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)

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