TV on DVD Flashback: The Wild Wild West [Second Season]

Our game, Mr. West! You’re not playing our game. These constant attempts to escape only annoy me and interrupt my work.” — Doctor Loveless

Many people are confused when they see a TV series called The Wild Wild West listed under the Sci-Fi and fantasy category. I mean, it has cowboys and horses and six shooters and old steam engines — it’s a western, right? Well, sort of. The Wild Wild West is likely the most cross genre show ever made. It’s a western, spy thriller, action adventure, fantasy with elements of sci-fi and the supernatural thrown in for good measure. Let’s put it this way, Jules Verne would have been proud.

James West (Robert Conrad, Baa Baa Black Sheep) is one of President Grant’s top secret service agents. A former military officer, he’s sharp, fearless, excellent at hand-to-hand combat and he’s a walking arsenal! (Can you imagine him going through the metal detectors at the airport?) He is partnered with the theatrical Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), master of disguise and gadget-man extraordinaire. Together, they travel the west in a souped up spiffy private train, tracking down all manner of vicious villains from killers to counterfeiters, assassins and evil masterminds plotting to take over the world.

The Complete Second Season DVD includes 28 “Nights” for your enjoyment:

Disc One
•”The Night of the Eccentrics”
•”The Night of the Golden Cobra”
•”The Night of the Raven”
• “The Night of the Big Blast”

Disc Two
•”The Night of the Returning Dead”
•”The Night of the Flying Pie Plate”
• “The Night of the Poisonous Posey”
•”The Night of the Bottomless Pit”

Disc Three
•”The Night of the Watery Death”
•”The Night of the Green Terror”
•”The Night of the Ready Made Corpse”
•”The Night of the Man-Eating House”

Disc Four
•”The Night of the Skulls”
•”The Night of the Infernal Machines”
•”The Night of the Lord of Limbo”
•”The Night of the Tottering Tontine”

Disc Five
•”The Night of the Feathered Fury”
•”The Night of the Gypsy Peril”
•”The Night of the Tartar”
•”The Night of the Vicious Valentine”

Disc Six
•”The Night of the Brain”
•”The Night of the Deadly Bubble”
•”The Night of the Surreal McCoy”
•”The Night of the Colonel’s Ghost”

Disc Seven
•”The Night of the Deadly Blossom”
•”The Night of the Cadre”
•”The Night of the Wolf”
•”The Night of the Bogus Bandits”

The second season of The Wild Wild West bursts on to the screen in living color and boy, does it look fantastic on DVD. The production designer reigns supreme, doling out heaping helpings of vibrant jewel tone blues, purples, and greens along with rich velvet reds and deep chocolate browns. Given the fantasy nature of the show, the switch to color really makes this season pop.

The tried and true formula is still here. Madman leaves clues to a crime. West and Gordon chase it down. A lovely lady gets involved. West ends up in a clever trap (rivaling any of those seen on Batman) and he escapes at the last moment, just in time to defeat the evil and get the girl. You might think such a staid formula would grow tiresome after awhile but it doesn’t for the same reason that James Bond movies don’t.

What keeps the show interesting from week to week are the larger-than-life villains and often anachronistic storylines. Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn, Ship of Fools), everyone’s favorite mini-villain is on hand for four episodes this season. Two of those episodes truly push the scifi/fantasy envelope, one dealing with a shrink-ray and the other a machine that sends people into paintings for safekeeping. On the other hand, “The Night of the Green Terror” has bioterrorism at the base of its storyline, a plot that might have seemed fanciful in 1966 but really hits home to the modern viewer.

My favorite episodes in this season are — surprise, surprise — supernatural based.

“The Night of the Returning Dead” is about a ghostly confederate solider who’s looking for revenge. Two fourths of the Rat Pack, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford guest star in this dark tale that’s more about man’s inhumanity to man than it is about spooky spirits.

“The Night of the Man-Eating House” is another ghost story but this one is complete with a haunted house that cries when wounded, cobwebs that reappear when knocked down and an aging madman who’s getting younger by the minute. Don’t miss a second of this one because it’s got a sweet little twist at the end.

Long before Match.com, there was “The Night of the Vicious Valentine”. Agnes Moorehead (Bewitched) commands attention as a matronly matchmaker who has more than love and marriage in mind.

Always known for fantastical plot lines, the second season of The Wild Wild West includes aliens (“The Night of the Flying Pie Plate”), gypsies (“The Night of the Gypsy Peril”), Cossacks (“The Night of the Tartar”), a trip to the circus (“The Night of the Eccentrics”) and a visit with Boris Karloff as a maharaja who wants West to tutor his sons on the fine art of assassination (“The Night of the Golden Cobra”).

The Wild Wild West is a crazy mix of action, drama, comedy, with elements of the western, spy, scifi and fantasy genres thrown in for good measure. In some ways it’s a lot like the Austin Powers movies in that it’s more a parody of the spy genre than an actual spy show. But even though the show isn’t made to be taken seriously, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t made well. It’s clever, good-looking, exciting and . . .well. . .wild in the sixties sense of the word.

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