The Wild Wild West Revisited & More Wild Wild West: Double Feature
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (14th July 2017).
The Film

Some historical background is necessary before we begin with the synopsis of the films; before the term Steampunk was even invented, there was the television series, "The Wild Wild West" that aired for four seasons (104 episodes) and was a combination of genres: the Western with a James Bond flavor; Michael Garrison, the show’s creator is quoted as saying “James Bond on Horseback.” Basically it was two characters, both secret service agents, James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemis Gordon (Ross Martin) enlisted to protect the then president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant; the time period was the 1860’s, and there was a constant stream of megalomaniacs that threatened the world’s safety. Most notable amongst them was the diminutive villain, Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn) who starred in ten episodes before his death. The show was highly rated, and regularly featured a number of advanced spy gadgets, a scene where Artemis was in disguise, and of course, some feminine charmer that could not resist James West. And this was 1965-1969! I was a huge fan of the show, and it was with great anticipation that I opened this DVD up and sat back to be entertained.

It is 1885 and James West and Artemis Gordon have both been dragged out of retirement by Robert T. Malone, aka “Skinny” (Harry Morgan) because it has been revealed that some fiend has replaced four of the world’s top leaders with lookalike mechanical clones. Their main nemesis, Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless has died five years earlier, but he had a son and a daughter, and they are the ones behind this scheme. Miguelito Loveless, Jr. (Paul Williams) sporting a goatee and mustache chews the scenery with gusto, while his sister Penelope (Trisha Noble) makes doe eyes at the camera. The retired duo ease into this one like they were slipping into a hot bath and director Burt Kennedy ushers this film along with more comedy than feats of daring do. While West still looks fit and in shape, gone are the clever gadgets of Gordon, even though he does eventually appear in drag, well what do you want for a made for Television movie? Hell, I mean it was 1979 and pop culture was a tad more restrained than it is now. The tepid plots limps along, barely holding my interest, as the two make their way aboard their specially equipped locomotive to the town of Wagon Gap, Arizona. After hanging out in the saloon waiting for something to happen, the men are slipped a mickey and are drugged. They come to in the underground lair of Loveless, Jr. and he unveils his master plan of substituting the heads of state with mechanical clones. Gasp! This has about as much intricacies as an original "Batman" (1966-1968) episode plot. He reveals that he has imprisoned four monarchs in his dungeon: Queen Victoria, Nicholas, the Czar of Russia, the King of Spain, and the president of the United States Grover Cleveland, played by television stalwart Wilford Brimley!

Next Loveless Jr. introduces his two-mechanical people, which he refers to as his “$600 dollar people;” was this a shaded reference to the Lee Majors show “The Six Million Dollar Man?” (1974-1978) Who cares! The duo turns out to be none other than 70’s has-been’s Shields and Darnell doing their hackneyed robotic shtick once again. Loveless Jr. cackles wildly, and the men are escorted out to the desert where they are witness to an atomic blast, complete with mushroom cloud. The duo is then sent back to Washington where they are instructed to deliver hand written notes of explanation to the three countries embassies and explain the situation to “Skinny” Malone. Conrad and Martin try their best to re-capture some of the charm of the series, but it is not their fault that the plot is incredibly lame and the direction is purely pedestrian. Unfortunately, this television special did well in the ratings and Conrad and Martin were once again brought out of retirement in the sequel, "More Wild Wild West" (1980), with the same director and writer producing an even worse episode, if that was even possible. The ending of this episode features a cut to present day Washington, DC, and Malone makes an announcement that what we had just seen was a file dug up from the files of the secret service and that there could possibly be more bombs out hidden in the world. I yawned and hit eject.

In the sequel, which was to be a re-match between Loveless Jr. and the duo, Williams wasn’t available for the film, so instead we get Jonathan Winters as Albert Paradine II, and a special appearance by noir heavy Victor Buono as a thinly veiled portrait of Henry Kissinger, Henry Messenger. Once again, we have the standard lunatic threatening world peace using an atomic bomb and the power to turn invisible. The show begins with various characters, all played by Winters, being blown to bits; it is later revealed that these were Paradine’s four brothers and he, of course, was behind the assassinations.

Winters constantly mugs for the camera and tries to bring some humor to the taciturn events and Conrad and Martin play it straight. The plot, as thin as it is, is incredibly mediocre and I felt very bored watching this episode. Two green skinned muscle heads are introduced as The Savage Brothers (looking like very cheap imitations of Lou Ferrigno’s "The Incredible Hulk" (1977-1982)) and are the henchmen for Paradine. West and Martin are suspended by their feet above a circus cage of tigers, and they must make their escape. Paradine’s plan is to attend a peace conference in Washington, but he wants to incite a world war between the various participants. After West and Martin make their escape they travel to Washington looking for Dr. Messenger’s briefcase which contains a bomb. Paradine, using a transporting device he invented, appears to inform the agents that the entire room will be blown up. Of course, the device fails and Paradine is handcuffed to Messenger, but they both disappear. Gordon discovers Paradine’s invisibility device and disposes of it in a lake; the invisible pair of villains are heard (but not seen) looking for the device in the lake as West and Gordon depart in Paradine’s balloon. The pair floats off and thankfully there were no more reprisals made due to the death of Ross Martin in 1981.

I breathed a sigh of relief after this one was over because it was extremely taxing and the direction was ham-fisted and uninspiring. This is truly only for die-hard fans of the original series and collectors.

Video

Both TV movies are presented in their original airing ratios of 1.33:1 full screen, and it looks like a dated television program, which it is. Colors are acceptable but nothing to write home about either.

Audio

Both TV movies feature English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio, the only bright spot in this package is the introductory theme composed by Richard Markowitz, which sounds great. The dialogue is clean but much like the video, the audio is nothing to write home about either. Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

The only extras are two glorified TV spots for the programs included which runs a total of 1 minute.

Overall

Watching these TV movies is time wasting three hours with a re-hash of the successful television program. Plot and direction are very boring and seem insipid.

The Film: C Video: B Audio: B Extras: D Overall: C-

 


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