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!


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