BATTLE STATIONS, FANTASY & FUNNY BUSINESS
THE WILD, WILD WEST Season 1 episode 13 (aired December 10th, 1965)
THE NIGHT OF THE TORTURE CHAMBER ***
Guest stars: Alfred Ryder
Directed by Alan Crosland Jr.
Jim and Arte are dispatched to protect Governer Bradford who, unbeknownst to them, has been kidnapped and replaced by an imposter. After several unsuccessful attempts on Jim's life, the duo discover it's a plot by Professor Horatio Bolt, a mannered, yet mad art dealer with plans to extort state money to fund his ever growing art collection as well as lay his hands on the Mona Lisa.
This relatively simple and silly plotline manages to turn into one of the most fun first season excursions and one of the more memorable villains solely for the reason he isn't trying to take over a state, assassinate anyone, but utilizes elaborate traps in an attempt to get rid of West and Gordon to obtain the paintings he so richly desires. It's a droll performance by Alfred Ryder (Professor Crater from 'The Man Trap' episode of STAR TREK) as the meticulously reserved art collector, Professor Horatio Bolt.
His obsession with famous paintings proves to be his downfall and ultimately, not much of a match for West and Arte, but he's still humorous to watch. Arte has a bit of fun with him when he shows up disguised as faux art critic, Gaston LaRusse of Sorbon who convinces the villainous art collector his paintings are all fakes! It's a humorous sequence watching Arte play bolt right into his hands and even funnier to see Bolt laugh a sigh of relief that his mass collage of art are not forgeries; this is far more important to him than the fact that he has been outsmarted by the government agents.
Horatio's methods of dispatch include placing our heroes in a wine press and also a booby trapped room where his paintings are kept. This sequence would be copied in Gianfranco Parolini's SABATA in 1969. To throw Horatio off his game, West takes a Rembrandt off the wall to hold both Bolt and his giant mechanical crossbow at bay. There are a few fight scenes with West and Arte taking on multiple villains (and as usual, Arte gets knocked out quickly) and Jim jumps through yet another window to escape death. Sadly, this was the last Fred Frieberger episode (he contributed ten shows on THE WILD, WILD WEST). Sigrid Valdis (real name Patricia Crane, the wife of Bob Crane from HOGAN'S HEROES) plays Miss Piecemeal, a role she previously essayed in episode three, 'The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth', the first of ten appearances by Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless.
H.M. Wynant plays Durand, Bolt's main thug. Wynant appears in a few other WEST episodes and will be recognizable as the lead in the classic TZ episode, 'The Howling Man' as a stranded man who finds the Devil locked away in a hermitage. Director Alan Crosland Jr. became one of the most prolific directors of THE WILD, WILD WEST taking command of 11 episodes. Despite a fairly weak villain, this is played to the characters advantage and there are other elements that make this show quite a bit of fun.
TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOR ANOTHER PROGRAM!