Friday, January 14, 2022

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

"The Night of the Sabatini Death"
Written by  Shirl Hendryx
Directed by Charles R. Rondeau
Synopsis: A dying crime boss makes a last request of West: make sure a young, blind woman receives the gift he is bequeathing her. The request isn't as simple as it seems, and West and secret service chemist, Ned Brown, are soon caught up in a mystery regarding a stolen fortune hidden in a Missouri ghost town.

Trey: This is a pretty good episode, better I think than it might look on paper. It's another ghost town with hidden treasure like we've seen in at least two (maybe three!) other episodes before, with a touch of Agatha Christie mystery atmosphere to it, perhaps--and there isn't anything "weird" about it! The script is pretty good though, and the guest appearances by Alan Hale, jr. and Jim Backus do more than you would think to help it along.

Jim: There does seem to be something about this script that gives it a bit more sparkle than the previous "hidden treasure in a ghost town" scripts. It almost feels like it was written for another series, but adapted to Wild Wild West. I didn't recognize the episode's writer Shirl Hendryx from any previous television series. Upon looking Hendryx up, I was a bit surprised to see that while he had worked on many other television series, most of his work was limited to a single episode! The longest stint was seven episodes on the series Combat.

Trey: Hale's Ned Brown is the first of the Gordon replacements that seems pretty differentiated from Gordon. It's a shame he was only in one episode, but at least that is sort of written into the story.

Jim: I totally agree about the inclusion of Ned Brown. Alan Hale plays him pretty much like he plays a lot of his characters, but it works well. He's not a precision actor like William Schallert, but Hale has a lot of natural charm, and he makes a striking physical contrast to Conrad.

What did you think of the Gilligan's Island in-joke at the end of the episode? I liked it. It has some additional irony in that Gilligan's Island was canceled to make room for Gunsmoke.

Trey: It's 60s TV appropriate. It didn't bother me, at all. It got me thinking in a Wold-Newton frame of mind: Maybe Jonas Grumby is one of Ned Brown's descendants?

Jim: Next you'll be telling me that Gilligan's Island is the same as the island in Lost!

Trey: Now that you mention it...

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