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)

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