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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From Beyond Television: The Wild, Wild West--The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth


THE WILD, WILD WEST season 1 episode 3


Guest stars: Michael Dunn, Leslie Parrish

Directed by Bernard Kowalski

Jim and Arty fail to protect professor Nielsen en route to Washington carrying plans for a new type of explosive. Unknown to the two secret agents, another man also possesses the blueprint for this potent weapon--Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless, a diminutive and ambitious villain. Requesting a meeting with Loveless, James West learns that Loveless wants the governor to hand over half of California as his own territory and if not, thousands of people will be killed from carefully placed explosives.

'The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth' is one of the best shows of this series and encapsulates everything that made this 'James Bond in the Old West' special--superheroes, larger than life villains, gadgets, pretty girls and an increasing propensity for violence that, while tame by today's standards, is fairly strong for an old television program from the late 1960's.

This was the first episode to introduce the midget madman, Dr. Loveless into this four season series. The first season is the only one shot in B/W and the dark nature of the initial season befits the stark two color photographic palette. Michael Dunn made a magnificent first impression here both during his opening scene of violence and his next scene showing him getting the best of a few burly wrestlers(!) Dunn played this most famous villain over the span of ten episodes spread out over the four season run. There were to have been more shows with the enormously intelligent, yet half pint purveyor of world conquest, but failing health meant Dunn was done after his ten show tenure. He provided the most formidable of agent Wests nemesis' during the shows run.

The gadgets seen here include a blow gun with highly explosive darts and a stagecoach armed with ejector seats and choking devices. Richard Kiel, Jaws in two James Bond movies, plays Voltaire, the giant subordinate to Dr. Loveless who assisted him in four endeavors. The director of this episode, Bernard Kowalski, helmed a few trashy exploitation pictures--NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST (1958), ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (1959) and SSSSSSS (1973).

Season two will be of particular interest to horror fans as nearly every episode features some type of fantasy/horror storyline. This supremely entertaining show is one of the most fondly remembered series' on American television. Far ahead of its time for its impressive stunt work and fight sequences, it was pulled for being too violent, but while it lasted, it delivered numerous examples of great escapist entertainment. For an overview of the show and its four seasons, click here.



Fang Shih-yu said...

Another good TV program where the [earlier] b&w episodes were better than the [later] color ones!

How many shows seemed to lose something when they made the transition? There was Adventures of Superman, Lost in Space, Voyage To the Bottom of the Sea and The Andy Griffith Show, among others.

"Time...marches on!"

venoms5 said...

The only season of WWW I didn't like that much was season 3. It was the least sci fi of the lot. All of them are pretty much different. The first season is overly dark, the second is all horror and sci fi, the third is more like a traditional western show and the fourth has more fantasy, but also lots of acrobatics in the fight scenes.

For me, I like the color ones as much as the B/W ones. But I totally agree about Andy Griffith show--those color episodes just didn't have the magic of the B/W ones. It was almost like it wasn't even the same program.

Fang Shih-yu said...

Come to think of it, I over-generalized my statement, venoms5!

Color didn't turn all shows that made the transition into rubbish, but it sure feels like it! Gilligan's Island, My Three Sons and The Avengers are three shows (among many) that didn't lose any momentum to color!

As a kid, I was drawn in to the color Superman shows for the lighter tone they had, and the first b&w season turned me off; it would be years before I came to appreciate them as well!

When Capt. Crane and Admiral Nelson were up against puppets on VTtBotS, I abandoned that sub! (LOVE that Flying Sub, however!)

The moment Don Knotts signed up with Universal to do movies (because he thought the last [b&w] season of TAGS would be the last one, period), it affected Andy Griffith...the show and the man! In those later episodes, the man acted more like Angry Taylor than Andy Taylor; you'd swear the man DIDN'T want to be there sometimes! And don't get me started on Warren(Jack Burns)!

As for the WWW movie with Will Smith, what a wasted opportunity!

Skeme Richards said...

Another classic TV show I used to watch as a kid. I agree with the b&w episodes as well but for me I enjoyed Voyage to the bottom of the sea in color a little more than the b&w ones.

venoms5 said...

@ Fang: The Andy episodes where Knotts came back were pretty funny I thought. There's a few good episodes in there, but mostly I could do without them color ones. Oh, yeah, the less said about 'Warren' the better, and the spin off MAYBERRY RFD. I saw that WWW movie in the theater and cursed the day it came out, lol.

@ Skeme: I really need to pick up that VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA set. I only vaguely remember it on television. I did see a few of them, though. LAND OF THE GIANTS is another one I'd like to get a hold of, but that set is so damn expensive!

Skeme Richards said...

I grabbed an open Land of the giants boxset from ebay a couple years back brand new unopened for $65. The boxset with the cage, lobby cards etc. Definitely a worth purchase!

venoms5 said...

I found one of them, too, on ebay, but didn't get a chance to bid before it got gone, lol.

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