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Wild Wild West

By Donald Liebenson

He's a supersuave special agent. He has an arsenal of custom-made high-tech gadgets. Women find him irresistible. James Bond? No, James West, from the fondly remembered genre-bending TV series The Wild, Wild West, starring Robert Conrad as a frontier 007. Posing as "the dandiest dude that ever crossed the Mississippi," West and his partner, master of disguise Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), foil diabolical plots to, primarily, take over the world. This boxed set rounds up three vintage episodes from the series' inaugural 1965 season. In the pilot, "The Night of the Inferno," President Grant himself recruits West, "the finest underground intelligence officer we have," to stop a revolution. Guest stars include Suzanne Pleshette as the proprietor of, um, a gambling house and Victor Buono as the mysterious Wing Fat. In "The Night of the Double-Edge Knife," Cheyenne Indians are blamed for a series of attacks on railroad workers. Guest stars include Leslie Nielsen (playing it straight as an exiled Army general with a grudge), Katharine Ross, Elisha Cook Jr., and Drew's dad, John Drew Barrymore. "The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth" introduces the villain who would be West's most elusive nemesis throughout the series, the diminutive Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn). That's Richard Kiel, better known as Jaws on The Spy Who Loved Me, as his henchman.

[In the pilot episode], Robert Conrad stars as West, James West, a frontier 007, and according to President Grant (James Gregory), "the finest underground intelligence officer we have." Posing as "the dandiest dude that ever crossed the Mississippi," he embarks on his first assignment: to find Juan Manolo, a madman bent on starting a revolution ("The whole world will know my name!"). Suzanne Pleshette also stars as Lydia, an old flame who still burns hot. "I waited on that hard bed alone for eight hours until the police came," she provocatively scolds West upon their reunion. The late, great Victor Buono (King Tut on Batman) also appears as the inscrutable Wing Fat ("Would you care for a pipe?" he offers. "It is filled with joy"). Ross Martin costars as master of disguise Artemus Gordon, who also provides West with his gadgets, such as a pool cue that doubles as a gun barrel, a breakaway Derringer West that can hide in his boot heels, and a belt buckle that dispenses bullets. This episode was directed by Richard Sarafian, whose estimable credits include Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, I Spy, and Batman. This program is also available in a three-volume boxed set.


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What more could a 10 year old kid want??? Here's a show that combined westerns and futuristic gadgets to keep our imaginations running wild. Forget Gunsmoke and Bonanza. . . they had storylines that only our old folks enjoyed. Ricardo Montalban, Sammy Davis Jr. , were among the stars that appeared, and gave great performances. Of course, Michael Dunn was the most famous bad guy, and always gave a stellar performance.

Artemus Gordon, (Ross Martin) always added a great side to his part of the show, from the different characters he would dress up as, or his terrific new gadgets that he created, which always seemed to come up just when Jim West would need it. Artemus always added a funny side to each and every disaster they found themselves in, but always holding up his end of the physical duties when possible. Of course, Jim West would always knock out most of the bad guys, and get the girl. . . . Well, most of the time. Who could forget Robert Conrad doing most of his stunts? I even remember the episode where his split his tight pants and his underwear was showing.

This show, each and every episode, will remain my favorite western forever.


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Aired: 1965-1970

Cast: Robert Conrad, Ross Martin

Network: CBS

Genre: Western

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