Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Kirk costume from ScreenUsed site.
As usual, the upcoming ScreenUsed auction has some great stuff for Star Trek collectors. One of the lots is an ensemble worn by William Shatner throughout Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. (See it HERE). This is a highly desirable costume as it features Western Costume tags with William Shatner's name typed on which is the holy grail for a hero costume. The only problem with it is the jacket that accompanies the lot. That jacket is a highly-sought after piece since Kirk had it throughout Star Trek III. Obviously they had numerous pieces in wardrobe due to it's use in many scenes. This specimen is described thusly by ScreenUsed:

"The jacket is the unique distressed version used during the scenes on the planet Genesis and for Kirk to cover his son's body."

Now, before we go any further, let's talk about the key word used in this description:"distressed".

A distressed Khan costume
In the costume collecting world, "distressed" refers to a costume that is intentionally created to look damaged. A famous distressed costume would be the one(s) worn by Ricardo Montalban in Wrath of Khan. His costumes are singed, ripped and dirtied, all to make them look as if they had been damaged during his time on Ceti Alpha V. That does not make it a DAMAGED costume. A damaged costume is one that is damaged in some way – torn, stained, meltedafter its use on screen. But a costume made for the express purpose of looking damaged is really distressed. Got it?

So this Kirk jacket is described as "distressed". Only one problem with that – there's no sign of any distressed jacket in the entire film. When Kirk and company beam down to the Genesis Planet, Kirk is wearing the jacket. He finds David's body while still wearing the jacket, and it is unharmed (ie: not distressed). He takes off the jacket and drapes it over David's body. This is not done in one continuous take so we see Kirk take off the jacket as he kneels over David. The film then cuts to several character close-ups before returning to Kirk now standing over the body with the jacket over it. Here's a frame from that moment:
Screen capture from Search For Spock showing Kirk's jacket over David's body.
And here's a close-up of the jacket:
Close-up of the frame above showing the jacket.
It's important to note that, beyond this moment which lasts less than four seconds, the jacket is never seen again in the film. I'll repeat that: we never see the jacket again. And there's no evidence of any distressing on the jacket that is draped over David. The sleeve on the right of the frame would represent the melted sleeve in the auction piece. And why would there be any distressing? The fires in the scene are strictly in the background and are in no way in the vicinity of David's body. So melting a sleeve for this scene would make no sense whatsover.

But maybe they distressed a jacket for a scene that was cut from the film. Perhaps so, but if you're going to distress something, it's usually done for the specific reason of conveying damage or wear. Simply melting one of the sleeves and part of the front panel as shown in the auction piece would not help tell any story, in my opinion. In the frenzy of the action, such distressing would be far too subtle, especially given the fact that the melted area would not be seen by the camera – it's on the front and the bottom of a sleeve. If you wanted to show damage, you'd distress the back of the jacket, since that's what the camera would see as it was draped over the body.

ScreenUsed pic showing melted jacket detail.
Because of this, I think it is not actually distressed, but simply damaged. I have no trouble believing this jacket was on-set during ST3 and may or may not be seen in the final film. And with all the flame that is seen, I can believe that the jacket got damaged during shooting. That's damaged, not distressed. But even with Blu-Ray screen caps there's no way to tell definitively. Those that point to puckers and creases that "prove" it's use are trying too hard to be relevant. Blowing up blurry images and claiming a match is like seeing canals on Mars. Or, like the old Texas saying goes, "you can throw a bundle of kittens in the oven, but that don't make 'em biscuits". Well put, Texas. Well put.

Also, keep in mind that this damage could have been inflicted by an errant iron years after shooting wrapped. It might not have happened on set at all! We can't know for sure.

So for the starting bid of $8,260 ($7,000 plus 18% buyer's premium) you can try to own a damaged Kirk ensemble. Is it worth that much? The value is in the eye of the bidder, obviously. But for my money, as much as I like this costume, I don't buy damaged goods, period, unless the damage is slight (imperceptible) or specifically due to use in a scene – ie: we watch a piece get damaged as a scene unfolds. But that's not the case here. IMO, this piece was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a melted sleeve because of it. Nothing more.

It's worth noting, too, that, while the shirt and pants have Shatner tags, the jacket does not, unlike other specimens. The version sold at Christies in 2006, for instance, featured a Western tag with Shatner's name. Since this one does not have that tag, it's entirely possible (maybe even likely) that it was a stunt version rather than a hero, ie: a version made for Shatner's stunt man or double rather than for Shatner himself. That would still make it a Kirk, of course, but not necessarily one worn by Shatner. Without a Western tag being present there's no way to prove a hero attribution.

I assume that ScreenUsed took the word of the seller regarding this piece and its use while failing to mention its possible lack thereof. To their credit, ScreenUsed never claims the jacket is a Shatner. But regardless, two minutes with a Blu-Ray player blows the "distressed" idea out of the water.

So if you're a bidder on this piece, know what you're buying. There's a big difference between distressed and damaged. This is definitely the later.



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