Listening to Marlon Brando

DATELINE:  Method Man

Marlon Brando Fires Point Blank.

With its odd title, you may have trouble discerning what exactly is being told to whom.  Yet, Listen to Me Marlon is an affecting and striking documentary Showtime documentary about the legendary star of The Godfather, Streetcar Named Desire, and Reflections in a Golden Eye.

We wrote extensively about Brandon in Troubles in a Golden Eye, our movie biography, done with Hollywood master, Jan Merlin.

Intensely private and hostile to the press in the second half of his life, Brando made dozens and dozens of audio tapes of his philosophy, problems, and feelings. He clearly wanted to be remembered.

At the last he even had a digital map of his talking head so that it could be used sometime in futuristic movies.

In the meantime, we find many unusual photos and recreations of his unpleasant childhood in Omaha that he idealized. Though you see photos of associates and workmates, there is no gossip talk of colleagues. He speaks most admirably of Stella Adler, his acting teacher.

He does discuss his tortured children:  one committed suicide after her half-brother murdered her boyfriend. Christian died of pneumonia a few years after his father died.

He is thoughtful and sensitive, clearly appalled more and more by the money, profits, and legalities of movie-making. He worked three months a year for enormous salaries—and grew increasingly difficult to work with (ask Francis Ford Coppola).

A mutual friend of ours once told that Marlon was not like his public image: he was much, much softer. And that clearly comes across in his tapes.

Brando even rehearses how to die, which is chilling. He calls life the real improvisation and acting merely a deception of truth.

If you are a fan of Brando, or ever wondered about him, there may never be a more accurate depiction of his life—if only through his own distorted vision of self.

Jan Merlin & William Russo wrote Troubles in a Golden Eye, nonfiction about making the John Huston movie version of Carson McCullers’ novella Reflections in a Golden Eye. Brando and Elizabeth Taylor starred.

 

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Aspern Papers: Relief for Headache

 DATELINE: Henry James Tale of Scandal

Untitled 3 Not his Doppleganger!

French director Julien Landais brings his rococo style to the proceedings of the Henry James tale with his usual interest in Dopplegangers (Jonathan Rhys Meyers has the same blue eyes as Alain-Fabien Delon and the director himself). He seems obsessed with his own stunning looks.

The sly novella by the master of manners and psychology, Henry James, is well-played out in The Aspern Papers. As Morton Vint, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is suitably shady as a snooping researcher. He is anachronistic in posture and demeanor (going hatless and with bohemian friends of the 1880s in Venice). He seems to hang around with a bunch of lesbians (shades of the Bostonians).

He wants the love letters of an aging woman and will stop at nothing to put his hands on them. There is no kill-fee here, and he is the progenitor of National Enquirer dirty deeds even back in the 19th century.

Yes, this is a literary film in the Ivory-Merchant mode. Indeed, James Ivory is executive producer—and all the old style is brought back with a cutting edge of nastiness for the 21st century with a young French director in charge.

When the poseur learns that all the papers are hidden by Juliana, one-time lover of Jeffrey Aspern (likely Percy Shelley based on details), he is moved to become ruthless in putting his grubby hands on them.

There is a dark secret here, often hinted broadly in flashbacks that Aspern was bisexual—with a Byronic friend—and Juliana.

All this adds to the charades played by each of the characters.

Joely Richardson (Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter) plays her dull, spinster niece here with no pretense of acting out the role of her aunt every night—as the earlier version with Susan Hayward showed. The old lady was likely Mary Shelley’s sister, Claire Claremont, who had “everything” when it comes to memorabilia of dead poets.

You may recognize strands of Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde before it blows into a full-force cliché to end the movie. It is effective, nevertheless. Here too the ring of Jeffrey Aspern, as in the earlier version, plays an intriguing role as the spinster niece puts a deal to the devil publisher if he wants the literary treasure.

Landais gives us a stunner for his full-length first effort, providing us with a controlled tour-de-force that makes us anticipate his next film. Brilliant, complex work.

Not So Happy Prince

DATELINE: Last Days of Oscar Wilde

Bosie & Oscar Morgan & Everett as Bosie & Oscar.

A movie about the last years of Oscar Wilde will hardly be a witty or charming piece of fluff. It is the stuff of tragedy, and director and star Rupert Everett does a masterful job presenting the sad, horrific last days of the most glorious wit of the 19th century.

The Happy Prince, of the film’s title, is a children’s tale that Wilde recounts several times for his own boys and for waifs he encounters in Paris.

Wilde is brutalized by publicity and a public that turns on him, bashing him as he descends into poverty and pathos.

Wilde’s sudden decline after two years at hard labor for his crime of love without a name is appalling to behold. At first, he is a beaten man of 45, but events turn him into a bloated, aging, suffering man with some kind of encephalitis. Loyal friends try to collect donations to keep him going, and he seems to promise to write again: but has lost his muse and impetus.

If there is a monster here, it is always Bosie, Alfred Lord Douglas, so cruel and so beautiful who abandons Oscar to squalor after a last fling in Capri. In a most unsympathetic role, Colin Morgan seems apt as the capricious flirt. Emily Watson is the beleaguered Constance, Wilde’s wife, who shuts him off ultimately and unwillingly without a farthing.

Edwin Thomas, as Robbie Ross, and Colin Firth, as Reggie Turner, are loyal to the end, as Wilde goes out on his terms of throwing caution and talent to the wind.

Tragic and unhappy though this biopic is, Everett is deft in his portrayal and his direction, making this a tour-de-force of conviction as well as acting. As a cautionary tale, the lessons are hard to face, but brilliantly conceived and played out.

 

 

Nothing Like Four Dames

DATELINE:  Great Actresses Reminisce.

Grand DamesGrandstanding with the Grand Dames

If you like good conversation with witty old ladies over tea and champagne, you may find Tea with the Dames quite your cuppa hot stuff if you enjoy BBC America.

The film is all too short but packed with anecdotes, and you are left with a sense you know these complex, often difficult actresses.

Dame Joan is now legally blind and unable to work, but the women go back sixty years in friendship. The other three are still quite active on screen.

They are literally four Dames:  English titles for accomplishments of women, an equivalent of knighthood. Dame Joan Plowright, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, and Dame Eileen Atkins, are familiar to anyone who likes good acting. Now you can enjoy their bawdy and chippy chitchat.

The group is gathered at the home of Joan Plowright, which she shared with her husband Laurence Olivier. This is not some static sit-down interview: the women wander around the house, couple off on occasion, and the entire matter is interspersed with rare clips of their early performances.

They do tend to pile on Laurence Olivier, the god their generation of actors with funny stories. At one point when they are winding down, Dame Maggie notes to the director, “Did they tell you how old we are?”

What a thing of beauty and joy to behold for those who have a sense of history and grandeur. For these old ladies represent an age gone by. They were classically trained and paid their dues.

Toward the end we see clips of them receiving so many accolades and awards, including the honor of being made a Dame by Prince Charles or Queen Elizabeth.

Unusual and delightful.

Sahara: Classic Desert War Movie

DATELINE: Bogie in a Tank

Bogie:Sahara

Seventy-six years old, and still modern. It is called Sahara from 1943. That is the condition of the new HD version of Humphrey Bogart’s best World War II movie.

It was meant to be a throwaway propaganda piece. Director Zoltan Korda made something far more reaching and lasting.

You can take all the clichés here and wrap them up as a gift. Three lost American soldiers in a tank (Bogart as Sgt. Gunn, Dan Duryea and Bruce Bennett) motivate their lone tank, Lulubelle, across the desert south to avoid the Nazi onslaught.

Along the way they meet a bunch of ragtag men without units: South African, Sudanese, Dublin, France, and even an Italian prisoner of war.

The cast is your exemplary second-banana team, including Lloyd Bridges and J. Carroll Naish. Every costar is given a big scene in which he bares a soul to the others and has a moment of glory.

There is plenty of foreshadowing with talk of miracles, and the dirty bunch end up at some abandoned mosque in the middle of nowhere with a dry well. Well, not so dry. There is a trickle of water to give them life and hope.

Rex Ingram, notable black actor and director, has a particularly large role and heroic one as Tambul. When a Nazi officer resists being searched by Ingram, Bogart tells him not to worry: the black won’t rub off on his pretty uniform.

The movie is loaded with timeless bits that were the stuff of a great America.

Korda even films one moment of flowing sand that is a mirage: it looks like cascading water.

The Nazis are ruthless and nasty, demanding “Wasser,” and dying of thirst while a handful of rainbow troops from all manner of places and races holds them off in a kind of Alamo stand. It was filmed at Palm Springs desert, but you’d swear you were in Africa.

You owe yourself to see what a studio could produce in its heyday of glory.

 

John Wayne Revisited, 50 Years Off the Saddle!

DATELINE:  Too Late for Words!

Duke, Duck!Duck, Dodge, and Hide, Duke!

Fifty years after John Wayne gave an interview to Playboy, it has been re-discovered and has become an interesting, revisionist historical document that berates black people, Native Americans, and gays.

Wayne was home on the range but would be shocked by today’s brave new world. He would have punched Trump in the nose for suggesting America is no longer great.

Actors have never been known for their giant brains. You have only to look at stories about Jussie Smollett to learn that hard lesson.

So, it is not surprising that an interview given by Duke Wayne in 1971 is rife with frightful prejudice against black people and Native Americans. You should add women to the list.

Wayne played an array of Union soldiers and military heroes often in defense of America, popular ideas in his movies. He was in real life only one step to the left of J. Edgar Hoover and not much removed from a political Know-Nothing.

If you put his statue in front of a Confederate stronghold, the rebels would have ripped it down.

John Wayne refused to work with “liberal” Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood on a movie.

Well, the shocks mount up like Wayne on a charging steed with the reins in his teeth and six-shooters firing at will.

Young anti-Vietnam war Americans of the “hippie era” hated John Wayne for his backward view of politics. He was right up there with Bob Hope as a supporter of war in its many forms.

Now that generation of youth, regarded as wayward and drug-addled, is older than Wayne when he gave his notorious interview of 1971.

Back in the 1970s, liberals laughed at Wayne and threw snowballs at him when he was in a Cambridge parade and received the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year at Harvard.

He also went on TV to guest star on Maude, Bea Arthur’s liberal bastion series. She promised a shootout with Wayne at High Noon.

Of course, Maude was a half-baked hypocrite and she melted when John Wayne told her he never discussed politics with a woman. They ended up in a waltz.

The problem that faces the old Bernie Saunders liberal types who are pushing 80 (and soon to be pushing up daisies) has more to do with an old Bette Davis quote.

She said of her hated rival Joan Crawford: “They don’t change just because they’re dead.”

People should remember that Davis was only partly correct. She should have said: “You can’t change your mind once you’re dead.”

Bohemian Rhapsody Unwrapped!

DATELINE: Rami as Ghost of Mercury!

Rami.jpeg Rami as Freddie.

Is it a musical tragedy, or a concert biopic?  You might say it is a hard rhapsody to the kisser. And, it is director Bryan Singer’s best picture since Apt Pupil.

We were expecting the tale of squandered talent, losing to a hailstorm of hedonism. Instead, we were given the gift of seeing Rami Malek channel the ghost of Freddy Mercury to haunt us forever. Bohemian Rhapsody is worth every moment.

With some clever re-enactments of how the hits were designed and developed by Queen, all four members, you have interwoven built-in classic reactions of the time. The panning comments on the title song by original media critics is priceless and interspersed into the music.

Nor did we expect to see such intriguing supporting actors as Alan Leech (from Downton Abbey) and Aiden Gillen (now starring as Dr. Hynek in Project Blue Book). They bring gravitas to the queenly shenanigans of Freddy.

The notion that he was gay and it was his undoing during a bad time in history strikes us as impossible to accept. You mean no one knew he was gay—not even himself? We suppose self-knowledge is always a struggle. Rock Hudson in the news may have tipped off Freddie that he was in trouble.

Mercury was titanic and hit the iceberg of rock music.

His talent emerges like instant drink—and fizzles in a wave of self-indulgence. Unlike many other rock stars and prima donnas, Freddy Mercury has the wherewithal to see the error of his ways—and tries to repent with the famous Live Aid concert.

The media is once again a vicious dog that bites artists in the throes of creativity. It is delightful to see how some tunes were formed, like “Another One Bites the Dust”, or “We Will Rock You”.

The title tune comes in and out, but the finale, with all its morbid references to death, is “We are the Champions”, saved for the big finish.

Rami Malek is the show, man-tanned or not, and convinces you he is the genuine article. Add music and you have a masterpiece, but Freddy Mercury would not be surprised at all that his life and music survive and flourish.

 

 

Queen: Mercury Rising: Predating the Movie

 DATELINE: Long Live the Champion!

Champion Real Mercury!

From 2011, a biographical documentary on Freddie Mercury may well have been the instrument to inspire the movie story of his life called Bohemian Rhapsody.

In advertisements and descriptions, Mercury has been called one of the most beloved entertainers of the 20th century:  we presume that puts him in the esteemed company of Sophie Tucker, Judy Garland, and Lassie.

We love dramatizations of the basic facts elicited in this life-story of a musical icon.

What the Zanzibar native named Farrouk really transcended was the crossover of glam-rock and Bowie with some kind of sports anthem creator. He was his most important self-made titan/champion with an overbite.

Yes, let’s face it, Queen and Mercury created a couple of songs that have lived as the victory songs for every winning sports teams—and probably shall continue so for decades ahead.

That’s no mean feat.

Mercury as not Freddie, but a self-creation of the Raj and Brit music waves of the 1960s and 1970s. He certainly helped to establish MTV and music videos—and they gave him fame.

His coming-out at the time of Studio 54 meant he was in the forerunning of gay icons, and among the victims of a generation who died in the early horror of HIV infection. He was carefree and did not flinch from his lifestyle, even if it might kill him.

The movie with Rami Malek could not have found a better embodiment of Mercury than the wide-eyed actor. And, we will examine that film in due time. In the meantime, if you need a more objective look at his life, we recommend Mercury Rising, the story of Queen by those who were closest.

Arthur & George, Another Sherlock Team

DATELINE:  Redoubtable Arthur!

Arthur Clunes as Doyle.

Julian Barnes, the noteworthy novelist, wrote his story about Arthur Conan Doyle and his real-life attempt to solve a crime about an Indian solicitor in England who was falsely convicted of animal mutilation, mainly because of racial hatred and class prejudice.

Arthur & George is a strange misleading title for a story in which Dr. Doyle showed his deductive reasoning to illustrate who really were the brains behind Sherlock. If you don’t know ahead of time, the title might lead to some bad book judging from the cover alone. Of course, that was Julian Barnes’ motive.

Julian Barnes in his original novel did not let on who the two men were until the story was well underway. That is completely lost in the movie version, which plays on the connection between Doyle and Holmes.

There has been in recent years a spate of this biographical tales dramatized about the author/spiritualist/doctor.

The BBC drama has all the top-notch production values and impressive acting you might expect of Masterpiece Theatre. The film is three parts of 45 minutes, probably could have been a one-shot film.

Martin Clunes is all you would ask for in a Conan Doyle figure, which contrasts greatly with the Watson figure of Charles Edwards—as Woody, Doyle’s servant.

Indeed, Edwards played Doyle a decade earlier and was miscast, especially against the grand Ian Richardson as Dr. Joseph Bell, his mentor and medical professor in the series Murder Rooms.

Also in this miniseries is Art Malik, the last of the stars of the granddaddy of epic series, the Jewel in the Crown. He plays a minister from India who is the object of prejudice and small-minded hate in a rural English shire. His victim son is George (Arsher Ali), a myopic limping solicitor.

These semi-true stories fit perfectly into the Holmes canon. And, Clunes as Doyle/Holmes features all the brilliant logic and bombast of his literary figure. This Doyle is more active and physical than Holmes, but he fits the tale perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

From Blue Book to Green Balls of Fire

DATELINE:  Episode 6 of 10

sexy MalarkeySexy Malarkey.

Well, we’re back for nuclear tic-tac-toe with aliens and UFOs. This incident is based on truth that is out there, all you X-file fans. Is it our imagination, or is actor Mike Malarkey growing more attractive with each show? He is compelling as a foil to Aiden Gillen’s professor.

Indeed, in one scene, Hynek seems to break into some Hangar 18 where he has been given keys by Men in Black.  There you will find all kinds of vaults, files, and deposit boxes filled with UFO goodies. Is this based on truth, or other space shot documentaries?

In the meantime, in a subplot in a small corner of the universe, a beautiful Russian agent is trying to build a lesbian tie-in with Hynek’s wife. Is this based on truth too?

Green balls of light, purported meteors from a 1948 incident, were considered Soviet technology by some, and the government used a cover story of meteors to fool the public, yet again. The less fictionalized truth is delivered to us at the show’s coda showing that the real participants were not Hynek and Quinn, but two other, earlier researchers.

There is some fake Secretary of Something again in this episode, at loggerheads with the military, perhaps meant to be a version of Truman’s Secretary of Defense who leaped or was thrown from a secure hospital to his death (that may be a future episode).

He is co-opting Hynek (Aiden Gillen) from the generals and his partner, the ever-arrogant Captain Quinn (Michael Malarkey, too tough, chewing broken glass in most scenes).

If anything, the puzzling relationship of Hynek and Quinn continues to be at the heart of series: their hostility and mistrust of each other seems to be leading somewhere. Or, it could be just hanging there forever.

This episode’s Twilight Zone parallel featured a town of mannequins, weirdly using real people in pose and true mannequins in other scenes. Why?  Just to give us a chill, probably. It was not germane to the plot.

 

 

 

 

David: Overexposed Masterpiece

DATELINE: For All the Marbles

David

 Michelangelo’s Boy!

The Private Life of a Masterpiece is a documentary narrated by the late Tim Piggott-Smith a decade ago.

You might not realize what a controversial and interesting history and life that block of marble chiseled by Michelangelo has had over centuries.

Years before the great Renaissance upstart put his talent to the statue, a couple of artists tried and failed to carve out an iconic image. They failed, mainly because the superior marble was only two feet thick in places. It was meant to be one piece, a marvel in itself, and nearly impossible.

David is the height of three men and weighs about the poundage of two dozen. Indeed, David is the real Goliath. He was originally meant to be posed atop a church in Florence, but he was hijacked for political reasons to face the threat of the Medici family, looking southward on palazzo level. After all, he was a killer.

As a result, David has suffered, and his face seems to mirror that. He has been stoned, broken, allowed to be covered in mold, and has lost some detail.

Yet, he remains more than ever the commercial icon of the 20th century, more popular today than ever before: he is the epitome of modern man. From the get-go, he has been a role model and object of love; nearly half of Florentines in the 16th century were likely bisexual men. They adored him.

Like any great work of art, he is subject to interpretation on many levels with each passing era. Surprisingly, he was not appreciated by Victorians unless he was covered with a fig leaf. Yep, they had one ready-made for coverups when required.

Entertaining and educational, this is a one-hour history that you may watch with never-averted eyes.

 

Gay Men in the Promised Land of Israel

DATELINE: Zoolander Lives!

lucasMichael Lucas!

This strange documentary might as well have been produced by the Chamber of Commerce of Tel Aviv. It is a love letter to the glittery gay nightlife for Jewish men.

Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land features notable director Eytan Fox among a litany of handsome young men, no one even remotely gray-haired. There are no old gay guys.

However, there is a big problem with this film—and that’s your host and director, Michael Lucas. If you wanted a duplicate of Zoolander, he’s your man. He defies being taken seriously when he puts on his pout and interviews young gay men with flirtatious zeal.

We know that objective journalism is as dead as a cold fish, but this narrator seems to revel in being part of the gay pride of Jewish men.

If you were to go by this documentary, there are no alcohol problems, no drug problems, no elderly gays, no promiscuity and no such thing as HIV. It is a fantasy documentary—which undercuts nearly all of its buoyant optimism.

Michael Lucas in his publicity photos wears a skull on a necklace, but in this film, he wears the Star of David. He is a Russian-born American, who uses every opportunity to find the United States is second-rate compared to Israel. He never mentions the appalling gay repression of his birth country, Russia.

If this film has some intriguing elements, foremost is how well all the Israeli men speak English and their precise vocabularies, in what is clearly a second language for them. It goes without saying they are all beautiful men.

 

 

 

 

 

ABC Murders Agatha Christie

 DATELINE:  New Version of Classic Tale

old Poirot

Amazon Studio has produced a 2019 remake of the ABC Murders by the foremost crime novelist. Alas, this version of the classic story is libel against the author and defamation against Hercule Poirot.

Go back to watch last century’s episode with David Suchet.

This time we have John Malkovich with shaved head and imperial beard. This is not as offensive as the handlebar mustache of Kenneth Branagh recently in Murder on the Orient Express. It is, however, the victim of Just for Men:  yeah, Hercule colors it, sometimes.

This mystery is in three parts that grow increasingly distant from the Christie canon. You may well ask who is meant to be audience for such a tale:  it offends the millions of diehard fans who know what to expect, and it misleads new younger fans from what Christie is all about.

There is no humor, no clever twists, no plot maneuvers. here. By the third episode, you may well drift away. Worse yet, this is an aging Poirot in 1933 who has no Inspector Japp, no Miss Lemon, and no Captain Hastings, to help him.

Indeed, he must deal with a new Scotland Yard detective who is unsympathetic and hostile. Disrespect of a senior who was once glorified for his achievements may be an interesting idea, but not here.

The cast features Eamon Farren who has impressed us in previous roles as a most peculiar bad guy. Here, he is either suffering a brain tumor, or has played NFL football. It’s the 21st century—and you know what excuses murder nowadays.

We had no idea that there was so much kinky-dinky stuff in Agatha Christie, and neither did she.

Also aboard is Rupert Grint, though he has aged worse than Malkovich’s Poirot.

This Poirot is not fastidious, prissy, or clever. One character notes that he walks like he has sore feet, though we never see that foible.

What a disappointment, or do we mean travesty of the original story?

Invisible Wells Classic

DATELINE: Whale of a Film

Rains

When James Whale chose to do his next amusing gothic horror, it turned out to be H.G. Wells’ story about a mad scientist who becomes invisible. It has now become a trite metaphor, but this is the original—and therein hangs some fascination. The Invisible Man came out in 1933.

To play a man who won’t be seen for most of the film, Whale chose Claude Rains whose voice manages to carry his performance. And Jack Pierce’s makeup is the notion of a wig, fake nose, dark glasses, and a bandaged mummy wrap to hide the lack of face.

Rains would go on to become one of the most familiar of second-banana stars—stealing movies like Casablanca in every scene they gave him.

For a film made in the early 1930s, the delightful special effects of invisibility set a standard that today still cannot be achieved. There is something in the primitive, expressionistic style that gives the unwrapping of Rains to scare the locals with such hilarious and horrific power.

As Dr. Jack Griffin, Rains gives a couple of classic homicidal maniac speeches about murdering people for the good of science, while his lovely girlfriend Gloria Stuart (of Titanic fame about 60 years later) frets about. Whale nixed Rains as Dr. Praetorius in the Bride of Frankenstein because of on-set difficulties between them.

Henry Travers is the dutiful sober-sided scientist. Best known as Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, he is less befuddled here. As the loud, half-crazed tavern owner, there is Una O’Connor, shrieking whenever there is a chance.

We also saw Oscar-winner Walter Brennan in one of his earliest roles as the man with the bicycle. He does a wonderful low-brow Brit accent. Also there is John Carradine, father of Keith and David, as a minor character on the telephone.

Alas, Whale was saddled with many American actors whose regionalisms are completely out of place in a small English town. The village boys are decidedly American in tone.

Whales frequently films shorty Rains from the knees looking upward, giving him a frightful height, and the sets are spectacular and sumptuous, a sign that the budgets had improved for the director of Frankenstein.

 

Whatever its shortcomings, this remains an impressive achievement in cinema history.

 

 

The Captains of Star Trek

DATELINE: No Vanity from Shatner!

man in box

When first we saw that William Shatner had produced, written, and directed a movie documentary about the five captains of the Star Trek franchise, we suspected vanity. He calls it The Captains, putting himself into a stew with the others.

How wrong we were about the ego of Captain Kirk’s acting creator. Shatner’s touching and delightful film shows what an erudite, generous, kind man he is. Each conversation with one of his successors in the Star Trek world is careful and insightful.

He talks to Scott Bakula, Sir Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, and Chris Pine.  He genuinely likes these actors and respects their opinions.

Also around are those who were part of the franchise like Jonathan Frakes (The Next Generation) and even his old friend Christopher Plummer (from The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek VI). Shatner understudied Plummer in Henry V on stage at the beginning of their careers! 

Obvious questions were on Shatner’s mind in a personal way, and he turned it around to find out if playing a Star Fleet captain had an impact on the personal life of the actors. It deals with divorce to mortality. Of course, it is big.

Shatner notes how he might have been embarrassed to leave serious classic acting to do Star Trek, and how often he was denigrated for his work. Yet, talking to the other stars, he becomes more aware of why playing a leader required an attitude.

In the meantime, he shows humor and expresses insight into his own career. There are even clips of him, as a blond in the mid-1950s playing Billy Budd on Canadian TV.

He learns that every star suffered 16-hour work days on the series and movies, and that it had a devastating toll on their personal lives and children.

Yet, this is not a downbeat story: Shatner has come to revel in his role as Captain Kirk, not always something he could claim. Each actor he speaks with shares personal feelings that elicit a growth in Shatner on the screen.

What a marvelous little film, even if you may not have seen some of the Star Trek oeuvre, there is much to savor here.