3/20/09

You Don't Know Shat: Spplat Attack (2002)

[Ding…ding…Ding…Ding] Shatner, four weeks in review. This is the month of You Don’t Know Shat whose four week mission is to take a look at the long and storied career of William Shatner. To review obscure titles from the master of the over reaction. To seek out hidden gems and classic film from the master of the toupee. To boldly celebrate one of my favorite actors. 

Spplat Attack (2002) starring William Shatner, ‘Mancow’ Muller, Tom Kaye, Lisabeth Shatner, and Elizabeth Shatner. Directed by Kathy Weiss. 

On a lovely day in 2002 at the behest of The Big Giant Head, William Shatner, along with radio personality ‘Mancow’ Muller and Paintball legend Tom Kaye, came together to compete in a charity paintball tournament in Jolliet, Illinois. These three men commanded the Federation, Klingon, and Borg factions which were made up of some 1500 attendees.  Over the course of the day, the paint did fly, but only one team could become victorious and discover the secret of The Big Giant Head. 

The Bugg Picture

I realize that is quite the short synopsis, but really what more do you need to know. You’ve got Shatner, paintball, scads of fan boys, and best of all no script. From the very beginning as Shatner parachutes into the park, we know that the man is ready to be in charge and that is just what he does. He rallies his Federation troops (clad in sport jersey versions of the Star Trek movie costumes) with a rousing speech which gives you a look at what William Wallace might have been like if he was a hammy Canadian actor. My favorite line from that speech must be “Those of you who don’t have chest protection, too bad I have.”, and you soon see in the footage of the paintball fights that if you don’t have chest protection, you would be extremely jealous of Shatner. With tons of players on the field and paintballs flying at 10 per second, there is quite a bit of footage dedicated to people showing off their “war wounds”.

Shatner of course is given a command team, headed by experienced paintball player Pacman, and taken to a tent to rest. But is the 71 year old Shatner going to take a breather while battle gets underway? Not a chance. Shatner is immediately out on the front lines, much to the dismay of his team mates, but unlike ‘Mancow’ and Kaye, Shatner turns out to be a wily fighter and keeps himself alive even after the two other leaders had been killed, in their own bases! So it turns out that William Shatner may well actually be James T. Kirk, but he’s not done proving it. Shatner uses his wife as a decoy, orchestrates double and triple crosses, comes up with valuable intelligence, and still manages to drop nuggets of wisdom as when he compares shooting people with paintballs to “shooting deer”. While some may scoff at the senior citizen charging out onto a field of battle with competitors who, for the most part, were not born when Star Trek was in it original run, Shatner turns out to be a wily competitor. I should only hope seven decades into my life that I would be half as active and able as The Shat. 

Yet what would all of Shatner’s scheming be without good rivals. ’Mancow’ Mullar, who apparently is a popular radio DJ but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him, leads the Klingon forces, and puts up a dang good fight. Mullar is also involved in perhaps the most classic scene of the film when Shatner holds Muller to the ground by the neck and only frees himself after he pleads, “For God’s sake, Shatner, it’s just a game!” (As Shatner would surely tell you, “it’s never just a game”)  Leading the Borg forces is Paintball innovator/archeologist/astronomer Tom Kaye. From what one competitor says (as each of them apparently was their own draw), “Tom Kaye is to paintball what Shatner is to Trekkies.” Fair enough, and after taking a look into his work, I tend to agree. Kaye’s Borg team is the real threat throughout the game, and Kaye seems like a hell of a leader. 

The last real “character” the movie has is Lisabeth, Shatner’s daughter. Clad in a yellow suit and helmet, she is placed in the film as an objective war reporter. It’s very amusing the moments when Lizbeth leads us through the action, but I’m kind of surprised that The Shat never managed to come up with any kind of idea for using her to his advantage. The film is also populated by the cast of characters that come when you mix fans of a radio DJ, Trekkies, and paintball fanatics. There are tons of great stories told, and it is easy to see that everyone is having a great time. 

Splatt Attack was directed by Kathy Weiss, but I’m not really sure if Weiss should get the lion’s share of the credit for the final film. This is a flick packed with footage of people popping each other with paintballs which could get incredibly monotonous. The tight camerawork of Paul Peddinghouse (who would go on to man the camera on Survivor and Greatest American Dog) and the editing of Gillian L. Hutshing are what really make the film come alive. I really have to give a special tip of the hat to Hutshing (who edited the 1998 film Hard Rain). The quick cuts are what really bring excitement to what amounts to a third of the film being images of a non-lethal firefight. 

By the end of the day, the strain clearly shows on Shatner, as it does on people half his age, but you can tell this is a man who has been in his element all day. This is a highly entertaining documentary if you like Shatner, documentary film, or just shooting people, but in the end, as its focus is Shatner, it will probably appeal mostly to fans for Trek. Being one of those folks myself, I have watched this flick several times, and the only bad thing I ever take away from it is my own jealousy. Those lucky bastards who were out on the field, under the command of Captain Kirk, living out the childhood dream that so many of us have had. So while the jealously will remain, the vicarious thrill is nearly enough.

Bug Rating

3 comments:

  1. This dvd was the best $6.00 I ever spent! I come back to Spplat Attack time and tine again. It is just as great now as it was the first time I watched it. This is a MUST see!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm adding this one to my wish list.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey, if you're looking for "Space is the Place", try contacting Evidence Records. That's where I got my copy. I can't guarantee that they will still have it, but it's worth a shot. They put out the majority on Sun Ra's material.

    ReplyDelete

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