Thursday, August 26, 2021

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

"The Night of the Simian Terror" 
Written by  Earl Barret and Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Michael Caffey
Synopsis: The estate of a senator and his family is being stalked by a perhaps inhuman killer. What family secret do they harbor related to this horrifying events? West and Gordon must unravel the mystery before more people die.

Trey: In which Robert Conrad utters that immortal line: "Get your hands off me you dirty ape!"

Jim: That didn't happen. 

Trey: No, not really.

Jim: It should be no surprise that this episode is a favorite of mine. This is a perfect example of the type of gothic horror story I would have liked to have seen more often. 

Trey: Yes, this is definitely one of the more Gothic episodes. We get the same estate gates we see in all the Gothic episodes from the first season on.

Jim: They're part of a really atmospheric opening, with Jim and Artie standing at those gate at night, the wind blowing wildly, as they call on the forbidding mansion. 

Artie's use of the small drill and miniature spyglass feels like an appropriately retro bit of spyware. 

Trey: The drill is a bit weird, because there's no reason he needs to see who's in the room since he already knows! It's only purpose is to let the audience see the speakers to better sort them out and make the scene more interesting.

Jim: It was nice to see Richard Kiel return to the show! After this, he would later get a recurring role as Moose Maron owner on the short-lived William Shatner western Barbary Coast. I have to think his appearances on WWW helped get him that role. 

Trey: It is good to have Kiel back. This is his last appearance on the series, though.

Jim: A historical question here: I know that Thomas Savage found gorilla bones in 1847, but how well known would they actually have been at the time of this episode?

Trey: his episode probably takes place in 1874 or so. Gorrillas would probably have still be exotic, but stuffed ones (and fake ones) had toured around by over a decade at this point.

I feel like Dimas and gorilla are perhaps not handled as well as they might be. The episode seems to be trying to misdirect to the idea that a gorilla is doing the murders (and the title helps with that) in sort of a reverse "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" fakeout. But the family seems to know what the deal is the whole time (and they're right) and their behavior doesn't make sense if it's a gorilla, so you're never entirely convinced. Then, we find out the murderer's Dimas AND there's a real gorilla. It allows for the escape scene and the pathos at the end, but I feel like restructuring to either utilize the gorilla more or eliminate it entirely would have been best.

Jim: I never thought I'd see the day when you were saying you wanted fewer apes in a tv show! Don't you have a statute of the Lawgiver from Planet of the Apes in your house?

Trey: Look, my religion is a private affair, ok?

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