A better title for this Wild Wild West telefilm would have been Night of the Half-Assed Reunion Special. (For non-fans of this old Robert Conrad show let me explain: every episode of The Wild Wild West bore the title “Night of the Such and Such”, just like every Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode was titled “The Such and Such Affair” and every Friends episode was called “The One with Such and Such.”)
The original 1965-1969 television series starred the athletic and charismatic Robert Conrad as Jim West, a Secret Service Agent in the 1800’s American West. His cover was that he was a high-stakes gambler/ gunfighter who traveled in his own private train car. Ross Martin portrayed his hammy professional actor sidekick, Artemus Gordon.
The Wild Wild West was a genuine classic, combining James Bond/ Napoleon Solo spy antics with the gunplay and mis en scene of the best Westerns. Jim West was forever saving the country – and sometimes the world – from a long line of suave or at least colorful villains. Those villains inevitably had sultry female accomplices, about eighty percent of whom seemed to be played by Michelle Carey.
Like all the best fictional heroes Jim West had an arch-enemy – in his case the mad midget Dr Miguelito Loveless, played by the inimitable Michael Dunn. Unfortunately Dunn had passed away by the time The Wild Wild West Revisited was produced, setting up a “Good News, Bad News” situation for fans of the original series.
The Good News: Quasi-Midget Paul Williams played the reunion special’s villain, who was THE SON OF THE ORIGINAL DR LOVELESS! Fans could give a loud cheer over that evidence of faithfulness to part of what made the original series so memorable.
The Bad News: Paul Williams’ character would therefore have been named Dr Miguelito Loveless, Jr. Unfortunately the opening credits proudly proclaimed him to be “Dr MICH- elito Loveless, Jr”. Fans no doubt groaned at that evidence of slipshod attention to detail regarding a major character from the original series.
And well they might groan. What followed was an incredibly lame, unengaging, sloppily written piece of garbage. The creative team behind this reunion special seems to have confused Jim West with ADAM West and wrote The Wild Wild West Revisited as if it was an overly-long episode of the 1960’s Batman series.
That Batman show was a classic of intentional camp and groaningly strained humor. The Wild Wild West was a clever proto- Steam Punk series that was played completely straight, outside of the occasional wink and nod to the audience about the anachronistic high-tech weapons used by Jim West’s Rogue’s Gallery of foes.
The Wild Wild West Revisited thus wound up pleasing nobody due to this “neither fish nor fowl” approach. It got decent ratings because of people who loved the original series checking out this reunion special but those fans were put off by the outright stupidity of the telefilm. Newbies were likewise alienated and wondered how such an obviously moronic show had lasted four seasons. Given this bomb’s colossally bad attempts at Batmanesque humor you can’t blame them. The Beverly Hillbillies looked like Noel Coward material compared to this thing.
The story was full of holes … BIG ones. It turns out Dr Loveless, Jr has kidnapped the heads of all the major nations in the world like the U.S. President, Queen Victoria, etc. He has replaced them all with clones obedient only to him, but in a sign of sloppy writing or maybe multiple scripts clumsily combined Loveless pointlessly insists that the kidnapped Heads of State do handwritten letters telling their respective nations to yield to the mad doctor’s demands for world domination.
Anyone watching would have wondered why Loveless needs these handwritten letters when his clones are already in place and could have tried persuading their nations to surrender to “Michelito” anyway. As a topper Williams’ Dr Loveless has – like so many of Jim West’s other foes – come up with weaponry several decades ahead of its time.
Loveless has crafted a supply of atomic bombs and planted them in major cities around the world. If his demands are not met he will set them off in whichever countries refuse to surrender to him. The little madman even demonstrates one of his nuclear bombs for the assembled World Leaders, to show them that resistance is useless.
(I’m being charitable with that description of the events. This tv movie shows us an atomic mushroom cloud after Loveless mentions his secret weapons but at no time are we shown that his World Leader captives get any idea what he means.)
Those bionic creations of Dr Loveless are called his “Six Hundred Dollar Men” in a lame Six Million Dollar Man joke typical of the comedy in this flick.
On top of all its other faults The Wild Wild West Revisited was too talky and nowhere near as action- oriented as the show had been.
Dumbest of all, after Loveless’ scheme is foiled the telefilm cuts to Harry Morgan portraying the present-day head of the Secret Service, who admits that Loveless’ atomic bombs were never recovered. I guess that was an attempt at a closing joke … or something.
Not content with this disaster, a SECOND attempt at a Wild Wild West reunion show was aired in 1980 and – believe it or not – was INFINITELY worse! I will review that one in the near future.
FOR THE REVIEW OF THAT SECOND ATTEMPT, TITLED MORE WILD WILD WEST, CLICK HERE
FOR MORE REVIEWS OF WEIRD WESTERNS CLICK HERE: Weird Westerns
FOR MY LOOK AT BLAXPLOITATION HORROR FILMS: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/26/a-very-blaxploitation-halloween/
FOR MY LIST OF THE TOP ELEVEN BAD MOVIES FOR HALLOWEEN: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/24/the-eleven-most-neglected-bad-movie-classics-for-halloween/
FOR MY LOOK AT MEXICAN HORROR FILMS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2011/10/31/a-halloween-mexi-monster-bestiary/
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