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Written by / 7/02/2016 / No comments / , ,

WILLIAM SHATNER RIDES A WHALE OF A TALE

Must be seen to be believed YEAR: 1976
This obscure and completely mind-boggling A WHALE OF A TALE is basically a feature-length commercial propaganda for MarineLand, at one point (before their demise) Sea World's prime competitor where dolphins, seals, an assortment of fish and that great mammal, The Killer Whale, were the showcase for families to "spend an entire day with"...

And STAR TREK icon William Shatner, who hadn't really banked on that soon-to-be icon status and was obviously handed small roles in big films or big parts in small films to simply get by, plays a Marine Biologist named Dr. Jack Fredericks, giving a curious, fatherless ten-year-old... Scott Kolden's Joey Fields... an unintentional mentorship at the aquatic theme park, figuring the thrill would soon ware off; but it doesn't...

Meanwhile, Shatner's Captain Kirk would, exactly a decade later, recover a couple sperm whales to save the future of mankind yet here, humanity is just fine but a corporation sure needed some promotion, although not without artistic value since TALE was a probable inspiration for the later FREE WILLY franchise as this wayward (bored, not criminal) youngster quickly connects with the whale, and vice versa, only our "Willy" lives where he "prefers" to be – and doesn't need no stinkin' freein'!

A young Norman Bates?
Low Budget to an awkward and almost creepy level, the first half basically provides the kind of video tour you would see playing on monitors inside the park itself, only there are, during the seal, dolphin and whale acts, grainy inserts of the young curious Joey staring through cracked backstage doorways, like shots from a voyeuristic exploitation drive-in flick. Then there's a romantic angle where the as-usual charming Shatner, wearing a horribly discernible toupee,  smoothly talks the kid's mom into letting him keep his fetch-it job, despite a pesky aunt's intrusion. Eventually, both gals need convincing of the Park's non-monetary value, not only adding to the "story" but conveniently allowing for two more tours – all about MarineLand!

Had that same shirt
Throughout the bizarre attempt to turn a visual leaflet into an actual movie is a pivotal scene where Joey and comic relief Marty Allen, as a goofy fisherman who helps "the doc" rescue injured sea-life, set out with an old captain played by TWILIGHT ZONE favorite Andy Devine and, backed by a variation of an – especially at that time – very familiar soundtrack theme, they wind up catching a relatively small shark made bigger with wide lenses... Playing out like some kind of oceanic documentary, and a clumsy one at that.

CAMP VALUE SCORE: ***1/2
All Motion Pictures need a finale, and TALE has a stupid enough young protagonist that, for absolutely no (logical) reason whatsoever, takes to the fog-shrouded sea in a tiny boat: making the nice mom worried, the bitch aunt validated, the comic relief serious and of course, Shatner (and the whale) a hero. But screw resolution – the best times are had with the kid just wandering the park under blown-out lights of cheap 1970's film-stock as if from a grainy Super-8 camera, and by far the funniest moments are any and every attempt to legitimize TALE as being real and/or "accidental". It's not just a bad movie but one of the strangest ever conceived. And so, not to send curious readers (and fans of camp cinema) down a blind alley – this uniquely horrendous marvel exploiting a desperate company (wherein MAC AND ME seems subtle and yet a quick shill for McDonald's occurs) is available for prime subscribers on Amazon.
This shirt was popular in the 1970's, when Whales were captured and we thought they liked it, so they did!
Opening Credits Show as we pan into and onto MARINELAND, California
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