train movie.


Music Video Of The Day: Ponder The Mystery by William Shatner (2013, directed by William Shatner and Kevin Layne)

Today, we wish a happy 89th birthday to the one and only William Shatner!

This music video is for the title song from Shatner’s 2013 album, Ponder the Mystery.  Nowadays, it’s usually agreed that Shatner was laughing at himself when he famously covered songs like Tambourine Man and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  But Ponder the Mystery features Shatner in a reflective mood.  This song, like every other song on the album, finds Shatner pondering not just the mysteries of life but the reality of death, as well.

After that happy introduction, what else can I do but invite you to…


International Horror Film Review: Incubus (dir by Leslie Stevens)

The 1966 film Incubus is unique for being one of the few films to have been made in the international language.



Esperanto is a language that was invented in 1887 by a Polish idealist who wrote under the name — I kid you not — Dr. Esperanto.  The idea behind Esperanto was that it was a simple language that anyone could learn and, if the whole world learned to speak this one language, there would be far less misunderstandings, conflicts, and wars.  There’s probably some truth to that idea and the language has gone through the occasional period of popularity.  (If Lincoln Chafee runs for President again, I’m sure he’ll probably make learning Esperanto a part of his platform.)  Still, Esperanto never really caught on.  I imagine that most people were like, “But what if I go through the trouble to learn a new language but no one else does?  Then I’d look stupid!”  That’s what kept me from learning trigonometry.

Still, when director Leslie Stevens and producer Anthony Taylor was trying to decide what gimmick they could use to set Incubus apart from other low-budget horror films, they decided that the entire film would be in Esperanto.  Since the film was about a succubus trying to steal soul of a “pure man,” the feeling was that Esperanto would give the film an otherworldly feel.  The idea of having the demons all speaking Esperanto actually worked out well because, seriously, why wouldn’t otherworldly denizens have their own language?  But of course, then William Shatner shows up as the pure man and he’s speaking Esperanto too.  It gets a bit confusing.

The film takes place in the village of Nomen Tuum, where there’s a well that can both heal the sick and make the ugly look reasonably more appealing.  As a result, the village has become a popular spot for not only those who are dying but also those who are incredibly vain.  Kia (Alyson Ames) is one of the many succubi who hang out around the village, leading arrogant and foolish men into the ocean where their souls are claimed by the Incubus (played by Milos Milos).  Kia, however, has grown bored with only tempting the morally corrupt.  She wants a challenge!  She wants to tempt someone pure of heart!  All the other succubi tell her to be careful because dealing with the pure of heart might make it difficult for her to retain her demonic nature, which would upset the Incubus.  Kia shrugs them off and heads out to seduce a clergyman….

Unfortunately, all the available clergymen turn out to be just as vain, greedy, and corrupt as the people drinking from the well!  Whatever is a succubus to do!?  Kia is on the verge of giving up when she spies a wounded soldier named Marc (William Shatner) and his sister, Arndis (Ann Atmar).  They’ve come to the village to heal Marc of his wounds.  And yes, they are “pure of heart.”

It would be easy (and, let’s be honest, a bit tempting) to glibly dismiss Incubus as being the film that proves that, in the 60s, William Shatner could overact even in Esperanto.  And William Shatner does give a very Shatneresque performance.  But Incubus is actually a surprisingly effective film.  The film’s black-and-white cinematography was by Conrad Hall (with the uncredited assistance of William A. Fraker) and the film is full of wonderfully atmospheric images.  When Marc dreams, he sees haunting images of dead men floating in the ocean.  When the Incubus abducts Arndis, they travel through a shadowy landscape before finally arriving at a house that that appears to be on fire with demonic evil.  As the film progresses, the imagery becomes more and more surreal, as if we’ve entered into a dream, a filmed nightmare of sorts.  And, long before The Witch, Incubus features a character wrestling with a Satanic goat.

Incubus was filmed with the actors learning their lines phonetically and with no one on set to correct their pronunciations.  When the film was previewed for 60 people who spoke Esperanto, the audience laughed at how the actors butchered their precious little international language.  After that, Milos Milos — the actor who played the Incubus — was found dead with his girlfriend in what was assumed to be a murder/suicide, though many continue to claim that it was a murder/murder.  (Milos’s girlfriend was also Mickey Rooney’s wife and both were discovered dead at Mickey’s house and, well …. I don’t like where this is heading.  Sorry, Mick!)  As a result of all of the scandal, no reputable U.S. distributor would handle Incubus.  (This was 1966, after all.)  So, the film was only released in France.  Though I have no evidence to say for sure, I choose to believe that the French got it.

The film was long believed to be lost until the last remaining print was discovered in the collection of the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris.  From that badly damaged print, Incubus was restored and, as a result, history’s first Esperanto horror film can once again be appreciated by audiences everywhere!

Mi amas feliĉan finon!

The Lost Ending Of It’s A Wonderful Life!

Has it ever bothered you that, at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, Mr. Potter basically gets away with nearly destroying George’s life?  It’s certainly bothers me!

Well, fortunately, the lost ending of It’s A Wonderful Life has been uploaded to YouTube!  Broadcast on a 1986 episode of Saturday Night Live and introduced by William Shatner (who, it must be said, really gets into introducing the clip), this clip gives George the revenge that he deserves!

As George Bailey put it: “You double-crossed me and left me alive!”

(Incidentally, I love the fact that Uncle Billy says that he talked to “Clarence at the bank.”  Obviously, Clarence put those wings to good use!)


Captain Kirk vs. Sheriff Taylor: Pray For The Wildcats (1974, directed by Robert Michael Lewis)

The year is 1974 and there’s nothing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California.  That’s because psychotic business Sam Farragutt (played by Andy Griffith!) is on the loose.  Sam likes to describe himself as being a hippie himself.  “A hippie with money,” Sam puts it as he waves a hundred dollar bill in the face of a hippie without money,

Actually, there is one thing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California and that’s being an ad executive.  Once again, Sam Farragutt is to blame.  He’s willing to give his business to three ad execs but first they have to agree to go down to Baja and ride around with him on their motorcycles.  The three ad execs are Terry Maxon (former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner!), Paul McIllvain (former Brady Bunch star Robert Reed!), and suicidal burn-out Warren Summerfield (William Shatner!).  Warren is having an affair with Paul’s wife (Angie Dickinson!) but he’s still planning on committing suicide in Mexico.

However, going to Mexico gives Warren a new lease on life.  After Warren discovers that Farragutt is responsible for the death of two hippies, he becomes determined to make sure that justice is served.  Soon, Andy Griffith (!) is chasing William Shatner (!) across the Mexican desert.  Someone’s going to die.  Is it going to be Sheriff Taylor or Captain Kirk?

Pray For The Wildcats was a made-for-TV movie that aired the same year as Savages.  Both movies were a part of Andy Griffith’s attempt to change his image after playing the folksy Sheriff Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show.  Griffith is a good villain but the main appeal of Pray for the Wildcats is the chance to see William Shatner doing his thing.  Shatner has a juicy role here, playing a man who is at first suicidal and then righteously indignant.  He overemotes with the self-serious intensity that was Shatner’s trademark in the years before he finally developed a sense of humor about himself.  The movie itself gets bogged down with unnecessary flashbacks and dated dialogue but the spectacle of Griffith vs. Shatner makes it all worth it.

Confessions of a TV Addict #7: TJ HOOKER and His Amazing Hair Helmet!

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TV Cop Shows ran rampant during the 1980’s. There were gritty street cops, female cops, Dirty Harry-inspired cops, MTV cops, debonair cops, teenage cops, and every other permutation you could think of, short of outer space cops. But for Cops With The Best Hair, it has to be… no, not CHARLIE’S ANGELS, but TJ HOOKER!

TJ HOOKER starred William Shatner (which kind of makes this a semi-outer space cop show, no?) as Hooker, a veteran on the LCPD (standing in for Los Angeles) who serves as mentor to the younger cops. Shatner, who by this time was, shall we say, follically challenged, wore a perm-coiffed toupee which never got mussed no matter how many times he ran down bad guys, got in hellacious fights, or got it tousled by his latest love interest:

As Warren Zevon would say, “His hair was perfect”!

Also with perfect hair was costar Adrian Zmed…

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Horror on TV: Thriller 1.37 “The Grim Reaper” (dir by Herschel Daugherty)

For tonight’s episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series Thriller, we have “The Grim Reaper!”

The Grim Reaper tells the story of a mystery writer (Natalie Schaefer) who purchases a painting of the grim reaper.  She claims that she’s just bought the painting as a bit of an ironic joke but her nephew (William Shatner!) claims that the painting has a violent history.  Everyone who has owned it has died.  At first, Schaefer is dismissive of Shatner’s story.  But then, blood appears on the reaper’s scythe.

This enjoyable and fun little episode was written by Robert Bloch of Psycho fame.  It was originally broadcast on June 13th, 1961.


A Movie A Day #218: White Comanche (1967, directed by Jose Briz)

Johnny Moon (William Shatner) is a half-breed.  His father was white and his mother was a Comanche.  Johnny was raised Comanche but he now lives as a white man.  He is a good and law-abiding citizen but he has a problem.  Johnny has a twin brother named Notah (played, of course, by William Shatner) and, hooked on peyote, Notah keeps holding up stagecoaches, killing white men, and raping white women.  Sick and tired of people constantly trying to lynch him, Johnny contacts Notah and demands a final showdown.  At the same time, Johnny refuses to tell anyone about Notah’s existence so everyone still wants to kill Johnny.  The only person who realizes that Johnny and Notah are not the same is one of Notah’s victims, a showgirl named Kelly (Rosanna Yanni).  She sees that good Johnny has blue eyes while bad Notah has black eyes.

William Shatner has described White Comanche as being his worst film, which is saying something when you consider some of the movies that Shatner made between the cancellation of Star Trek and the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Still: William Shatner as twins, one of whom spends the entire movie tripping on peyote.  That sounds like it should be fun and it would be except that, for the first and only time in his career, Shatner actually gives a low-key performance.  When Shatner is playing Notah, he is the Shatner that we all know and love.  But when Shatner plays Johnny Moon, he tries to give a subtle and restrained performance and, unfortunately, the movie is about 75% Johnny.  That’s not what we pay money to see when we watch a William Shatner movie!

This one is for Shatner completists only.


“Where No Man Has Gone Before”: Fifty Years of STAR TREK

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Gene Roddenberry’s space odyssey first sailed onto the small screen on September 8, 1966. I can remember being allowed to stay up late (I was only 8 at the time!) to watch it with my dad, who was a big science-fiction buff. As a career Navy man, I think he related to the idea of a ship’s travels (he was also a fan of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA). Being a young’un at the time, I was more into the weird creatures the Starship Enterprise crew encountered on their “five-year mission”.


Unless you’ve been living in another galaxy the past half century, you know all the characters. There’s William Shatner as the headstrong Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, emoting as only Shatner can. Leonard Nimoy became something of a teen idol as the logical Vulcan Mr. Spock (something about those pointed ears, maybe?). DeForrest Kelly played the ornery Dr. “Bones” McCoy, forever…

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Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 5.3 “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”


Wow. It’s hard to believe that is going to be my final televised horror of the year. (Though I imagine this feature will return in October of 2016 — just in time for election season!) Well, let’s get right to it!

For our final televised horror, I have selected a classic episode of The Twilight Zone. In Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, William Shatner is a man who, though being scared of flying, finds himself on an airplane. And guess what he sees out on the wing?

This episode was written by one of Arleigh’s favorite writers, the great Richard Matheson. It was directed by Richard Donner and originally aired on October 11th, 1963.

Enjoy Nightmare at 20,000 Feet! And here’s hoping that all of our readers have had a wonderful, safe, and happy Halloween!