Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Samurai"

Over the last five episodes, Jim and Artie have singled-handedly preserved the United States’ good diplomatic relations with Mexico three times, Canada once, and now Japan. How we ever made it out of the 19th century intact without those two is beyond me. Which is another surprise, because their butter fingers approach to protecting national treasures gets them in trouble yet again.

This time around, it is a samurai sword belonging to a Japanese prince our heroes are guarding. They are attacked by a group of kabuki make up wearing swordsmen who steal the thing right out from under them. The prince sets sail in the morning, so Jim and Artie only have one night to recover the sword.

“The Night of the Samurai” returns to the usual light-hearted adventurous feel with a dash of humor the series is known for rather than the darkly violent tone of the previous. The plots are awfully similar. The sword has been stole by an old friend of Jim’s named Gideon, a Westerner deeply attached to the samurai tradition, who stole the sword in order to end the United States’ growing influence in Japan. We also taught Jim how to fight with samurai swords, so take a wild guess what the climax is all about.

Before, we get there, we have some fun double crosses. An informant named the Dutchman leads Jim and Artie on a wild goose chase. Reiko, one of the prince’s servants, seems to be an ally, but instead leads the two into Gideon’s clutches. Even the prince’s translator, played by Wo Fat himself, Keigh Deigh, appears to be up to no good when he offers to rent the sword from a disguised Artie only for fifteen minutes.It turns out the sword is not so much sacred as it has nearly $ 1 million worth of jewels stashed in its hilt. That might be a commentary on the sacred traditions of Japan versus American greed, but I am not sure. If it makes you feel good to think so, be my guest.

In spite of a plot which is not only unoriginal, but almost a direct lift of the previous episode, “The Night of the Samurai” is fun viewing. Artie disguises himself as a Portuguese sailor in one of my favorite of his disguises and flirts with a fat woman I swore was a man in drag for at least five minutes. The Dutchman has plenty of hints of being modeled after Count Manzeppi, but Victor Buono played the type of roll so much more memorably.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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