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.


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