Classic & Cult Television: The Wild Wild West

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B000ERVJKO_01__SS500_SCLZZZZZZZ_V57034663_.jpgOne of the most popular cult television shows from the 1960s was also one of the most original and audacious ever produced.  Think of a combination of the western and spy thriller genres (the latter especially as depicted by the James Bond 007 movie series) with beautiful women, colorful over-the-top villians and enough anachronistic inventions to mow down an army, then set it in the 1870s United States during the Grant admistration and you've got The Wild Wild West.

Riding the crest of the 007-inspired spy craze of the 60s, The Wild Wild West starred Robert Conrad as United States Secret Service agent James West, and Ross Martin as his partner, master-of-disguise/inventor (and sometime comic relief)  Artemus Gordon.  On special assignment from President Ulysses S. Grant himself, West and Gordon would travel the American Southwest on their own private (and weapon-laden) train, battling various criminal masterminds, mad scientists and (being a western) outlaws that threatened the country (and often the world).  West, when not romancing the various femme fatales he came across, would usually foil the villians' plans by use of the many gadgets he'd carry (like concealed throwing knives, miniature bombs, a ring that could cut any kind of glass, and a derringer hidden literally up his jacket sleeve) or by single-handedly taking on the villians' henchmen (usually 5 or 6) in a massive physical brawl and knocking them all out!  In fact, until the late Bruce Lee introduced Western audiences to the Martial Arts some years later, The Wild Wild West was the place to see the most vigorious fight scenes ever choreographed on film!

The series ran on CBS from 1965 to 1969 for four seasons and was apparently cancelled due to the network's concerns about violent programming.  The first season, now on DVD and available from Greenwich Library, was shot in black and white, and despite the bizarre characters and plots, is as close to serious action-adventure as you can get.  (The switch to color in the following three seasons also brought about a looser, more "campy" tone to the show.)  In this run, you'll also get to meet West and Gordon's number-one archfoe, Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless, played to perfection by the great Michael Dunn .  Loveless, suffering from bitterness toward society and his own feelings of inferiority, came up with the most insane schemes and inventions (including what looks suspiously like an early form of LSD in the episode "The Night of the Murderous Spring"), yet you (and West and Gordon) couldn't help but like the guy! 

For some exciting fun, and to see a imaginative cross-blending of genres (as well as great fight scenes!), check out The Wild Wild West: The Complete First Season here.

(For background on the series, check out The Wildest Page in the West site.)

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ed published on February 27, 2009 2:43 PM.

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