FROM BEYOND TELEVISION: BATTLE STATIONS, FANTASY & FUNNY BUSINESS
THE WILD, WILD WEST season 1 episode 3
THE NIGHT THE WIZARD SHOOK THE EARTH ****
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.
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