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Monday, January 24, 2011

From Beyond Television: The Wild, Wild West--Night of the Steel Assassin


THE WILD, WILD WEST: Season 1 episode 16 (aired January 7th, 1966)


Guest stars: John Dehner, Sue Ane Langdon

Directed by Lee Katzin

"...A really remarkable man. By all the rules in the book, Torres should have died in that explosion. By all the rules in the book, Torres should have died after each succeeding operation."

A vengeful man who fought during the Civil War returns to wreak revenge on his unit that left him for dead after a massive explosion. One of the men is President Grant. Jim and Arte investigate the series of murders that are soon linked to Colonel Torres, an exceptionally intelligent madman with over half his body made up of metal. He plots to use both his hypnotic powers as well as remote controlled rockets to assassinate the US President.

This was the very first episode of WWW I ever saw and instantly made me a fan. The first part of the show rests firmly in the realm of horror, but by the midway point, it switches over to an intrigue-revenge tale. There's some great atmosphere in the first portion of the show. West's first meeting with the brutish Torres occurs right at the beginning as Torres snaps the neck of one of his victims. Jim fires all his rounds at him (including one directly into his forehead!) with some of the shots peeling away his skin revealing metal underneath.

The gadgets include a lock pick hidden within Jim's lapel and a remote controlled pair of rockets devised by Torres to kill both the President and Jim West. This results in one of the most tense sequences in the episode where Jim must try and deter the rockets using his balance while hanging from the ceiling. He manages to direct both rockets towards him (by swinging and kicking the controls--one rocket for him, the other for the President) and evades death by using his agility. Arte figures into the climax by disguising himself as the President.

John Dehner plays Torres with a cold, gleefully detached fervor. The make up effects are extraordinary and extend to his voice which sounds garbled due to the number of operations he has undergone. Dehner is a familiar face on dozens of television shows such as THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW among them.

Director Lee Katzin was no stranger to great shows and 'B' movies including a literal bee movie entitled TERROR OUT OF THE SKY (1978; a sequel to the superior THE SAVAGE BEES from 1976) about killer bees who menace people trapped on a bus. Katzin also helmed the late entry Post Apocalyptic movie WORLD GONE WILD (1988) starring Bruce Dern and his decapitating hubcaps taking on cannibals and a religious fanatic villain played by Adam Ant.



J. Astro said...

I'd fucking looove to see this.

venoms5 said...

The show, or this episode, J? I got two other episodes in addition to this one up now. This is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Seasons 2 through 4 were in color. I been going through them all again watching an episode or two before I go to sleep. I'm almost finished with season two again. I'm curious to see how the supposedly upcoming new version stands up.

dfordoom said...

A great series that still holds up remarkably well.

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