Sunday, October 31, 2010

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

“The Night of the Camera” is the first of many, sporadic episodes to not feature Artie as Jim’s partner. Ross Martin suffered a heart attack shortly after the previous and missed twelve weeks of filming. It is casually mentioned that Artie is “off in Washington.”

Artie’s first replacement is my favorite of all of the temps, Jeremy Pike. Pie, played by Charles Aidman, is much like Artie. He is a master of disguise with a encyclopedic knowledge of every subject which conveniently pops up during misadventures with Jim.

“The Night of the Camera” also features a bonus partner in comedian Pat Paulsen as Bosely Cranston. Cranston is an clumsy, nebbish scientist with the Secret Service who begged for his field assignment, a job for which he is not ready. But he does have a photographic memory, a skill which comes in handy amid the comic relief he nebbishly offers.

Paulsen was fresh off his comedic run for president in 1968, a running gag on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, whe he made his appearance. You may recall Rosie Grier, former football great and bodyguard to RFK, was featured in an episode during the third season. The Wild Wild West had quite a few connections to the Democratic side fateful 1968 presidential campaign. Robert Corad is a Republican who played G. Gorfon Liddy I a television movie in 1982. Oneassumes hewasa Richard Nixon man.

Jim and Jeremy are working at exposing the members of a nationwide opium smuggling rig when Bosely’s bumbling ruins their best lead. They wind up finding a use for him when they discover he has a photographic memory. They need to sneak him into the mansion of the suspected ringleader of the opium smuggling business so he can secretly memorize the names of addresses of all the accomplices from two books hidden away in the ringleader’s office.

Bosely’s Steve Urkel ways nearly blow it many times while sneaking around and breaking into the mansion’s library, but he not only succeeds, but surprisingly does kung fu to subdue the escaping ringleader. Implausible, but very humorous. Doubly so because of the obvious stuntman during the kung fu fighting.

The entire episode is played more for laughs than any other before or since. Paulsen was clearly the centerpiece for the episode. The plan pays off beautifully. It is such a fun romp, it almost makes pedantic little old me forget opium was not illegal in the 1870’s, therefore it was not a crime to transport or sell. I almost forgot that.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of Fire and Brimstone"

Four writers are credited for “The Night of Fire and Brimstone.” I have learned from experience that when you see that, brace yourself for a disjointed mess. Such a circumstance means the script as been re-written several times. You will probably be able to identify enough small plot elements that could have made for an episode themselves, butare thrown I here as filler.

Jim and Artie travel to the abandoned town of Brimstone, Virginia at the request of a Prof. Colecrest. He has made some sort of discovery, but will not say what it is. It must be big, because a group of bandits have gotten there before and are busy roughing him up to find out all he knows.

Colecrest escapes into the mineshafts below the town just as our heroes discover something is amiss and ave to fight the gang. They escape ito the mines, too, only to discover Colecrest has suffered a concussio from a fall. jim stays with him in hiding as Artie runs off to get a doctor.

The doctor is sick himself, but insists on going over his daughter’s protests. Her mother recently sickened and died from the same ailment, so se is worried about him. He leaves without his medication, so se rus off after him.

Meanwhile, Jim has to sneak around fighting the gang members in the mineshaft. His tactics remind me a lot of Rambo’s battle with Soviet troops in the Afghan tunnels in Rambo III. Jim fights directly, sets booby traps, and een once tricks oe gang member into shooting another. I doubt “The Night of Fire and Brimstone” was direct inspiration for Rambo III, but the similarities are striking.

When that is all said and done, Jim discovers an old, crazy Confederate office living down there with the skeletons of his mean. he has been dow there on assignment from Robert E. Lee and has no clue the war has been over a decade or more at this point.

If you have lost trac of the plot, let me help:

1. The professor, who is the only one who knows some secret, will die without medical treatment for his injury.
2. The doctor needs his medication, perhaps to live, as well.
3. There isan old, kooky Confederate officer down there protecting the secret.
4. The gang wants them all dead to cash in on whatever this secret is.

Got all that? The gang catches the daughter coming with the edication and uses her to lure the doctor out. The doctor, howeer, is artie in disguise. Her ad Jm over powerte gang. Colecrest, on death’s door a ew moments ago, makes a miraculous recovery enough to explain the whole plot with a load of exposition. The Confederate officer was protecting a treasuretrove which Colecrest discovered. That is wat everyone was after. Artie, disguised as Robert E. Lee--I kid you not--relieves te old officer of command.

The story absurd, jumbled, implausible, and full of plot holes, but how can you resist enjoying something like what I just described? Artie whipping up a Lee disguise in a matter of miutes is worth a viewing right there. This episode is strange.

A final note--Ross Martin suffered a heart attack after filming “The Night of Fire and Brimstone,” so Artie is going to miss a number of episodes. The Wild Wild West was not aired in the same order it was filmed, so there will be some alternating between Jim working with Artie and him having a temporary guest star for the remainder of the season.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Egyptian Queen"

“The Night of the Egyptian Queen” is a fairly run of the mill affair. The powers that be must have known that, since the femme fatale spent the entire episode cavorting cavorting about in a skimpy harem outfit, showing off a lovely midriff and a whole lot of leg, as a distraction. There is even a light bondage scene thrown in for the perverts out there. You know who you are.

A ruby on loan to a San Francisco museum from some Egyptian poobabette (Are important female poobahs called that? If not, they should be.) is stolen away from Jim. Our heroes spend the evening alternating between chasing down and being captured by three different parties who want the ruby. It ultimately fell into the ans of Rosie, a belly dancer who was using it as a toe ring during her mesmerizing performances.

The ring is stolen from her by an Egyptian diplomat played by--I kid you not--Boss Hogge himself, Sorrell Booke. The ruby itself is third rate junk, but it can be used when the moon is in a certain position to release a trove of ancient treasure. It is the treasure that everyone is after.

It is interesting “The Night of the Egyptian Queen” aired a full ten years before King Tut mania hit the United States in the late ’70’s and these sort of stories were common place on te idiot box. That, the half-naked belly dancer, and Boss Hogge as an evil Egyptian mkae this one an amusing oddity, but the rest of the episode is nothing special.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

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

“The Night of the Fugitives is just so-so episode as far as the plot is concerned. Jim and Artie are pursuing the nebbish bookkeeper for a crime syndicate. Jim nearly nabs him in san Francisco, but the crooked accountant esapes to epitaph, Colorado, where Jim tracks him down. Unfortunately, Epitaph is a racket owned entirely by the crime syndicate boss. Jim and Artie, posing as an Elmer Gantry, have to snuggle the bookkeeper out of te town populated by gunmen.

If the plot I just described sounds more like a third than fourth season episode, that is because it was intended to be. Filming had to be stopped for the entire season because of one notorious scene. “The Night of the Fugitives” is most famous for featuring Robert Conrad’s failed stunt which resorted in a skull fracture. The morbid part is the footage of the accident was still used in the episode. Geek that I am, I have it all screen capped for you.Conrad is supposed to jump from the top of the staircase, grab the chandelier, swing on it, and kick a stuntman playing a thug.He successfully makes the jump and grab.He also successfully makes the kick, but his hands slip off the chandelier.This one is blurry because the accident happened quickly, but Conrad goes down head first onto the floor with his legs flailing in the air. His actual landing is fast and mostly obscured by the staircase, but he hits hard.There is an abrupt cut right after this moment. Filming ended for the third season ended because of Conrad's injury. When filming resumed months later, the scene was more or less picked up here with the fight continuing. But the above scene is genuine. While later filming made this out to be the thug grabbing Jim to continue the fight, it is the stuntman checking on Conrad's well-being. He was slow to get up and clearly already in distress.

This was the first serious injury Conrad sustained. Surprising, considering the daredevil stunts he had performed over the last three seasons eventually earned him a spot in the Stuntman’s Hall of Fame. Afterwards, the studio put a restriction on the type of stunts Conrad would be allowed to do. The accident contributed to the notion The Wild Wild West was too violent for prime time television and, along wit Ross Martin’s heart attack in the fourth season, lead to its cancellation.

I hae to point out the irony of claiming the series is too violent when they used the actual, nearly fatal accident Conrad suffered, treated it as part of the fight, and kept going with it as though he never got hurt. Is not one of the complaint violence on television is senseless because the consequences are not dealt with maturely?

“The Night of the Fugitives” is decent, but not great. I cannot in good conscience give it a bad score, though, can I?

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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

Release the Kraken!

All right, now that we have gotten the obligatory Clash of the Titans reference out of the way, let us get down to the plot of 'The Night of the Kraken." A diabolical genius has created a sea monster which has been destroying ships off San Francisco. I reality, the sea monster is a front for a new kind of torpedo with which aid diabolical genius is going to use to ill Adm. David Farragut. That is until Jim escapes from the villain’s undersea layer and out swims the torpedo in order to save the admiral’s flagship. Jim is assisted by Artie, who is posing as a Portuguese fisherman.

This plot is very different from the second season's "The Night of the Watery Death," because in that episode, A diabolical genius has created a sea monster which has been destroying ships off San Francisco. I reality, the sea monster is a front for a new kind of torpedo with which aid diabolical genius is going to use to ill Adm. David Farragut. That is until Jim escapes from the villain’s undersea layer and out swims the torpedo in order to save the admiral’s flagship. Jim is assisted by Artie, who is posing as a Portuguese fisherman.

If they were going to directly lift the plot of another episode, they should have chosen more wisely than the mediocre “The Night of the Watery Death.”

To be fair, there are a couple twists in “The Night of the Kraken” that were not around in the previous. But they are only improvements because of their absurdity. The first is pictured above. Jim wrestles and defeats the mechanical squid underwater. It has to be seen to be believed. Second, our heroes discover an experimental diving suit in perfect steam punk style. It looks as ridiculous as the Juggernaut a few episodes back, but fits in with the style o the series.

As does Ted Knight in a dual role as the villain arms dealer and a doomsday evangelist warning of God’s judgment on San Francisco. If only he had known what that city was destined to become, he would have known how quaint it was in the 1870’s. Opium dens are quite tame compared to what plagues the place now. I will bet he hates Jim’s spunk, too.

I gave “The Night of the Watery Death” an average rating. Even though ’The Night of the Kraken” is practically the same episode, the bonus elements I talked about above merit a higher score. They are dumb, but enormously amusing.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Gruesome Games"

That is the lovely Sherry Jackson, maing her seco appearance on The Wild Wild West, down on all fours carrying an egg in a spoon alongside Ross Martin. “The Night of the Gruesome Games” carries on the tradition of just about every crime/action series of doing an homage to the 1932 film The Most Dangerous Game. As you can probably guess, The Wild Wild West took it most literally--to the suffering of the actors’ dignity, of course.

Jim and Artie are in hot pursuit of Dr. Rekar, a researcher who has stolen a vial of deadly germs. The vial has to be kept at a certain temperature or else it will explode within a few hours, spreading disease all across California. Rekar is apparently killed in the pursuit, but our heroes learn he has sent the vial in luggage to the mansion of eccentric millionaire Rufus Krause, who had invited Rekar to his birthday party.

Artie poses as Rekar with Jim as his body guard in order to search the mansion for the vial of germs. Krause is an eccentric old coot who likes to humiliate his money obsessed gussets by forcing them to play children’s games in order to win gold, jewels, and furs. In the end, he announces he is going to leave his entire fortune to whoever is still alive in the morning.

The games are a red herring. It really is just a weird old man having fun by "torturing" people whose greed has destroyed their lives. Well, except for that brief interlude where his henchman, an obvious knock off of Goldfinger’s Oddjob name no Fun, attempts to boil Jim alive in a giant bird cage in the basement. Believe it or not, that is one of the saner aspects of the episode. The real plot is that Rekar faked his death. He is married to Krause’s hostess. The two of them plotted to kill eery guest I order to inherit Krause’s fortune, then use the vial of germs to gain political power.

Does that make any sense? How about destroying the vial of germs in a furnace because heating it up will cause it to explode, spreading deadly disease/ I am puzzled by that one myself, but this is definitely one of those episodes that you cannot give a whole lot of thought to or your head will explode. Just go alog with the silly atmosphere and enjoy it. “The Night of the Gruesome Games’ is fun, but dumb. Probably a lot like your prom date.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Sedgewick Curse"

The Wild Wild West takes its first turn with horror in the fourth season with “The Night of the Sedgewick Curse.” The series id often hit and miss with darer stories, but this time around, it is a bulls eye.

Jim plays courier between Ulysses S. Grant and a high ranking government official who is vacationing at a health spa to treat a blood disorder. The official disappears from his hotel room moments after jim leaves. Our heroes are on the case.

The only weak point of the episode is the freak accident way in which Jim stumbles across the true plot. He winds up saving young Lavinia Sedgewick from crashing her stagecoach and is invited to dinner as a reward. The Sedgewick’s are Lavinia and her grandfather. They live in a creepy old mansion with both of them seemingly under the undue influence of Dr. Maitland.

The Sedgewick family, with the apparent exception of her grandfather, has a tradition of dying young. Lavinia’s brother, a biochemist, died a few months ago. In her family’s history, several generations have dabbled in witchcraft, the occult, and bona fide Satanism with local torch and pitchfork carrying villagers bringing forth their predictable end.

It is not revealed until the fourth act they were all in pursuit of eternal youth. Lavinia’s brother switched from magic to science and was on the verge of discovering it, but his formula caused rapid aging instead. He did not die months ago, but is being passed off as the very old, senile grandfather. Lavnia has roped Dr. Maitland into continuing her brother’s research. He has been using the local spa to kidnap clients with certain blood disorders for further research. Jim discovers the failed patients in the dungeon including the government official he is looking for, all dying of advanced age.

Artie, posing a someone with a blood disorder, tricks Lavinia into thinking the formula now works. It does not, so her worst fear comes true as she rapidly ages after injecting herself. The limits of the era’s special effects keep that from happening on screen a la Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but the final reveal of her looking 100+ years old was still startling now and probably even more so when the episode first aired.The rapid aging process turned her eyes brown, too. Scary.

“The Night of the Sedgewick Curse” is a very good, very creepy episode. The show is at it best when it flirts with high concepts, yet does not resort to camp in order to pull it off. The episode feels like one of the best Hammer Films of the day to me. I would give it four tars, save for the too convenient way Jim ad the Sedgewickses meet.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

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

The key reason I have a difficult time recommending The Wild Wild West to friends, as much as I love the series, is “The Night of the Juggernaut.” As sure as the world, this will be the first episode they see and it will tait their opinion forever. About the only thing worse that could happen is if their first impression is the 1999 Will Smith movie. Damage control is difficult with both.

Jim and Artie head to New Mexico to determine why farmers are being driven off their land. When they get there, they discover farmers are being terrorized and that steam powered, orange and yellow tank pictured above. I kid you not. The Juggernautt, as it is called, was created by a wealthy landowner who has discovered huge oil deposits underneath the property of every dirt poor farmer in the area. He does not want to share the potential fortune.

Our heroes foil his plan, destroy the Juggernaut after taking it for the requisite spin around the block, and ensures all the farmers get their due from oil revenues. One even finds true love for good measure. I am sure the fact he is now wealthy has othig to do with it.

You do not have to look too closely to realize the town of Grey Ridge is redecorated sets from Gunsmkoe. There use is not for the first time, either.

The plot is decent and well executed. Artie’s disguise as a over the top Texas land baron buying up all the farmers’ property is one of his most amusing. The problem is the Juggernaut. It is such a dumb idea done so poorly, it is the only part of the episode which does not fly. Otherwise, it is quite good.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Doomsday Formula"

Actor Kevin McCarty, famous for the lead roles in the classic science fiction Cold War allegory thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers, rounds the unfortunate trio of Pernell Roberts and Harold Gould as villains from The Wild Wild West who ave passed on within the last year. McCarthy died I September at the ripe old age of 96. His IMDB page not only lists 200+ roles, but his final one is dated 2010. He kept working right up until the end. Amazing. What kind of role does a 96 year old man play?

His turn as Maj. Gen Krull in “The Night of the Doomsday Formula” makes for one of the best villains of the series. The episode brings the feel and tone of some of the series’ best from the first and second seasons. The series has fully recovered from the dull third season even by this early date.

A scientist informs Ulysses S. Grant through a telegraph he has developed the most powerful explosive known to man. When Jim arrives in Denver to meet the scientist, he discovers by his daughter the scientist has already gone off with “Jim West.” she is then kidnapped right out from under Jim’s nose. When he and Artie find out the materials needed for the explosive have been well hidden, they surmise whoever kidnapped the scientist wants him to develop a new batch and are going to use his daughter to force him. The race is on to recover them both.

Their only clue is a steel fist handle on an umbrella used to cok Jim on the head. The umbrella belongs to Krull. Krull, a disillusioned former US military officer, has become an international arms dealer specializing in new technology. He fears the US military has grown complacent and gun shy in the wake of the Civil War. Artie hilariously poses as a Bedouin looking to buy the explosive krill is rumored to have while Jim breaks into Krull’s ranch through the *ahem* back way in order to find the scientist an his daughter.

In the true spirit of ’60’s television westerns, which often shared sets to hold down production costs, Krull’s ranch is the Brakley Ranch from The Big Valley. Some iconic sets have pulled double duty in this show, but this appearance struck me as funny as when the lagoon from Gilligan’s Island and the settlement from Star Trek’s “Arena” once stood in for Devil’s Island.

All the classic elements are here. Jim the swashbuckling hero saves the girl from a fiery pit in the same manner as Batman saved Vicki Vale in 1989’s Batmn. Artie is comedy gold as he uses a recording of his bad Arabic singing to cover his tracks while he snoops around, and then use fireworks as a distraction for Jim’s escape. Krull dies by his own weapon in the end. Not so predictably, the scientist has a fatal heart attack. The formula dies with him.

I like ’The Night of the Doomsday Formula.” It is a classic and therefore earns four stars for being a return to the series’ true form.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Big Blackmail"

“The Night of the Big Blackmail” serves as the premiere episode of the fourth, final, and trouble plagued season of The Wild Wild West. Both Robert Conrad and Ross Martin were seriously injured filming episodes. Martin also suffered a heart attack early on which limited his appearances. But it was the rising anti-violence sentiment in the wake of the assassinations of RFK and MLK that ultimately spelled the show’s doom. Until then, though, there was a lot of fun to be had.

Case in point--this episode. Our heroes take advantage of a fencing tournament hold at an ambiguously Eastern European country’s embassy in Washington to steal a case I which Baron Hintertroiser has hidden some item which he will reveal as an embarrassment to the United States. Jim manages to steal the case in an exciting, Mission Impossible-esque escapade. Inside is an anachronistic, but bless them they tried to make it convincing fake film which shows “Ulysses S. Grant” signing a treaty with an oriental leader of an ambiguous, yet obviously public enemy number one country. With the United States in international disgrace, the Baron’s country can expand its territory unchallenged.

Our heroes spend the bulk of the episode engaging in an elaborate plan to place an altered film into its place I the embassy’s basement before anyone realizes it is missing. As per this show’s requirements, the embassy was designed by an eccentric architect with booby traps and a highly elaborate safe, all of which are made short work of by our heroes. When the baron ultimately plays the replaced film for his audience of dignitaries, it is mostly Artie engaged in an impression of The Little Tramp forty years before Charlie Chaplin.

“The Night of the Big Blackmail” has an unusually large number of anachronisms, such as a phonograph recording used to distract some foreign henchmen on top of the film that is the key to the entire plot. All of them I can excuse because of the general appeal of the episode. A big highlight id Harvey Korman’s role as the Baron. The character has echoes of his turn as the villainous Headley Lamarr in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, a movie which was still five years away from filming. Definitely a good start to the weirdly fun, but sadly unlucky fourth season.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NPR Fires Juan Williams for Saying What We Are All Thinking When Traveling with Muslims

I have always been ambivalent about Juan Williams. He is very clearly a progressive, albeit one who draws his conclusions through logic rather than the all too often progressive tactic of adopting leftist talking points then declaring oneself an intellectual by virtue of having done so. Whether said progressive can explain or defend his beliefs is irrelevant, you ignorant, racist Teabagger. How dare you insinuate otherwise! Nevertheless, I do not care much what for believes. I just appreciate the road he took to get there.

I have never been a bi fan of NPR, either. It is progressive propaganda which openly attacks conservatives and Christians routinely with impunity. Why someone earns intellectual credit for regular listening is beyond. It sounds more like congratulations for hae sat through it instead. Double curiosity why one ears geek points for listening, but many in the bookish, science fiction crowd I am familiar with swear by NPR. Yes, they do think I am a Philistine.

Now NPR has fired Juan Williams for making statements to Bill O’Reilly that every last one of us is thinking--when he sees Muslims on his plane, he gets nervous. Who can blame him? Remember the days when all you had to worry about was Muslim terrorists taking your plane hostage in exchange for Israel freeing some PLO members from prison? Those days were quaint. Today they put bombs in their shoes and underwear because hijacking planes and flying into skyscrapers has become too difficult. It also pays too remember those shoe and underwear bombing plots were stopped because regular passengers were mindful that ice Muslim in Aisle F over there might try to kill them all.

NPR is being dumb and hypocritical here. Its correspondents have sad far worse things about Christians for years and Tea Party activists most recently without anyone battig an eye. Of course, Christians and Tea Partiers are not going to chop your head off when you offend them, so NPR has to be careful what its employees say in public. Which is exactly the spirit of what Williams said to O’Reilly about Muslims. So Williams’ big sin is reealing NPR is just as fearful of Muslim extremism as you and I. We are just supposed to be stupid to understand its intellectual nuance regarding the matter.

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Death-Maker"

We have finally reached the merciful end to the lackluster third season. The good news is the fourth season is a considerable up tick. The d news is the fourth season is also the show’s swan song. At least it goes out on a high note. For my money, the third season is the only detriment to the series.

“The Night of the Death-Maker’ is a key example why. The episode takes all its elements from past episodes, mixes them together, and calls it a new story.. To be fair, this was not intended to be the season finale. Filming of the final four episodes was cancelled because Robert Conrad suffered a serious skull fracture performing a stunt. The episode with the injuring stunt was completed for the fourth season, actual accident making it to the screen and all, so I will address it in more detail in a few days. Suffice to say, if there was a big bang planned for the end of the third season, neither “The Night of the Death-Maker,’ nor Conrad’s skull fracture was anyone had in mind.

Gen. Gullen Dane, a disgraced general fired by Ulysses S. Grant, has hidden away in a monastery he is holding hostage with a private army. He plans to assassinate grant with a stolen gattling gun so he can take over California for his own. Our heroes are looking for possible hiding places near the railroad where such a gun could be shipped quickly. They just happen to discover the monastery is Dane’s base of operations after noting a monk appearing at the local hotel plus the wine the brothers make tasting unusually bitter. It turns out the imprisoned brothers have been sabotaging the wine in a pitiful attempt to attract outside attention.

Our heroes free the brothers and stop Dane from assassinating Grant We have seen all this before, right down to a disgraced military officer hiding out in a church/monastery with a private army ready to take over California. “The Night of the Death-Maker” is literally a cut and paste script with every part, sans the imprisoned brothers, taken from previous. It is not bad necessarily, but it is disappointingly unoriginal.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Simian Terror"

If you can appreciate the prescient humor of the above scene, thirteen years before Donkey Kong, then you have already gotten every available ounce of enjoyment out of the particularly weird “The Night of the Simian Terror.” If you wish for it to be spelled out further, Jim is attempting to rescue a girl kidnapped by a giant ape, but he cannot get to her because the ape keeps throwing barrels at him. Was Shigeru Miyamoto inspired by this episode to create the first Donkey Kong game? Probably not , but it is a funny thought regardless.

Like I said, it is about the only amusing bit in a strange mess of a story. Jim and Artie are assigned to travel to Kansas and retrieve a senator who has defense bill held up in committee. They find his estate is barricaded and armed to the teeth with visitors not welcomed. But when one of the security team is literally crushed to death by what could have only been a giant animal, our heroes he to et to the bottom of things.

The bottom of things is the senator had a child named Dimas years ago who was not quite right, so he faked the kid’s death and gave him to an anthropologist who once failed at an experiment to nurture an ape from birth to make him more humanlike. Dimas and the ape became pals--just go with it--so the ape has been killing off family members so Dimas can inherit the family fortune.

Dimas is killed in a fistfight with Jim, which I would think is implausibly ridiculous if I had not seen Jim engage in fisticuffs with the ape just a few minutes prior. Past experience makes it seem a bit more plausible. The ape dies in a hail of bullets from an angry mob that has formed in response to the killings. There might e some social commentary in there somewhere, but I had lost interest y that point and do not care to dig for it.

Richard Kiel plays Dimas. He is essentially playing Dimas exactly as he did Voltaire. The characters are so much alike, it is odd Jim and Artie do not comment on it. Actors get recast o The Wild Wild West all the time, so it is a accepted part of the show. But this is like hiring Michael Dunn to play another evil villain similar to Dr. Loveless, but with a different name. Actors who play iconic characters cannot pull that sort of thing off. At least not for dedicated fans.

“The Night of the Simian Terror” does not work for me. It attempts to be dark, but has too many absurd elements to pull it off. Not the least of those elements is Jim fighting the ape and holding his own far longer than logic would have it. You know, like more than two seconds. Those of you who really enjoyed dating high school girls--dumb, but fun--may get a kick out of it. I hardly did.

We finally end the terrible third season tomorrow before heading into the series’ wonderfully weird fourth and final season.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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

It seems like every series that ran long enough during a certain era of television did an occult/voodoo themed episode like yesterday’s. Such series also had to do an amnesia episode. When they go back to back, you kind of feel lie the show is just filling in the blanks with expected plot devices. I cannot complain too much, however. “The Night of the Amnesiac” is quite good in spite of its unimaginative plot complication.

Jim is escorting a supply of small pox vaccine for the US Department of Health, a agency which has never existed, to halt an epidemic out west. His stage coach is robbed y a gang of outlaws who plan to use the vaccine as ransom for the return of their imprisoned boss, Furman Crotty. Crotty is played by Ed Asner. The character is not much different than his character in El Dorado. Deliberate casting, I imagine.

Jim’ head is grazed by a bullet during the robbery. He awaken with no memory of who he is, but still has his fighting skills and heroic sense of chivalry. They are pt on display when he rescues a girl from beig manhandled and eventually encounters the robbers again, even though he has no clue who they are.

The interesting point about “The Night of the Amnesiac” is how the focus is split on Jim and Artie equally. Jim’s plight does not take center stage as much screen time is given over to Artie’s search for the missing vaccine. In fact, the return of Jim’s memory isan implausible, trite occurrence. He sees Artie about to be shot and suddenly remembers who they both are.

The bigger twist is Crotty’s plan to replace the small pox vaccine with ordinary water. With small pox having wiped out the population, he can rebuild the country in his own image. While it may seem o under normal circumstances for a crook like him to have such grandiose visions, Asner plays it believably. Crotty is a psychotic genius.

“The Nit of the Amnesiac” does have its issues beyond ’Hollywood” amnesia and creating fictitious government agencies. Anachronisms include mentions of an ouija board (invented in 1901), Pinnochio (not published in the US until 1911) ad genocide (first coined in1944.) Pedantic complaints, ut I still have them. Nevertheless, “The Night of the Amnesiac” is a hihligt in the generally lackluster third season.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monday, October 18, 2010

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

That is Los Angeles Rams great Rosie Grier whom Jim is on the verge of shooting above. Grier is a voodoo influenced zombie named Tiny John. Jim does shoot him, but it does no good, and Tiny John throws Jim around like a rag doll. The scene is oe of the few times in the series they do not bother to hide Robert Conrad’s short 5’ 8” stature.

The appearance of Grier has another significant meaning for the series. A few months after “The Night of the Undead” aired, Grier became RFK’s bodyguard for his presidential campaign. He was guarding RFK’s wife Ethel on that fateful night at the Ambassador Hotel, but he was the one to subdue Sirhan Sirhan and take the gun away from him. The combination of RFK’s and MLK’s assassinations prompted an anyi-violence campaign which ultimately lead to The Wild Wild West being cancelled. We will get to that with more details in a few more days.

“The Night of the Undead” is the seemingly prerequisite foray into voodoo/occultism that any long running show in the late ’60’s/early ’70’s had to do. It is a bit of a mess that is saved by some genuinely scary elements by the television standards of the time.

Jim and Artie are investigating the disappearance of a professor when they stumble across a revenge plot between two doctors. Oe had his fiancee stolen years ago, so he plans to turn the other’s daughter into a mind-controlled slave so he can marry her instead. He is using slave labor to mine some element from beneath is house in order to turn people into these zombies. The voodoo rituals are designed to scare everyone away from the operation.

Our heroes stop the plan and rescue the girl before her nuptials in a duty, cobweb filled wedding party that has been sitting there since the original planned wedding some twenty years prior. There is a particularly disturbing touch to that element which sticks out most in my mind about the episode. I am also bemused by the mention by Jim that the doctor is planning to use his mined element to turn people into robots. I am quite certain there was no concept of robots in the 1870’s. a small gripe, but a ripe nonetheless.

“The Night of the Undead’ is just an average episode. The show has done horror elements etter in the past and will do so better in the future there aresome neat elements to the story, but not enough to make this one a classic.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Death Masks"

“The Night of the Death Masks’ is, if not the best episode of the third season, the one which sticks out the most for its intensity and creativity. The episode strays effectively from the usual formula for a completely surreal experience.

Emmet Stark, a psychotic criminal whom our heroes put away years ago, vowed reene on the two once he got out of prison. Now that he is free, he has Jim kidnapped, drugged, and placed in a ghost town where he interacts with various people who pop in and out. Artie is eventually lured there, too. As part of the revenge plan, they are to kill one another in a case of mistaken identity.

A key point is when Artie shoots Jim believing him to be someone else. Jim is faking because he has figured out stark is behind the plot, but Artie expresses grave sorrow or killing Jim. In one of the few instances in which their true feelings for each other are revealed, Artie says he loved Jim like a brother. It is a nice touch in a show that is often full of frivolous, liht-hearted adventure.

The same could be said of the episode as a whole. The tone is a surrealist nightmare meant to drive Jim and Artie to insane murder. It is as disturbing a journey for the viewer as it is for them. I thought it was a fascinating change of pace but if you are a fan of the general feel of the series, you may think you are watching a different show entirely. I suspect that fan either love or hate “The Night of the Death Masks.” I am obviously in the former group.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Underground Terror"

“The Night of the Underground Terror’ makes an interesting historical twist. It takes a notorious Civil War POW camp, obviously based on the Confederate prison at Andersonville, and switches it to the union side with all atrocities intact. Highly politically incorrect, no? That is assuming anyone knows anything about Andersonville these days. Or the Civil War, for that matter.

Jim and Artie are contacted in New Orleans by a group of former Confederate soldiers who were former prisoners. They have each been mutilated in horrible way, presumably by the torture they suffered at the camp. They have tracked down the escaped commandant, Col. Moseley, and want our heroes to catch and bring him to justice. They agree, considering Moseley has a court martial waiting for him over the atrocities he committed.

Our heroes steal Moseley away from his mansion, but are double-crossed by the former POW. They want to take matters into their own hands because they do not trust the military to bring true justice. They are still Confederates, after all. They take Moseley and Jim back to what is left of the POW camp for a show trial and quick execution.

Their true purpose is then revealed. They are neither crippled, nor former Confederates, but Union officers who were Moseley’s assistants in running the camp. Moseley had stolen a crate of gold for himself during the waning days of the war. They want to know were it is hidden, but could not go after Moseley themselves, so they conned our heroes into it. As far as plot twists for The Wild Wild West go, this is one of the better.

One does have to wonder about a few things. Why would Moseley sit on the gold for ten years without eer digging it up? How did he buy a mansion without ever having spent the gold? Was he not worried the former POW camp would be turn down and the gold discovered? The plan has its implausible elements.

Nevertheless, “The Night of the Underground Terror” is an entertaining episode. The twists are surprising. The story has a certain grittiness to it many episodes do not have. Moseley is played by veteran character actor Jeff Corey, who takes his second turn as a villain in the series. Corey makes a good villain, even in is 80’s on Babylon 5. Corey plays Moseley with the right amount of sadistic menace to mae you believe he gets his kicks from torturing POW

Ratig; *** (out of 5)

Friday, October 8, 2010

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

We are back to the old plot line of a two bit politician secretly using a private army to set himself up for higher office. This time around, it is a little more low rent. Instead of a governor wanting to be president, it is a mayor aiming for the Kansas governor’s mansion.

A group of masked outlaws known as the Vipers, riding in an armored wagon, have bee raiding towns all across Kansas. Jim is warning the sheriff of a tow that, according to the pattern of attacks, is likely the next target. Sure enough, the Vipers hit the town. Jim cannot stop them, but he dos kill one and discovers aclue the Viper are somehow connected to the town of Freedom, Kansas.

Freedom is the only local town to ot have been attacked by the Vipers. The town chalks up their good fortune to it law and order mayor and gun slinging sheriff. But if you cannot figure out the real reason is because the mayor and sheriff are behind the vipers, you have not een watching enough television. Good for you. The mayor has been using the vipers to ro banks for his campaign coffers. He plans one last raid in Freedom in which he will betray the Vipers by booby trapping their wagon. He will then ride his heroism in stopping them all the way to the governor’s mansion.

The plot is not much of a mystery eve though the mayor is not ’revealed” as the mater mind until the end of the third act. The episode is mostly an actioner, with Jim bein tricked into a boxing match tat takes up most of the second act, then being frame for murder ad hunted down when the match fails to ru him off. The armored waon, which is supposed to be the unstoppable key to the Vipers’ success, is not given a while lot of attention, or does it seem all that formidable. Jim and Artie tae care of it with a couple shots, actually.

The episode ends abruptly after a firefight with no wrap up whatsoever. It look like the episode was running long, so they just freeze framed the last shot and called it a day. If I had to guess, it is because the boxing sequence, which spilled into the street, wound up more elaborate than originally scripted. The fight was the biggest part of the episode, even it clearly did not need to be so drawn out. Got to make the fist fight quota somehow.

“The Night of the Vipers” is nothing special, but it is not bad. We have seen variations on the plot several times before, so it does not feel very fresh. But still there is a mindless fun in watching the constant fights and Jim’s daring escape from a coffin submerged in a river. You cannot think about this one too much, so mindless is the best way to ejoy it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Headless Woman"

“The Night of the Headless Woman” is one of my favorite episodes of the series. It sticks out among the other third season fare for its similarity to the far superior second season. By tat, I mean it has a weird plot, goofy villains, Jim in numerous fistfights, Artie in a humorous disguise, and a very special feeme fatale, second only to Michele Carey as far as they go.

See if you can catch al this: An Egyptian sheik is conspiring with the head of te San Francisco ports authority to breed, ship into the United States, and transport into the South super boll weevils that will destroy the entire cotton crop, leaving the two of them with a monopoly. They are transporting these boll weevils by wagon train in mannequins. One is stopped in the teaser and a female mannequin loses her head, revealing the boll weevils inside.

Jim n Artie are assigned to unravel the conspiracy. It is one of the better ones of the series. We do not find out the ports authority head is in on it until the fourth act. But a secondary objective develops which sends the episode into classic territory. Our heroes have to keep two super boll weevils from mating and creating a brand new species of highly destructive bugs. In order to do this, they have to fid the glass container separating the two love birds, er…bugs. How is that for earning a day’s pay?

Ricard Anderson play the ports authority head about six years before giving marching orders to Steve Austen and Jaime Summers. Ah, but the femme fatale is his daughter. She is played y Dawn Wells, whom you may recall came in at #21 on my Alltime Favorites list.It is a misnomer to call her a femme fatale here. She is dear, sweet Mary Ann all over. The poor girl has no idea what kind of man her daddy really is.

All that combines for an episode you cannot possibly dislike. It ha everything there is to like about The Wild Wild West, san Dr. Miguelito Loveless. The episode marks a subtle shift back to the kinds of plots the show was known for in the first two seasons. There are still a couple more straightforward western stories to go, but the shift back to basics that will go full blast in the wonderfully weird fourth season is underway.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ronald D. Moore Pitching Remake of The Wild Wild West

Interesting timing, considering I have been running through the series for the last two months. Does Ronald D. Moore read the Eye? Can I get a creative consultant credit on the potential series if he does? I would be more than happy to earn my keep by nixing ideas like casting a rapper as James West or making the new Artemus Gordon a woman, because you just know he wants to do that.

Moore's pitch for a new series comes on the heels of the success of the new Hawaii 5-0. So we have another case of jittery Hollywood feeling it necessary to go back to the well instead of trying something new. I cannot knock them too much for it. New stuff has not had legs as of late.

Then again, neither have clones of The Wild Wild West. Steampunk oaters like The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Legend have not lasted past a season each. The awful 1999 film has to have left a bad taste in fans' mouths, too. It certainly has mine.

Moore has a good track record, however. I am a big fan of Deep Space Nine and Battlestar Galactica. If the show comes to pass, I will give it a shot. Something tells me this is not going to fly, though. Can you really do a western in today's politically correct climate? Will the coveted 18-49 year old watch it? will stubborn fans forgive the movie enough to try it? I have my doubts.

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

“The Night of the Arrow” return to the theme we had running earlier this season that Mexicans and Indians are nothing but trouble. Do not call me bigoted, now. The writers came up wit this stuff. Not me.

Ulysses S. Grant personally order Jim and Artie to a remote fort commanded by Gen. Titus Baldwin. Baldwin is a hero in a past Indian war and very popular among the people. He is an ambitious sort who ha designs on the White House. He thinks he can get there on a river of Indian blood. Towards that end, several of his subordinates dress up like Indians and attack targets in order to stir up conflict.

Our heroes are definitely in the way as they unravel the charade. The plan gets changed to murdering the local Indian chief, Strong Bear, and pinning it on Jim. This does effectively stir the Indians up until Arty, posing as the resurrected Strong Bear advises them from the Happy Hunting Ground war is a bad idea.

Indians come across as a savage, dumb, and superstitious lot in ’The Night of the Arrow.” Baldwin is painted as a racist for his views on Indians, no doubt, I suppose it is evenhanded, since everyone on the frontier is made out to be a stereotype. “The Night of the Arrow” is Blazing Saddles without a laugh lines.

It is also a ru of the mill episode. We have seen these stereotypical characters before in previous episodes. Baldwin turns out to be an oblivious cream puff controlled by his XO and daughter, who wants to be the belle of the White House enough to help spark off a war to get there. The episode ends in a big fistfight with it mentioned in passing that everyone was arrested and Baldwin resigned because of his subordinates’ actions under his nose.

One bright spot is Artie’s disguise. He poses as a former Confederate wo is now in the US Cavalry, but still pines for the Glorious South. It is one of his more humorous characters.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Running Death"

I have generally considered the more western themed episodes of the third season it and miss. ’The Night of the Running Death” is definitely a hit, in spite of some flaws, ecause the plot twist is genuinely surprising.

Jim meets with a contact in a dark hotel room only to discover he has had the life nearly choked out of him. He can only utter two words--“Enzo” and “silver”--before he dies. Jim has the fight a ambush from the murderer. It will be the first of five fist fights he will have with the guy in various disguises.

Enzo is a notorious European assassin. Jim and Artie assume he is on his way to Denver because his girlfriend is part of a wagon train headed west. The passengers are a menagerie of circus performers, a casino owner, several dancing girls, and a den mother. Our heroes join up attempting to catch Enzo before he can kill whoever his target is. Along te way, two girls traveling with them are murdered.

The plot thickens when they get to Denver. The two assume ’Silver’ refers to the governor, as Colorado is the Silver State. They are incorrect, as they learn a foreign military officer is in Denver to retrieve a young princess named Silva who has ben studying in the United states, but must return to assume the throne.

Enzo turns out to e the den mother in drag. His girlfriend and assistant is the second girl supposed killed on the trail. They killed the first girl in order to avoid any questions about her faked death. Our heroes foil the attempt to kill the princess.

The actor playing Enzo/den other is in drag for most of the episode, but it is impossible to tell it is a man. Talk about The Crying Game. I am darn near bind, so your mileage may vary on how convincing the ruse was.

The twist was a genuine surprise. It does feel od that we do not learn about the princess until the three act cliffhanger, however. The revelation comes out of the blue ad that is a little sloppy. So is the unusual comedy bit that ends the episode when it runs a few minutes short.. Still, it is a fun episode to watch regardless of a couple missteps.

Ratings: *** (out of 5)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Seth McFarlane Got Hate Mail Before Rush Limaugh Family Guy Episode Aired

Seth McFarlane, creator and head honcho of Family Guy, informed Rush Limbaugh this morning he was receiving vicious hate mail from progressives even before last night’s episode aired because they feared he would make Limbaugh and conservatism look appealing. Talk about the tolerance of the left. At least watch the episode first, all right?

I tuned in because of all the hype. The episode was funny, more tasteful than many of my previous experiences with the show, and an enjoyable half hour. I note many conservatives are upset at some of the jokes, but it as been my experience staunch conservatives (and fundamentalist Christians, for that matter) lack the ability to recognize satire is an exaggeration to allow you to honestly look at things in a new way. Frankly, conservatives ought to be a little less uptight and develop a sense of humor about their beliefs rather than live in a state of constant offense when they get tweaked.

You may recall I said last year the Down’ Syndrome Girl joke about Sarah Palin was generally tasteless, but had a hard time figuring out how Sarah Palin or her supporters could take personal offense. There was certainly a difference between Down’s Syndrome Girl saying her mother was the former governor of Alaska and David Letterman making a statutory rape joke about Willow Palin and the new York Yankees. Jst a little more discernment before taking offense is all I ask.

As for the progressive fans of Family Guy, this does prove they are looking towards the show as a weapon against conservatives in the culture war. That takes what little fun there is in the show clear out of it. There you have the progressive mindset of Hollywood--tell everyone the proper way of thing. No wonder the place is rapidly dying.

Bottom line for folk of all political persuasions--you are all taking politics way to seriously. Keep it in its place--as a very small, but necessary part of your life and off the freaking television!

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Iron Fist"

This episode should more appropriately be titled “The Night of the Iron Hand,’ as Count Draja’s prosthesis made of iron is not molded into a fist. Rather, it is shaped like a karate chopping hand, which is apt, since he uses it for that several times during scuffles with Jim. Count Draja is played with cunning menace by Spock’s daddy himself, Mark Lenard.

Jim and Artie are assigned to escort Count Draja of Bosnia to Washington for extradition. He stole a half million dollars in gold from his country ad buried it somewhere in the Arizona Territory. You may recall the Croatians from "The Night of the Wolf” were also living as exiled fugitives in the Arizona Territory. It must be a popular destination for disgraced Eastern Europeans.

They split up to keep the Count from retrieving the gold. Artie poses as the Count on the train ride to Washington while Jim and the Count rough it out of the territory on horses. Complications ensue, of course. The train is hijacked by gunmen hired by Draja’s main squeeze from the old country. A ’reunion” with her threatens to blow his cover. Meanwhile, Jim and the Count are pursued by are relentlessly pursued by vigilantes who discover who the count is and are seeing reward for his capture.

Along the way, we get gunfights, fistfights, karate chops, karate kicks, chases on horseback, explosions, and a sandstorm. Artie throws the bad guys off the moving train, too. “The Night of the Iron Fist” is a particularly violent episode. It is also just average as these things go. There is not much creative about the action or the inevitable double crosses that are meat to thicken the plot. The good guys do not seem interested in recovering the gold, either. You would think Bosnia would want that back.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

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

“The Night of the Turncoat” adds the naturally logical extra element to a plot line that has been used before. Jim is manipulated y a villain into joining his cause. This time, however, Jim goes deeper into the role of traitor than he ever has before. His act makes for one of the better episodes of the season.

When the episode begins, Jim is being systematically discredited by persons unknown. He foils a bank robbery that was not actually a bank robbery, is falsely accused a beating up a preacher, and winds up “engaged” to an international jewel thief. Because of his apparent erratic and irrational behavior, he is discharged from the Secret Service. Alone and adrift, he is kidnapped by his manipulator.

He turns out to be Elisha Calamander, a high end thief who steals objects d’art for wealthy clients. He offers Jim $ 50,000 for his special skills in stealing something far more valuable than art--an unstable element that, when exposed to certain conditions, becomes a deadly nerve gas. Trilicium, as it is called, was stole from a government lab a month ago. Calamander wants Jim to steal it back from the thieves.

Fortunately, Jim’s act is all a ruse. While he goes through the elaborate process of stealing the Tillicum from a container at the bottom of a salt water tank at a certain temperature to keep the Tillicum from converting to a gaseous state, Artie is on is way to save him.

“The Night of the Turncoat’ is a fun, action-filled romp tat would probably have fit better I the second season, but I am glad is within the third to remind me of how good the show was when it had more colorful villains plotting big schemes and will be again in the fourth season. John McGiver is great as Calamander. His performance has echoes of Sydney Greenstreet. Jim spends a lot of time dodging sharks and other nasty aquatic critters while in the tank. Aside from a clearly visible cameraman in a diving suit at one point, it is a very well done action sequence.

I like ’The Night of the Turncoat” a lot.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Legion of Death"

“The Night of the Legion of Death” is a run of the mill episode. It is very bland and made worse by the large umber of glaring errors within. The Wild Wild West has committed some hum diners in the past that I have easily forgiven because I liked the episode as a whole. As such is not the case here, the scalpel comes out for a brutal dissection.

The episode starts out promising. Artie is captured and condemned to hang when he goes undercover to investigate why a territorial governor has bee imprisoned. Jim rescues him from the allows in an exciting teaser, ten has to escape himself y fighting off the new governor’s private army. Gov. Brubaker recently came to power. E is running the territory with a iron fist. It is up to our heroes to arrest him before he can set himself on the path to the presidency.

How do they go about this? Why, by walking right up to Brubaker and serving an arrest warrant. How else? The act sets into motion a show trial, several fistfights, and two log chases before it is revealed Brubaker is actually a cupcake. Te real power behind the throne is his secretary, Deke Montgomery. Our heroes go back to arrest him instead, only to learn he has been exposed as a sadistic fruitcake to the people. Now they will not support him or the quivering mess of a governor.

I said there were errors, did I not? Jim saves Artie while he is in the town square. He is then directed by the governor’s mistress to a secret tunnel that leads to the back of the governor’s mansion. That just so happens to be where he tied up his horse. Really? Jim’s hairstyle changes from scene to scene even though he would have no chance to restyle it. Very bad editing there. The Legion of Death have very distinctive green and lack uniforms, but when they are chasing the wagon driven by our heroes, it is generic stock footage in which they are being pursued by normally clothed bandits. If that was not bad enough, Jim hides I one of those vaults with sliding slabs to store cadavers at one point. Hecan open the drawer he is in from the inside. A moment later, he knocks out the coroner and stuffs him in one of those drawers. While Jim could easily escape, the coroner is unable to open his drawer. There is no explanation why. And so on.

A couple interesting points of note. One, Deke is played by famous character actor Anthony Zerbe. Among his many roles over the years has been as Adm. Dougherty in Star Trek: Insurrection. While many actors have crossed oer from TOS, Zerbe is one of a very few to have appeared with TNG crew. Two, while the territory is never named, the only one to achieve statehood during the term of Ulysses S. Grant was the Colorado Territory. If so, then Colorado has been the subject of three of the last four episodes.

I would be inclined to skip this one if I were not a completes. There is not much to recommend it.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Cut-Throats"

“The Night of the Cut-Throats” goes back to the theme o traditional western. This could have easily been an episode of Bonanza or Gunsmoke. That does not make it a bad episode, but it is an odd fit considering most of The Wild Wild West.

Jim and Artie receive a letter from a contact claiig he has information vital to the Secret Service, but he can only tell them in person. When they get to his hometown of New Athens, they discover he has been killed and the townsfolk are leaving in droves to avoid a bunch of outlaws coming to burn the place down.

The outlaws are associated with a guy named Mike Trayne. Trayne was sent to prison years ago when he killed a man for allegedly having a fling with is girl. He blames everyone in the town for his incarceration, so he has arranged for it to be destroyed just as his life was. Our heroes are the only thing that stands in the way of its complete destruction.

There is a twist--the mayor, who has supposedly been bravely standing up to Trayne and his men, is secretly in cahoots with them to rob New Athens of all money. Burning the town down will cover up all evidence of his involvement. He gets his in the end, along with Trayne and his men, during the big shoot out which takes up nearly the entire final act.

“The Night of the Cut-Throats’ feels out of place, but is not a bad episode. There is no big villain. Trayne is just a cruel man out for revenge. There is no romance for our eroes. No gadgetry. It may not be typical fare for the series, but the episode is well down with an interesting twist. I did not see the mayor as a traitor until he actually turned. I have to give the writer props for that one.

Rati: *** (out of 5)