Wednesday, June 7, 2006
The Wild Wild West Season 1 DVD (1965)
One of the most intriguing TV spin-offs of the 1960s spy craze, The Wild Wild West was a genre-bending espionage-western starring Robert Conrad in his signature role as West -- James West, the frontier 007. With his partner, master of disguise Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) -- the "Q" to West's Bond -- he foils diabolical plots and fights the bad guys. One nemesis is the diminutive Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn), who makes a memorable first impression in "The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth." And that's Richard Kiel, more popularly known as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me, as Loveless's menacing, mute henchman, Voltaire. Like The Avengers, The Wild Wild West could get downright bizarre, such as in "Night of the Puppeteer," in which West defends himself before a jury of marionettes, and "The Night of the Druid's Blood," featuring Don Rickles as a sinister magician. Among the more traditional episodes is "The Night of the Double-Edge Knife," in which Cheyenne Indians are blamed for a series of attacks on railroad workers. Guest stars include Leslie Nielsen (playing it straight as an embittered Army general), Katharine Ross, Elisha Cook Jr., and John Drew Barrymore (Drew's dad).
Political correctness probably dictated use of the tamer animated opening credit sequence in which West merely kisses a knife-wielding femme fatale into submission. But the original opening, in which West clocks his attacker, is included as an extra feature. Conrad's audio introductions for each episode are fun, but he's a little too free and easy with spoilers. After the debacle that was the Will Smith feature film, it's great to have the original series available on DVD.