Friday, July 30, 2021

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Underground Terror

"The Night of the Underground Terror" 
Written by  Max Hodge
Directed by James B. Clark
Synopsis: On the trail of Colonel Mosely, a Confederate war criminal, West encounters Major Hazard, the leader of a gang of crippled veterans who are seeking revenge on Mosely for the tortured he inflicted on them while they were detained in a prisoner of war camp.

Jim: This was by far, my favorite episode of the season so yet.

Trey: Yeah, It's one of the most memorable episodes to me, even though it doesn't have the "weirdness" I often like to see in WWW.

Jim: The masquerade ball makes for a great opening setting. Seeing West in a domino mask makes me wish the show had worked in a crossover with Zorro at one point. Maybe an older, retired Zorro would be fit in the WWW continuity.

Trey: It would have to a really old Zorro, but the crossover has appeal.

Jim: The flaming skull that turns into a gas bomb is a great gimmick. It makes a perfect prop for Artie's Hamlet costume, too.

Trey: There are a lot of details here that are so well done. And then we've got Nehemiah Pershoff.

Jim: He gets his third appearance on the show, this time as Major Hazard. Pershoff is another one of those exceptional actors who uses vocal dynamics and facial expressions to convey a wide range of emotions. 

Trey: He makes a good, laconic villain. One of a couple of villains in this story.

Jim: You gotta mention the Wagner story. Having watched this episode, the inspiration seems obvious. In addition to the cadre of maimed veterans, there is also a similarity between Mosley and Masale. Combine that with the quest for hidden treasure, and I think it's an open and shut case.

Trey: I thought so too! It's a Sword & Sorcery short-story by Karl Edward Wagner called "Lynortis Reprise." It's definitely worth checking out, as is all of Wagner's stuff.

Jim: Anyway, West's piercing of Hazard's ruse is handled well. This is a rare glimpse of a smarter agent West than what we normally see in the show. 

Trey: Despite his shrewd skills of observation, he's in dire straits until Gordon shows up.

Jim: Yeah, his diviner is a humorous addition to this episode. That the gold was actually hidden in a water container is a nice bit of symmetry! And then we learn that West actually fights better when he's shirtless. Damn, he makes quick work of Hazard's gang. 

Trey: Given how tight his clothes are, I feel like that's actually plausible! So, there's only one thing that bothers me about this episode. The daughter is apparently unaware of the true plan (and identities) of Hazard and his cronies. Was she too young during the war to know her dad was on the Confederate and not the Union side? Does her father and the gang stay in character constantly around her, including wearing the uncomfortable stuff to make them appear disabled? That's dedication to a bit!

Jim: That's some Jared Leto level of commitment to a role!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Revisiting The Wild Wild West: The Night of the Headless Woman

"The Night of the Running Death" 
Written by Edward J Lasko
Directed by Alan Crosland Jr.
Synopsis: West and Gordon investigate a plot to decimate America's cotton crops using boll weevils.

Trey: Two in a row written by Lasko! I have to say: he's not my favorite.

Jim: He's trying! With the threat of a boll weevil infestation, I believe this is our second biological warfare episode in the series, the first being "TNOT Deadly Spring".

Trey: There's a couple more, I would say: the threatened disease carrying rats of "Man-Eating House," and the first season Theo Marcuse appearance in "Sudden Plague."

Jim: Oh yeah! Marcuse gets very little screentime as Abdul Hassan here. Especially compared to The Six Million Dollar Man's Richard Anderson as Harbor Commissioner James Jeffers.

Trey: Hassan is more intriguing.

Jim: Yeah. His hacienda makes quite the spectacular villain's lair. The set decorators added some eye-catching details. Among the attributes that make this show stand out amongst other western fare, I feel like lavish sets are one of them. It goes hand and hand with a notably eccentric villain.

Trey: Definitely. Kesler doesn't think this episode is particularly good, and I'm inclined to agree. The basic villain plot is good, and the mystery regarding the true villain are good stuff to work with, but there's too much skulking around on docks and the fights aren't as exciting as what we're used to. Hassan with his elaborate lair and moll is clearly meant to seem the primary villain, but his meeting with West is all too brief and perhaps too early in the episode. I think a restructuring with parallel investigations by West and Gordon for more  of the run time would have worked better.

Jim: Plotwise, this episode does feel like it's all over the place with the various villains. But seeing Artemis wander around the docks of San Francisco, I again think this show should have been based in this town. The setting seems to lend itself to some of the general air of intrigue and skullduggery that benefits the show. Not only that, but such a location would have provided a means to build up a supporting cast that could have helped in many ways.

Trey: That is an opinion you've expressed before. Season 1 won you over to San Francisco, then you liked getting away from it, now you want it back again.

Jim: See, perfectly consistently...Anyway, back to skulking: West skulking around in his pancho really shows us why Artie is the Disguise Guy on the show!

Trey: True! Oh, In our guest star run down we forget to mention Dawn Wells.

Jim: Wells won't be the last Gilligan's Island alumni to make an appearance on this show. It's a shame Russell Johnson didn't give us a turn as a scientist at some point, though.

Trey: Does this episode have the weirdest ending of any we've watched?

Jim: Yep. The bug sex watching bit at the end is a rather odd coda. I have no idea how the writers got that by the censors.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Running Death

"The Night of the Running Death" 
Written by Edward J Lasko
Directed by Gunnar Hellström
Synopsis: Gordon and West join up with a wagon train of itinerant entertainers while on the trail of an elusive assassin. Can they undercover his identity before he kills his target?

Jim: Before I get into the overall episode, I gotta talk about the final scene(s)...

Trey: Starting at the ending! That may be a first for this.

Jim: I'm a switching it up a little! Anyway, here were two places were I thought the episode was going to end and go into a freeze frame, but it didn't: When West bid farewell to the princess, and the again when Artie was wincing over the taste of cherry jubilee with molasses. But then, we get the poker scene, I began to wonder if I had missed some important plot detail.

Trey: Yeah, the "Three Act" denouement was weird.

Jim: Also, I think we are looking at a major rewrite for some reason. The way so many characters are introduced when West shows up to save the caravan from Indians makes me think this episode was going to lean on the wagon train setting more than it actually did. When the story moves to Denver, I feel like it loses its momentum a bit. Then the fight in the bar is completely unnecessary. It may have been tacked on, just like the three endings.

Trey: I can definitely buy your rewrite hypothesis, perhaps as a mashup of two ideas, neither of which added up to a full episode on their own? I am suspicious that everyone on the wagon train besides the ones that died and our two agents were Enzo's accomplices at some point in the script, but I could be wrong. Anyway, we are left with a lot of plot holes: How did Topaz escape being buried alive (or not getting buried)? What happens to Coco? Why does Enzo kill the people he kills? Do they even tell the authorities that two people were murdered on the trail and one disappeared?

Jim: On the positive side, It was nice to see Maggie Threat again in the show.  I also enjoyed seeing Ken Swofford in the bar fight scene. Swofford was a staple of 60s and 70s television, showing up in almost everything. He finally made it big with a recurring rule on Fame

Trey: I do think it's an effective episode in many ways. Enzo seems a real threat for West and Gordon in a way that super-villains with armies of thugs often don't on the show.

Jim: The reveal of Enzo's identity made for a good twist, though I find West's explanation of how he spotted the ruse to be a little unconvincing. 

Trey: He's a man with who pays attention to details. Matronly women's hands just happens to be one of them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Iron Fist

"The Night of the Iron Fist" 
Written by Ken Pettus
Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky
Synopsis: West and Gordon are assigned to bring the Bosnian Count Draja to Washington for extradition, but the Count has a hidden gold stash and a hefty price on his head, so the trip is complicated by treasure-seeking criminals and reward-seeking vigilantes.

Trey: While this episode isn't one of the greats, I don't agree with Kesler's assessment in her book that it is flat or boring. It's a perfectly serviceable episode with nice action and enough wrinkles to keep the fairly simple plot engaging for the runtime. It's (like many this season) a good mixture of spy-fi and Western that leans heavier to the Western.

Jim: I also enjoyed it more than Kesler seemed to. I liked this WWW take on the classic lawman and prisoner plot, but what I enjoyed the most was the format of the show. It was like watching two separate shows as West and Gordon are involved in their own predicaments!

Trey: And both survive by their wits in this one. That's a trait we often see in Gordon, but it's good to see it in West.

Jim: I definitely enjoyed seeing West use a few clever tricks to get out of tight spots. And it was good to see his horse again. 

Trey: A Western hero has got to have a well-trained horse to rely on.

Jim: Other highlights of the episode for me: The way West switched out Draja, and Gordon took his place; the way Gordon dispatched his captors out the train car door--and how West used a stack of cookware to distract his attackers. 

Trey: All good bits! I do feel like there are a few story aspects that could have done with a bit more explanation. The basic plot, lawman and prisoner forced to work together, typically goes one of two ways in classic TV. One way is the prisoner is proven to be innocent or at least sympathetic in some way, and it ends with the lawman being willing to help the prisoner out in some fashion. The other is for the villain's inadequate justifications for their misdeeds to contrast with and emphasize the hero's goodness. The problems they face essentially just mean that the villain makes events more complicated for the hero. This story is more like the second version, but Count Draja isn't really developed in any way to accentuate the difference between him and West. We don't really know what he did, and what little explanation we are given of his actions is vague.

Jim: I totally agree with you on the lack of character/story development with Count Draja. That's where such episodes shine, as the villain is revealed to be more heroic than initially thought, or at least more sympathetic, as you say. Draja just seems like he's along for the ride most of the time. It's a very disappointing use of Mark "Sarek" Lenard. 

Trey: Likewise, Countess Zorana's motivations are murky. When she didn't denounce Gordon as a Draja imposter, I assumed at first that she might be a scammer as well, but that doesn't appear to be the case. We are left to infer that she thought that turning Artie in wouldn't help her, and she might have need of him, but there are a lot of assumptions on her part there that I think required a few lines of dialogue to explain why she went that route.

Jim: I just found Zoranna to be a bit of a bore. I'm not sure the writers really knew who she was throughout the entire episode.

Trey: Lisa Pera gives a decent performance, but it's true she doesn't have a lot to work with. Interestingly, this is her second WWW appearance: she was the medium Amelia Maitland in "The Night of the Tottering Tontine."

Jim: Huh. I didn't recognize her as a blonde!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Legion of Death

"The Night of the Legion of Death" 
Written by Robert C. Dennis and Earl Barrett
Directed by Alex Nicol
Synopsis: West and Gordon work to free a territory from the grip of a legion under the command of a dictatorial governor with presidential ambitions.

Trey: This episode could be called "The Night of the Very Shallow Citizenry." They'll accept a fascist police state from a guy who's "politician handsome," but they stand up and walk out on an average guy with a bit of a unsightly scar.

Jim: Yeah well, it's television, thankfully. If they had kept following him the episode might hit a little too close to home given the past four years.

Trey: But here we are giving away the ending right out of the gate!

Jim: There were a lot of nice scenes I noted here: West falling through several floors of the building was a great stunt. The lack of background music as he explored the house helped to build suspense. And that court room scene was a nice change of pace.

Trey: And a humorous one! In fact, this episode presents a more humorous West and Gordon than we typically see. 

In addition to the guest star Anthony Zerbe (from Omega Man and so many other films and TV shows), there are not one but two lovely ladies to flirt with West! Karen Jensen as Catherine Kitteridge and Toian Matchinga (in her 2nd of 3 WWW appearances) as Henrietta Fauer.

I feel like there was one thing this episode was missing though.

Jim: What was that?

Trey: A fight between West and Captain Dansby (long-time character actor Donnelly Rhodes) was called for, and we never got it!

Jim: Man! you are right about the missing fight scene. Where was that? You could have had a few seconds devoted to that, and less of Zerbe's yammering. Overall, this was an episode with some nice bits here and there, but the resolution to the chief problem seemed a bit pat - or maybe I was expecting something a bit more bombastic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Cut-Throats

"The Night of the Cut-Throats" 
Written by Edward J. Lasko
Directed by Alan Crosland Jr.
Synopsis (from IMDB): A newly released ex-con returns to get revenge on the town of New Athens than sent him away, and brings a band of outlaws with him. West and Gordon are the only thing keeping them from burning the town to the ground.

Trey: Kesler in The Wild Wild West: The Series calls this a "mediocre episode" with a villain that's "small potatoes for our versatile agents." What say you, Jim?

Jim: Well...I feel the cold open with the stagecoach battle is classic Western action. It’s a perfect intro for what is admittedly one of the series most conventional western plots. At least of those we've watched. It’s interesting - as much as I am a fan of the more fantastic episodes, I’m finding I enjoy this season’s more standard Western settings and plots more than most of the stories from Season Two.

Trey: You're like Goldilocks and The Wild Wild West is the porridge.

Jim: As far as the villain Trayne played by Bradford Dillman...

Trey: Forever Lewis Dixon in Escape from the Planet of the Apes to me.

Jim: Yeah, well, Dillman is really a great classic television villain. He gives Mike Trayne an air of sophistication that is often lacking in the show’s villains; possibly on par with Michael Dunn’s Loveless.

Trey: High praise, indeed! Don't forgot Victor Buono.

Jim: Of course, him too.

Trey: I liked the fact that this episode is actually a mystery, though that isn't apparent at the outset.

Jim: I feel like this episode is one of the show's rare actual mystery episodes. It’s a change of pace I greatly appreciate.

Trey: We should also mention that Jackie Coogan is in this episode.

Jim: I like how the initial scene with Coogan (the sheriff) is shot with the cake in the foreground! Another good sequence is the battle to save the town, but some of the excitement is undercut by the fact that Trayne’s searching for the money, and the backstabbing of his various partners. 

Trey: I feel like that actually works to the scenes benefit. Had we seen the siege play out all on its own, I think the repetitive nature of if would have been much more apparent.

Jim: You may be right. The fight between Trayne and West was also impressive. Trayne gets punched through a second floor railing and falls on a table in the saloon below. My hat is off to the stunt man who pulled off that stunt. I don’t see how that fall could have been buffered in any meaningful way. That had to hurt!

Friday, June 18, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Falcon

"The Night of the Falcon" 
Written by Robert E. Kent
Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky
Synopsis (from IMDB): A powerful artillery shell destroys an entire town, and Denver is next if the government doesn't pay a ransom to the mysterious Falcon. West and Gordon race to neutralize the threat, but find the Falcon intends to auction off his weapon to highest bidding criminal organization.

Trey: This is the most James Bond episode we've had in some time: from the cultural stereotype representatives of international crime, to the Falcon's costumed guards. 

Jim:  Definitely. I had to smile at the different representatives of foreign organizations watching the destruction of Tonka Flats. It was a nice bit of camp. And speaking of Tonka Flats, it's destruction makes for one of the show's best cold openings I've ever seen. 

Is this the first time we've ever seen what the adjoining train car looks like? I don't recall ever seeing the chemistry lab Artemus uses in this episode. It's a great addition to the show that probably should've come up sooner.

Trey: I had those same thoughts. No, I don't think we've seen it before, unless it was in season one.

Jim: Ross Martin gets a lot of time to shine in this episode, from his moments in the train car lab, to the stage coach and finally at the Falcon's bidding table.

Trey: liked all the stuff Artemus got to do, but I feel like we missed some of West's acerbic one-liners in conversation with the villain. 

Jim: But did get see him zipline across a room. And we got a guest appearance by Robert Duvall. What can one really say about Robert Duvall in a green falcon helmet? Maybe this awkward choice in clothing is why Michael Corleone didn't pick him as a wartime consigliere.

Trey: That was presumably the Falcon's costume choice, not Duvall's. Unless you think he brought his own clothes to the shoot?

Jim: I'm not saying he didn't

Trey: It would have been nice to know more about the Falcon. He winds up being pretty much a cipher. He doesn't really even have much personality. 

Jim: True. I enjoyed this episode, but I think the beginning set us up for a more exciting episode than what we got. It ended up being a bit by the numbers once it really got going.

Trey:  I think you're right. While I wouldn't call it a bad episode by any stretch, it is somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

Jim: That Falcon shaped cannon is impressive, though! If Sideshow made a replica, you'd buy it.

Trey: Only in an auction with stereotypically-dressed, foreign stereotypes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Circus of Death

"The Night of the Circus of Death" 
Written by Arthur Weingarten
Directed by Irving J. Moore
Synopsis (from IMDB): When masterfully forged bills appear in circulation, West and Gordon must catch the forgers to prevent the collapse of the U.S. economy from a flood of nearly perfect counterfeit bills. The trail leads to a circus..

Trey: I feel like this episode pulls a bait and switch! "Circus of Death?" How about "Circus of Only Tangentially Related?"

Jim: True! I'm surprised as well at how little the actual Circus plays in this episode. It feels like we spend more time in the boutique! 

Trey: Or the Denver Mint.

Jim: There, too. But yeah, a better title would have been "The Night of the Funny Money." The circus was a nice change of pace, though. West versus the lion is well shot I think. I sincerely doubt that's Conrad in the cage, but the camera work does a good job of not letting on. 

Trey: It was colorful too.

Jim: True. We've commented on the show's efforts to take advantage of the new color television technology, and the circus does that, but the boutique scene at the start of this show is the best example so far.

Trey: The opening scene in the boutique is amusing.

Jim: Goodbody's spiel about dynamic numerology feels like the show is making fun of some of the sillier counter culture beliefs of the era.

Trey: Artie's return to the boutique is good too. Like several episodes this season it shows how formidable he is in his own right.

Jim:  I was a little disappointed when Artie showed up in his Mr. Gentry guise. I just seemed a bit too ordinary. But Martin had so much fun with the role that I quickly got over my disappointment.

Trey: Would it upset you if I told you this episode was historically inaccurate? The Denver Mint was an assay office until 1906. Even then, it made coins not notes.

Jim: You've ruined the entire episode for me!

Trey: I think you'll be alright.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of Montezuma's Horde

"The Night of Montezuma's Horde" 
Written by Max Ehrlich
Directed by Irving J. Moore
Synopsis: West and Gordon accompany a professor and his team and a Mexican Colonel to retrieve the lost treasure of Montezuma. The professor turns out to be a phony and his hired help a gang of criminals, but biggest danger comes from a hidden temple of surviving Aztecs.

Jim: I was looking forward to this episode because of Ray Walston, and he kills it in his first scene on the show. He's delightfully sinister with his various facial tics and holding the saw over the skull. Kudos to whoever set up this scene. This is also an exceptionally clever fake out on a show that does a lot of fake outs. 

Trey: Yeah, this episode has a lot of everything--including renowned character actor Jack Elam as a heavy. Despite this seasons reputation and being less fantastical and more straight Western, you wouldn't know it here.

Jim: A lot of action in this one, too. The fight inside--and outside--the bar is pretty spectacular, though it does feel like one of those times West forgets he has a gun! Still, as fight scenes go, this feels well choreographed for the times.

One of the reasons given for this show's cancellation was that it was too violent. Given that the majority of the violence is fisticuffs or brawls, it hardly seems to compare to the cop and detective shows that were emerging at this time. I don't know where the "too violent" label came from, but I think it's subjective, perhaps, and outright wrong.

Trey: I suspect they were cherry-picking episodes.

Jim: Anyway, Artie's solution to the lack of a willing guide is quite elegant.

Trey: Yeah, Artie has been given time to shine this whole season, so far.

Jim: I really enjoyed this one. It's quest through the desert is unlike anything we've seen on this show before. At times, it gives me a bit of a Johnny Quest or H. Rider Haggard vibe with the Aztecs and their goddess. Some great visuals in this episode too. I loved the skeleton guarded entrance, the Aztec temple and the royal treasure room.

Trey: Yeah, the only failing is budgetary. The Aztec's seem like they're down to about 4 guys, 2 ladies and the "goddess." And the goddess' throne room seems pretty cramped.

Jim: True. All the more reason this episode should have been extended into a really amazing Wild Wild West movie. 

Trey: Or at least better than the ones we got.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night Dr. Loveless Died

"The Night Dr. Loveless Died" 
Written by Henry Sharp
Directed by Alan Crosland Jr.
Synopsis: With Dr. Loveless apparently dead, West and Gordon race to solve the mystery of a mysterious key taken from his body that two of his former associates are fighting over.

Trey: This is the penultimate appearance of Dr. Loveless. Michael Dunn was apparently having health issues and wasn't available as much. 

Jim: The bit with the Safety Deposit boxes and duel storylines with Artie and Jim seem like next level storytelling. Artie's monologue to Triste is also quite good. Sharp really outdid themselves with this episode.

Trey: Yes, Sharp has been uneven before, but he's again on game with this script. And it's a great Artemus episode. He gets a lot to do and is portrayed as highly competent--like he could be the lead of a show if West weren't around.

Jim: There are several establishing shots featuring western towns early in this episode. It reminds me of Gunsmoke. I know we are still early in the season, but I keep thinking there was some request by CBS to give the series more of a western feel.

Trey: I think you are on the money there. Making the show more conventional and less fantastic seems to have been one of directives given Irving Moore. By the way, as I like to call out all the guest stars that were in Star Trek: Triste is played by Susan Oliver who was Vina in the original Star Trek pilot "The Cage."

Trey: Speaking of disguises, I was surprised that by the time of Liebknicht's inevitable reveal as Loveless, West appears to be caught completely off guard. He's generally rather suspicious of Loveless and his machinations, so it seems out of character for him to have totally bought the ruse.

Jim: I'll excuse West's inability to recognize Loveless by saying that Dunn does a superb job selling the Liebknicht identity. 

Trey: By the way, Liebknicht is pretty close to lieb nicht, German for "love not," roughly.

Jim: Ah ha! Nice work deciphering that name!

Trey: It's what 3 quarters of German in college will do for you.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Firebrand

"The Night of the Firebrand" 
Written by Edward J. Lasko
Directed by Michael Caffey
Synopsis: With an outlaw and his partners planning to incite Revolution in Canada, West and Gordon must stop their plans and receive a stolen supply of guns and get those weapons to a beleaguered frontier fort.

Jim: We are getting more traditional western set pieces this episode with Fort Reilly, the classic saloon and the wagon chase. That's a nice change from some earlier episodes that all seem to take place in the exact same manor house set.

Trey: This is probably the most "Western" episode we've watched. Only the hint of international intrigue sets it apart from a typical Western of the era. So far, Season 3 has been very action oriented. This episode has two chases, something we haven't really seen before. I'm almost tempted to say it seems to have higher budget, but I suspect the budget is just being spent on different things. 

Jim: Like fanciful sets and fight choreography.

Trey: Right!

Jim: Pernell Roberts makes a good villain for this episode as he comes across as both cunning and physically intimidating.

Trey: Yeah, he's a surprisingly good heavy. 

Jim: Even before the more humorous bit of dialogue between West and Gordon on the wagon, I had a sense this episode was trying to give us a more "buddy cop" feel. I actually think that's a big missing element in a number of episodes. Then again, Robert Conrad might not have pulled off such patter as well as Robert Culp.

Trey: True. We should say everything wasn't great here, though.

Jim: I raised an eyebrow at Vixen's earnest desire to help the disadvantaged getting cut off in mid-sentence. That strikes me as some CBS Old Guy pandering.

Trey: There is definitely sexism--and probably a bit of dismissal of youth movements--in that ending.

Jim: Also, pressure points? That's a rather convenient way to dispatch Vixen O'Shaughnessy. However, this tactic was all the rage in this era of pop culture, so I guess it makes sense.

Trey: West is Vulcan nerve pinching so much in this episode, but we've never seen him do that before!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Bubbling Death

"The Night of the Bubbling Death" 
Written by David Moessinger
Directed by Irving Moore
Synopsis: When the U.S. Constitution is stolen by a revolutionary, James West and Artemus Gordon are sent to a lawless region on the border with Mexico to recover it.

Trey: This is a good episode to start a season with. So spy-fi with sneaking around, gadgets and disguises. The plot is admittedly thin for an hour, but these incidents fill the time I think.

Jim: Normally, I'm not much of a fan of the "Underground Fortress," as used on this show, but the extra details put into this one make it a winner. I notice it seems to be one of the more favored episodes among fans as well, no doubt because of how West and Gordon navigate the labyrinth ending with the zipline scene over the titular Bubbling death pool. Also, The efforts to break into the hidden chamber give me a nice Mission Impossible vibe.

Trey: It isn't as weird as my favorite WWW episodes, but I think the good far outweighs the bad. It may be one of Artie's best spotlights.

Jim: It's also great Great to see Harold Gould as Freemantle here. Gould is a favorite character actor of mine from this time period, with the Hawaii Five-O "V for Vashon trilogy" being a highlight of his CBS career.

Is it me, or does this episode employ a more modern sounding soundtrack? Especially as West and Gordon are sneaking through the maze.

Trey: Oh, it's definitely got a groovier soundtrack. Sort of jazzy.

Jim: The double cross at the end was a nice surprise just when you think the episode is all wrapped up. We usually get those much sooner on the show.

Trey: I feel like the twist ending is telegraphed by Carlotta's willingness to abandon Freemantle sp quickly. It isn't West's charms! She's got a plan B.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Bogus Bandits

"The Night of the Bogus Bandit" 
Written by Henry Sharp
Directed by Irving Moore
Synopsis: A string of bank robberies leads West and Gordon to Dr. Loveless who's running a training program for bandits with a goal beyond simple larceny.

Trey: And Season 2 goes out with a whimper not a bang.

Jim: Yeah, I'm not happy with the way the writers wrote Loveless this episode. He's less the Wizard Who Shook The Earth, and more just a dollar store megalomaniac. Michael Dunn, as always, is a joy to behold on the screen, but I feel like the writers sort of forgot how Dr. Loveless has been presented in past episodes. This specific role would have suited another character/actor better. I could see Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin killing it in this particular role.

Ross Martin is given a lot of solo screen time this episode, which makes up for the lackluster characterization of Dr. Loveless a little.

Trey: Agreed. I did think the "burnt $100 banknotes" was a nice bit of investigation. It beats West and Gordon being mostly reactive which happens a lot.

Jim: Yes, where this episode excels is in the way it manages to showcase the talents of both Conrad and Martin, more so than an average episode. Martin is allowed to go undercover and  sleuth it up, while Conrad is given a nice range of action scenes.

Another thing I liked: Loveless' solution to the problem of reckless gun owners looks pretty effective to me.

Trey: The "trick gun" gets a lot of play this episode. It really kind of lampshades some of the silliness of that sort of thing.

Jim: Speaking of silliness: Is it odd that Loveless is playing the role of stereotypical movie director in the 1870s?

Trey: ...And cut! That's a wrap on Season 2! Say goodnight, Jim.

Jim: Goodnight, Jim.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night Of the Wolf

"The Night of the Wolf"

Written by Earl Barrett and Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Charles Rondeau
Synopsis: Escorting an old and ailing Eastern European Prince to his coronation, West and Gordon encounter wolves controlled by the sinister Talamantes, who is determined to take the kingdom for himself.

Trey: I'm interested in your take on this one, because it might be more in the direction of things you would like WWW to do. I feel like it has an interesting premise but the execution is lacking in some ways, leaving it only average.

Jim: You are right, this is more in the area I think the show should pull from, though I must agree with you, the way it's done is a bit lacking. 

I think the chief problems are 1) lack of a truly evocative threat out the gate. We spend a lot of time dwelling on intrigue and lackluster visuals. The wolf attack is interesting, but the show spends some time priming us for something more exciting. 2) The pacing seems a bit wobbly. 

Trey: Joseph Campanella is great as always as the mad scientist villain with a creepy angle. Some of his early appearances here are are pretty clumsy cuts, though. They clearly were trying to build atmosphere, though.

Jim: Lorri Scott does an excellent job looking mesmerized. Almost too good.

Trey: Yeah, Lorri Scott seems sort of wooden before she ever gets hypnotized!

Jim: Conrad gets a rare change of outfit in this episode that really seems to fit him. It also gives the episode a little bit more of authenticity that his usual blue cowboy attire seems to diminish. 

Trey: The wolf "special" effects really fail the show. This was perhaps a plot too ambitious for this budget. That perhaps all sounds more negative that I really feel about it, but ultimately it's a B-side.

Jim: Oh, I agree wholeheartedly. This is definitely B-side material, but it did a have a few things I liked: The wolves as weapons is a neat gimmick. The runaway mining car makes for a good escape mechanism. I was cool to see Artemis riding a horse at full gallop for once. 

Trey: Well, the next one promises to be better with the return of our favorite villain: Dr. Loveless!

Jim: Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Cadre

"The Night of the Cadre" 
Written by Digby Wolfe
Directed by Leon Benson
Synopsis: West impersonates a killer in order to infiltrate a conspiracy to kill the President with mind controlled assassins.

Jim: I believe I remarked in an earlier discussion how I thought the show should feature more Civil War holdouts as villains. This isn't quite that, but at least it's about a grudge going back to the war.

Trey: Of course, all these guys seem to be Union officers, but yes. I think one of the best details about Trask's character is that he was only a sergeant, but has promoted himself to general. It tells you a lot about the man.

Jim: I found the choice of uniforms a bit puzzling.

Trey: I don't know if they're modelled on a specific army, but clearly they are European in style. I think they're just meant to emphasize what a martinet Trask is.

Jim: Overall, this is a solid plot with an interesting gimmick in the subsonic whistles and mind-controlling crystals. Trask's history of cruelty provides a bit of rare background into a WWW villain. Artie gets to wear a couple of disguises, including one with a fake nose.

Trey: Agreed. Interestingly, this is the second time the fake element franconium has shown up in a WWW episode. The first time was in the 1st season episode "The Night of the Glowing Corpse." It also shows up in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Rascals."

Jim: So, can we spare a moment to discuss the poor decision to once again cast Richard Jaeckel as a second in command to a lackluster villain? We last saw him in "The Night of the Grand Emir," where he played second fiddle to Don Francks. This time he's stuck with glowering most of the time while Don Gordon chews up the scenery. Gordon, who was in Bullitt, has his fans, I'm sure, but Jaeckel is one of my favorite recurring television villains from this period. I hope he finally gets his due before the last episode of the show.

Trey: You sort of wonder why his character is even following this idiot. I mean, the only thing Trask has going for him is a mad scientist willing to but crystals in people's heads. And his plan collapses under its improbability in short order!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Deadly Blossom

"The Night of the Deadly Blossom" 
Written by Daniel Mainwaring
Directed by Alan Crosland Jr.
Synopsis: Jim and Artemus must foil a deadly plot to kill a Hawaiian King on the high seas.

Trey: This episode feels like a mashup of Dr. No and You Only Live Twice. The latter may be accidental, though, as it aired about a month before that film was released in the U.S.

Jim:  I think you're right to credit the Bond films as inspiration on this episode. Especially given that the uniforms Barkley's henchmen wear are similar to the uniforms Dr. No's scientists wear. I'll offer up another suggestion for the inspiration for this episode: Conrad loved working on his prior show, Hawaiian Eye and suggested the storyline as an attempt to travel there again!

Trey: I assume you mean "travel there again" metaphorically. I'm pretty sure both shows were filmed in California.

Jim: If you're going to let facts get in the way of a good theory... But anyway. when Jim tries to leave Barkley's compound, his hand gets cut in the ambush and there's a gush of bright, red blood. It's one of the rare instances of actual blood being shown on the show. Later, a henchman is killed by the swinging pendulum. You can start to see how the show might have gotten tagged as "too violent" for 1960's television. 

Trey: You're right. This episode is definitely a bit more violent than most. There's a good mix of Artie and Jim action in this episode, too.

Jim: I found Artie's adventure on the docks more interesting than Jim's struggles in Barkley's residence. He had some amazing bluff when tagging along with the rest of the dock workers. They are all showing some mark on their wrist to gain entrance, but somehow Artemus manages to get in anyway. Later when he gets the idea to hide in one of the crates. I did enjoy how Jim freed himself from the pendulum trap, though.

Trey: Yeah, Jim's plot seemed a lot of marking time to the finale. Artemus seemed to be doing something.

Jim: The reference to the Hawaiian Islands as the Sandwich Islands was a new one to me. Apparently, that was the name James Cook gave the islands in 1778.

Trey: No one can say The Wild Wild West isn't educational!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Colonel's Ghost

"The Night of the Surreal McCoy" 
Written by Ken Kolb
Directed by Charles Rondeau
Synopsis (from IMDB): President Grant wants to go to Gibsonville to dedicate the statue of an officer under his command during the Civil War. James West travels ahead to ensure it's safe for the President. West finds Gibsonville is now a ghost town and is experiencing an "epidemic" of broken necks. The few residents left are seeking buried gold--and the number of bodies is rising.

Trey: This episode is competent, and a decent TV murder mystery (though I suspected the location of the gold from the minute I knew the townsfolk were looking for treasure), but it is middling WWW, due to the lack of a lot of the ingredients that make the show unique.

Jim: I'll agree this episode deviates from the established formula, but I really liked it. The "Whole Town Looking for  Treasure" is just the sort of classic TV trope I like to see on this show. All we need now is a "James West on Jury Duty," episode, and I'll be satisfied.

Trey: Funny you should mention that, because next week...

Jim: Really?

Trey: No. But hey, Jennifer Caine is played by Kathie Browne. She was also in the Star Trek episode "Wink of an Eye" and was the wife of Kolchak, himself, Darren McGavin.

Jim: Is it me, or is Browne even more wooden than Conrad? Every line is delivered like she's balancing a spoon on her nose. There's another Star Trek alumni in the form of Lee Begere, "Colonel Gibson." He played Abraham Lincoln.

Trey: Oh, in "The Savage Curtain!" As far as Browne's performance, I will say in her defense, she isn't given much to do.

Jim: Well, true. I feel like this whole episode is reminiscent of Faulkner's "Centaur in Brass."

Trey: That story is sometimes viewed as a critique of capitalism. I certainly think you could read that into this story, as well, though I think maybe it's more about the American war machine--particularly coming as it did in the Vietnam era. Here's a fortune in gold in the form of a fake war hero made by sucking the prosperity from a town. The remaining townsfolk are searching to get this back, and never realize it's right there in front of them.

Jim: I could buy that. This is one of the rare episodes where the final freeze panel isn't from a scene inside the train car. I think that's testament to the amount of time it took for this plot to play out.

Trey: True. It ends on an unusual for the show downbeat but ending right after the climax. 

Jim: I guess they didn't know how to wring any levity from this ending!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Surreal McCoy

"The Night of the Surreal McCoy" 
Written by John Kneubuhl
Directed by Alan Crosland, Jr.
Synopsis: When the famous Herzberg jewels are stolen from a locked room in a museum, West and Gordon become suspicious of a wealthy art collector who had a painting on loan to the museum in the same room. They soon discover the collector is in league with their old nemesis Dr. Loveless who has devised away to enter alternate dimensions in paintings.

Trey: Dr. Loveless returns and with him his creator and usual writer John Kneubeuhl. I feel like their last outing ("Green Death") was lackluster, but this is a good one. Crosland who directed "Gypsy Peril" and "Night of the Skull" most recently, again demonstrates a good sense of pacing and use of action.

This episode's more fantastical conceit made me not remember it fondly, but I think my feelings in this regard have shifted--and it's a bit more rationalized weirdness than I recalled.

Jim: It's interesting that the premise of this episode didn't appeal to you at one time. For me, it's quite the opposite, with this episode looming large in my memory. In fact, I believe this episode is largely responsible for my skewed idea of what makes the show work. Over the years, I've always thought of the show as being all about the "fantastic," but as our weekly reviews have shown, the truly weird episodes are the outliers.

Which is to say, it's a bit like expecting all Star Trek episodes to be like "The Trouble With Tribbles," or something.

I  like the "science" displayed here, as it reminds me of the sort of pseudoscience that would appear so often in the pulps and classic television shows. 

Trey: Yeah, as I've mentioned before, when WWW does the fantastic, I want it to be implausible science, not the "supernatural."

Jim: This episode provides further evidence for my theory--

Trey: Your crackpot theory!

Jim: My theory that Loveless is more than he seems, and possibly immortal: first with a remark that he is beyond the grasp of death, (which seems true), and then a little later when he suggests he's spent half a decade learning the show necessary to devises and carryout his plan.

Trey: If that were true, you would think he would have learned to choose criminal co-conspirators better. It seems like he's always getting betrayed, but this time, at least, it's not by a young woman, lured away by West's good looks. 

Jim: Well, true. It seems like that's a pretty essential element of a Loveless episode. Another essential element is the classic Artemus switch with Lightning McCoy, which  gives us our episode title.

Trey: It's funny that West is the only one who sees through his disguise. I get the feeling at times the show is ambivalent about how much a master of disguise Gordon really is. I mean, he often fools folks just playing a made up character, but it seems like he is frequently revealed when disguised as a specific person. Loveless doesn't even suspect him here.

Jim: A wide-brimmed hat and a fake mustache go a long way.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Deadly Bubble

"The Night of the Deadly Bubble"
Written by Calvin Clements
Directed by Michael Edwards
Synopsis (from Wikipedia)West and Gordon, investigating a series of mysterious tidal waves off the coast of San Francisco, encounter a fanatical marine environmentalist bent on eco-terrorism..

Trey: This episode was written by Michael Edwards who also wrote "The Night of the Watery Death." He clearly had a niche in ocean-themed episodes.

Jim: Please tell me he went on to create Man from Atlantis.

Trey: I cannot tell you that. I can tell you--though I hate to be negative out of the gate--this episode just didn't do much for me. It's by the numbers, a decent Bond riff, but it lacks something. Some of it may be the structure. The heroes are (like last episode) perhaps in the clutches of the villain a bit too soon. There's also less humor in this episode, though.

Jim: I think the big problem with this episode, and a few like it, is that harkens back to some pulp stories where victims are dispatched by a mysterious or unusual means which lead back to a mad scientist. The dispatching is an essential part of what makes those stories interesting, but here it's missing.

Trey: Yes, there is, oft times, an "economy of the fantastic." If the villain has a plot involving some element of the fantastic, then the deaths may be elaborate or difficult, but they will not be fantastical, unless their means is the same as the villain's plot.

Jim: That makes sense, but I wonder why?

Trey: Budget likely has something to do with it. That and the desire of the suits at CBS to keep the fantastic elements to a minimum, maybe.

Let's move to things we did like! I thought the cold open was fairly atmospheric for a WWW episode.

Jim: I agree. The lighthouse lamp casting its ruby red glow on everything in the scene was a evocative. I don't recall seeing this special effect in old television shows before.

Trey: Alfred Ryder is suitably unhinged as Philo and his plan is appropriately grandiose. 

Jim: Definitely. Is Philo our first ecoterrorist on the show? I want to say yes.

Trey: I think so, too. Judy Lang is good as Dr. Pringle, both indignant yet distracted by West's charms in the way these things go.

Jim: Me early in the episode: "I bet Dr. Abigail Pringle will eventually reveal there is a beautiful woman hidden in that librarian façade. Don't let me down 60s TV Tropes!"

Trey: Do you think anyone was ever actually surprised when that happened?

Jim: Not since the days of radio, I bet.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Brain

"The Night of the Brain"
Written by Calvin Clements
Directed by Lawrence Peerce
Synopsis: Jim and Artie are taunted by newspapers predicting friends' death, all part of an elaborate scheme to replace world leaders with duplicates.

Trey: Another eccentric mastermind with a plan of conquest confronts our heroes! This villain's eye concept is that he is always one step ahead. It's a clever gimmick.

The design of this episode is very Bond or very low budget bond with the primary colored nehru jackets and the underground base.

Jim: I can definitely see the James Bond influence here. However, with the chess board floor and cave tunnels, what the episode really reminds me of is the Basil Rathbone Sherlock  Holmes movie The House of Fear.

Speaking of chessboards, I liked the James West chess piece at the beginning of the episode, though it seemed a little worse for wear!

Trey: Yeah, for all the Brain's meticulousness (shooting a henchman for losing a button), his James West doll looked like he let some toddler's play with it.

Jim: The stream powered wheelchair strikes me as the sort element that gets this show associated with steampunk so often. (Though, after watching so many episodes, I don't think that association is as strong as people think.)

Trey: I agree. There are occasional steampunk details, but that's not really its thing.  This episode has a lot going for it, but for some reason it's a bit less than the sum of its parts for me. Maybe it's that so much of the episode is just Braine monologuing to West in a cave set. 

Jim: That underground base is basically a damp cave. It seems out of place, aesthetically, when compared to the gold plated cane and hand made West doll. On the list of things it had going for it, I liked the fake out with Artemus and the double masks.

Trey: That's what tvtropes calls being "out-gambitted!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Vicious Valentine

"The Night of the Vicious Valentine"
Written by Leigh Chapman
Directed by Irving Moore
Synopsis: Some of the nation's wealthiest men are being murdered in a methodical fashion. West and Gordon realize that all the men have been recently married, which leads them to society dame and matchmaker, Emma Valentine, who has a plot to take over the country.

Trey: I like this episode a lot. It's got most of the ingredients I've previously outlined:  high conception locations, colorful masterminds (and colorful henchmen) with dodgy plans, Artie in disguise, technology advanced for the sixties, barely lampshaded for the 1870s, and attractive ladies. 

For some reason, the episodes with this sort of format vary in quality, but they always tend to be ones that allow Gordon pretty equally partnership with West, and this is no exception.

Jim: I'm a sucker for villains that utilize some theme in their crimes, so the premise of the Alphabet Murders really appeals to me.

The initial exchange between West and Valentine is interesting because you can almost see Robert Conrad "remember" he's supposed to be emoting as Moorehead steals the scene.  Kidding aside, I'm amazed with how well she uses her body and facial movements during the scene. It makes me wish she had reappeared in an episode alongside Michael Dunn. 

Trey: Morehead did get a Emmy nomination for this episode. Yes, it's a shame we didn't get that Loveless/Valentine team-up. The ending of this episode suggests they at least considered bringing her back.

Jim: I was also impressed with the colorful outfits the costume designer put on Moorehead (and her charges) in during the whole episode. It's interesting though, because such lavish dresses don't really seem to jive with Valentine's philosophies. She strikes me as favoring equestrian wear while waving a riding crop. 

Trey: Ha! Well, it's funny, watching from 2021, her goals seem more sympathetic than they likely did in the '60s, even if we must still deplore her methods and (like Loveless) her desire for a dictatorship, however benevolent or enlightened. It is likely no coincidence this episode was written by woman.

Besides Moorehead, we should note the presence of Sherry Jackson, who we may recognize from the Star Trek episode "Shore Leave."

Jim: I thought I recognized her! 

Trey: One element interesting element, and one that shows the evolution of my thinking about WWW, is the irrelevant inclusion of Valentine's dating computer! True, it's there to show her genius, but it doesn't really have much of a role to play besides that one scene. 

Jim: Yeah, that dating computer is an odd element. I feel like it either should have been a more integral part of the plot or ditched altogether. 

Trey: And prior to this rewatch I would have agreed with you! I'm not sure, now. It's inclusion makes the world of Wild Wild West not our world, but in a rather unobtrusive way. I like that sort of thing; more now than when I first saw this episode.  

So, anyway, what's your pitch for a Valentine-Loveless team-up?

Jim: "The Night of the Loveless Valentine" West and Gordon are invited to a very special wedding!

Trey: Anyone at CBS reading this?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Tartar

"The Night of the Tartar" 
Written by Earl Barret & Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Charles Rondeau
Synopsis: West and Gordon are tasked with escorting Rimsky, Russian criminal, to Siberia for a prisoner exchange. When the prisoner is killed, Gordon hatches a plan to pose as Rimsky.

Trey: So do you think WWW still works...when they aren't even in the West?

Jim: I fear my answer to your question would involve major spoilers! But, in general, I feel like the "West" in the show is really more of an era designation than a place. Whether it works with more or less western tropes is sort of in the eye of the viewer.

Speaking of travel, I did like the effect they did when they were transported overseas. The semi-transparent, dreamy travel montage overlaid on top of a more clear, central scene of West drugged up. I think that's the first time we've seen that sort of thing in the show.

Trey: I think so, and given what gets revealed near the end of the episode, the dreamy/druggy eliding of the travel may have served a plot purpose, rather than just saving the budget and episode runtime.

Jim: True! But going back a little bit to the beginning,  I have a word of advice to any scientist, defecting spy, or whistleblowing politician who might find themselves under the protective care of West and Gordon: DUCK!

Seriously, these guys do not have a good track record for the safe delivery of people in their custody. I would love to see them working on their paperwork after some of their missions:  “Artie, does Man-Eating house need a hyphen?”

Trey: I feel like West and Gordon are remarkable good at not getting themselves killed, but are at best average for secret service agents in terms of not getting other people killed.

Jim: John Astin would not have been my first choice for playing a Russian Count, but his comical hamming is a good fit for this episode. 

Trey: Yeah, his accent is...well, sub-everyone else's, which is saying somethin--but his acting sold the self-important, wastrel of a Russian noble.

Jim: I was surprised by how quickly he was dispatched. 

Trey: Well, it was the end of the episode, but his end came swift within the scene. I don't know how else you'd do the knife-thrower's equivalent of an old fashion Western gunfight, except swift, though.

On another interesting casting tidbit, Susan Odin (Anastasia) was married to the director.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Gypsy Peril

"The Night of the Gypsy Peril" 
Written by Ken Kolb
Directed by Alan Crossland, Jr.
Synopsis: West and Gordon must infiltrate a troupe of traveling entertainers to regain a missing elephant at the center of an international incident.

Trey: So, to get the elephant (heh) in the room out of the way, this episode is another (like "Golden Cobra") that has some depictions that are of it's time, and not the sort of thing that would fly today. It's portrayal of the Romani people leans hard into some stereotypes. It's vaguely Arab folk aren't served any better.

Jim: Flashback Disclaimer: Anybody who wades into discussions of old television shows is eventually going to run afoul of all sorts of stereotypes. I suppose some argument could be made that television allowed for the exposure of different cultural perspectives which has gone a long way to undercutting such stereotypes, but we're not here to defend it, only to put it in it's context.

But yeah, these are the standard "Gypsies with Bronx accents" that were popular on television at this time.

Trey: All that said, the title is a bit misleading. The Romani aren't really the villains here. In fact, this episode zigs a lot when you think it might zag, which is perhaps its only saving grace.

Jim: The elephant is a cute addition, too. Its introduction and some of the dialogue at the beginning sort of sets the tone for this being a more comical episode. And again, I swear I heard some Gilligan's Island music cues in there!

It's dubious ethnic portrayals aside, this episode really charmed me. It reminded me of some humorous Bonanza episodes. And the plot with the competing factions of bandits and "gypsies" allowed for some fun deviations. (Artemis' ruse with the firecrackers, West's trapeze audition, the Gypsy Dance of Death, etc...)

Trey: Yeah, its got some fun stuff. This gang of robbers has to be the toughest West has ever faced. No matter what he does, there always seems to be one ready to get the drop on him in every single encounter!

Jim: Dr. Loveless should hire these guys!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Feathered Fury

"The Night of the Feathered Fury" 
Written by Henry Sharp
Directed by Robert Sparr
Synopsis: A woman offers to sell information to the government about Count Manzeppi. When she flees, Jim and Artie must unrival the mystery of a wind-up toy chicken that Manzeppi seems willing to kill over.

Trey: It's unfortunate that this is Manzeppi's last appearance. In some ways, I think it's a better episode than his first.

Jim: Again, the poor count has to deal with a disloyal female associate. Gerda runs to the government for protection, and West is pretty cynical about her lady in distress routine.

Trey: With good reason, as we soon see! If you notice, it's been a while since we had a full-fledged "girl of the week" romance interest for West. Those were much more common in Season One.

Gerda is played by Michelle Carey, probably best known for her role in the 1966 Western, El Dorado, which is known for being the second of three Westerns directed by Howard Hawks and written by Leigh Brackett where a sheriff and friends have to defend his office against an outlaw gang.

Jim: She was also in a lot of late 60s-70s TV. Back to Manzeppi: again he seems to display magical powers when he is turning on the lights in the train car. On a side note, it's sort of funny how many people end up appearing in the train car. 

Trey: They really need to get better locks. It happens so often, they seldom seem really surprised.

Jim: True! Overall, Manzeppi reminds me of early Silver Age appearances of Magneto in that he's supposedly capable of magic, but rather than ever use his abilities in any exciting way, he has cronies do all the hard work.

Trey: It's like that want a villain with magic powers, but they don't want a villain with magic powers. Manzeppi's associates are less interesting this time.

Jim: But they are sort of James Bond--as is the fate of Gerda. A definite homage to Goldfinger. Before that, though, I liked how Jim and Artie get her to turn on Manzeppi.

Trey: The humor is that is that he even lays out their plan for her (and lampshades the trope for the audience)! And so, as Manzeppi departs in a balloon, we say good-bye to Victor Buono on WWW.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Tottering Tontine

"The Night of the Tottering Tontine" 
Written by Norman Hudis & Elon Packard
Directed by Irving Moore
Synopsis: West and Gordon are assigned to protect Dr. Raven, who is developing a secret weapon for the U.S. Government. Raven's life is in danger as members of a tontine he joined years ago are being killed off so the murder can inherit all their wealth.

Trey: They could have titled this one "And Then There Were None in the Wild Wild West," except that would have messed up the "The Night of..." convention. 

Jim: I'm a big fan of whodunits, so this riff on And Then There Were None really appealed to me. I particularly liked the round of introductions for each of the members of the tontine. There are were talented actors amongst the members (Robert Emhardt, Henry Darrow, Harry Townes).

Trey: It's a fine group of murder suspects! I liked this episode, too. Sure, It's a standard classic tv riff, but the house full of death traps gives it an adequate dose of WWW oddity.

Jim: I agree! The dark-hooded villains and death traps are just the touch that was needed. Question: After escaping the rocket car death trap in the mine shaft, West walks by what looks like a big circuit box on a wall. What the heck was that supposed to be? Was it actually a circuit box? I'm never sure how widespread electricity is in this time period.

Trey: It's an anachronism. 

Jim: At first I thought the seance was an anachronism, but apparently the practice was well established in America at this time with Mary Todd Lincoln being a fan.

Trey: Yeah, this would have been about the middle of the heyday of Spiritualism, I believe.

I got a question: Why would anyone hire are architect and give them free rein to the extent you wouldn't know that had built a secret railway and all sort of death traps into your house?

Jim: I'm Howard Roark, and I approved this message.


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