The three-day Frontierado Holiday weekend starts this Friday, August 7th. (Well, technically the good times start Thursday night, August 6th.)
MORE WILD, WILD WEST (1980) – Awhile back, Balladeer’s Blog reviewed the 1979 telefilm The Wild, Wild West Revisited, the previous reunion movie for the 1965-1969 Robert Conrad series in which he starred as wild west Secret Service Agent Jim West. Regular readers may remember that I tore that tv movie to pieces on the grounds that it was more like a failed comedy than a sequel to the fun action series of the 60s.
This second attempt at a Wild, Wild West reunion special was – against all odds – EVEN WORSE. It repeated all the horrible decisions of the first one while introducing new creative disasters of its own.
Robert Conrad was back as Jim West with Ross Martin once again appearing as his sidekick Artemus Gordon. But that’s about all that went right.
From the very start More Wild, Wild West was bizarrely unoriginal. EXACTLY LIKE its predecessor it opened up with the retired Jim West, still a ladies man, getting interrupted mid-erection and Artemus Gordon, still a ham actor, getting called away from a stage career for “one last mission.” The characters frequently refer to the previous movie, so it’s not like you can say they were trying to erase the memory of the first one and start over.
The comic relief is even more pathetic and strained than it was last time around. Jim West is plagued by repeated attacks from a zany Mexican woman named Juanita (the ubiquitous Liz Torres) and her gun-toting brothers who want to force West to keep his drunken promise to marry her.
Within roughly the first half-hour of this telefilm we get no less than THREE fight scenes between Jim & Artie and Juanita & her brothers but NO action centering around the actual villain of the movie: mad scientist Albert Paradine II, played by Jonathan Winters.
To give you an idea of how stupid and lacking in subtlety the “comic relief” is from Juanita and company, whenever they show up, a wacky rendition of La Cucaracha plays on the soundtrack.
At any rate, Paradine is using steam-punk atomic bombs in his bid to take over the world … just like the son of Doctor Loveless (Paul Williams) was doing in the previous movie!
How do Jim and Artie track down Albert Paradine and find out what he’s up to? Simple. After the movie wasted so much time in multiple fight scenes with the comic relief clowns, the business with the main villain gets rushed along by having him simply MEET JIM AND ARTIE AT THE TRAIN STATION when they get to Nevada. He then invites them into a saloon where he tells them every detail of his master plan and demonstrates that he can turn invisible!
Wouldn’t it have been better to throw out at least ONE of the fight scenes with Juanita and her brothers and have Paradine’s underlings ambush Jim and Artie at the train station?
Then, when our heroes emerge triumphant from that fight, maybe the invisible Albert Paradine could knock them out by surprise and then turn visible, laughing maniacally over our fallen main characters. Cue the show’s trademark freeze-frame which becomes part of the comic book style frames they always used when going to commercial breaks on the original series.
No, the filmmakers “subverted our expectations” by having the main villain just sit at a saloon table and TALK to our heroes about his evil scheme. He plans to use the cover of invisibility to assassinate several international delegates to a Peace Conference that President Benjamin Harrison is holding in Washington D.C. in hopes it will cause a war to break out. Then he’ll conquer the world in all the chaos.
Paradine figures he will use atomic bombs, too. Like in The Wild Wild West Revisited, the exact same mushroom cloud footage is used AND just like in the previous flick the use of nuclear weapons feels superfluous and forced-in, like it’s from a script change.
In the last movie Doctor Loveless Junior had replaced the world’s Heads of State with clones so he could rule the world. But then, unrelated mushroom cloud footage was thrown in to imply he had atomic bombs. Then we were told Loveless would use his atomic bombs if the REAL world leaders, whom he had already kidnapped, refused to have their nations surrender to him. (?) But … but the clones were already in position, so – STOP IT! I have got to just put the previous movie behind me.
Suffice it to say that the nukes seem just as much of an afterthought THIS time around, since Jonathan Winters claims he has an army to take over the world while the nations fight among themselves in the war he plans to cause.
At the very least, you’d think Jim West would say “Hey those bombs are just like what Doctor Loveless’ kid said he’d use the last time I was dragged out of retirement.” But no, the movie picks NOW of all times to stop referencing the previous year’s disaster.
Even Paradine’s demonstration of his invisibility device is dull. He just turns invisible at the saloon table, then gets up and walks out while the camera follows his voice. He’s just making bland comments, too, no megalomaniacal remarks like “You’ll never catch me, West! The world is mine!”
Our two lead characters get right back on the train, return to Washington D.C. for a very brief scene … ONLY TO THEN BOARD ANOTHER TRAIN AND RETURN TO NEVADA!
On the way they’re joined by Rene Auberjonois, reprising his role as British Secret Service Agent Sir David Edny from last year’s flick. His fellow agent is played by Emma Samms, who was presented like she’d be a major player in the story. She even appears alongside Robert Conrad and Ross Martin on some video covers for this telefilm.
JOKE’S ON YOU! Or rather on Emma Samms’ fans. She barely – and I mean BARELY – makes an appearance in this train-wreck. I don’t know if she realized what an amateurish debacle this production was shaping up to be and slipped out of her obligations or what.
Anyway, once back in Nevada, Jim and Artie and Sir David once again sit down with Paradine at the saloon while the villain pretty much just recaps everything he had already said during the previous scene at that saloon. AAAAAARGH! (I always forget, are there five A’s or six A’s in AAAAAARGH!)
I will point out again that we’ve had three action scenes against the comic relief, but when it comes to the main villain the best these filmmakers can come up with are TWO coffee-klatches at a saloon.
Sir David, showing the kind of gumption lacking in Jim and Artie for some reason, tries to arrest Albert Paradine. The villain thwarts this by simply turning invisible again and walks out ACCOMPANIED BY THE EXACT SAME FILM FOOTAGE AND VOICEOVER DIALOGUE FROM HIS ORIGINAL INVISIBLE DEPARTURE! I’m not kidding!
Moving along, our heroes scour the desert to try to locate Paradine’s secret hideout. Proving that the writers – just like last year – seem to think they’re writing for ADAM West instead of JIM West, they have our lead character come across a directional sign which reads “HIDEOUT – FOUR MILES.”
Let’s pretend that didn’t happen and rejoin Jim and Artie in Jonathan Winters’ lair. In a sickeningly silly nod to the then-popular Hulk series, Paradine sics two green-skinned brutes called the Hulk Brothers on our heroes. (He waves away their green hue by saying “They’re from the Himalayas.” Oh … That explains it.)
Okay, so I naively said to myself, “Well, that joke’s no lamer than when Shields & Yarnell played Doctor Loveless’ “Six-Hundred Dollar Men” in the previous movie, and at least now we’ll FINALLY get a fight scene that involves the main villain.
Not if these sadistic filmmakers have anything to say about it! There’s no fight scene, they just immediately smash-cut (Insert your own “Hulk will smash-cut” joke here.) to our heroes being tossed into a cage after apparently having lost their battle with the Hulk Brothers.
Fine, let’s move on. Robert Conrad and Ross Martin eventually escape and go after Paradine and his gang of thugs. At one point they seem to get taken by surprise by them and a reasonably entertaining exchange of gunfire takes place. But it turns out it’s NOT Jonathan Winters’ gang … it’s Juanita and her brothers. AGAIN!
Jim West deals with the situation once and for all by bluntly telling Juanita he doesn’t want to marry her. (“Y’know, it’s kinda crazy, but it just might work!”) The woman accepts this. Seriously. Then she and Jim hug while a sweet and syrupy version of La Cucaracha plays. Really.
So, you may slam your head into the wall and ask why they wasted so much time and FOUR action scenes on this subplot with such feeble stakes and which was so easily resolved.
I was still optimistic, so I thought “Ah, now Juanita’s trigger-happy band of brothers will be organized into a makeshift army so they can join our heroes in fighting Paradine’s men, to justify all the screen time they’ve devoured.” Nope. This may drive you to drink, but Juanita and her Bro Bunch simply ride off back to Mexico, leaving Jim and Artie wondering how they’re going to stop Albert Paradine.
Okay then! Just when you think this tv movie can’t possibly get any more pointless, we cut to Washington D.C. where President Harrison’s Peace Conference is underway. The delegates, as played by the likes of Avery Schreiber and others, are broadly-drawn national stereotypes like the kind even vaudeville comedians would dismiss as one-dimensional.
You may remember the fact that Paradine planned to invisibly assassinate some of the delegates to try provoking a global war. However, the delegates start squabbling and a slapstick fist-fight breaks out among them, sabotaging the Peace Conference and paving the way for war … AND OUR VILLAIN HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!
So, the miffed Albert Paradine decides to just nuke Washington D.C. and all the delegates along with it. He tells our tardily-arriving heroes that he’ll survive the atomic blast because invisibility also makes you immune to atomic bombs. Who knew? Take THAT, duck and cover!
Enough already! As you could guess, Paradine is stopped and his two hot babe molls, played by the twins Candi and Randi Brough, become Jim and Artie’s last-minute love interests as the movie comes to a close.
As a viewer, you can’t even be impressed with that, because earlier in the film Harry Morgan, playing the elderly head of the Secret Service, got a threesome with Candi and Randi. Yep, Harry Morgan’s character technically got more tail than Jim and Artie did in this story. He got BOTH twins, not the one each that Jim and Artie had to settle for.
So, to be clear, More Wild Wild West depicts the hunky lead character getting sloppy seconds after his elderly, apparently senile boss.
Fans may wonder if there was anything in this flick which remotely resembled the original Wild Wild West series. There were two things: Artie having to rescue Jim while wearing an Amos & Andy-level disguise and Jim using his handy-dandy boot-knife attachment at one point.
Everything else was very, very lame attempts at comedy, including cameos by Jack Lalanne and Doctor Joyce Brothers. Avoid this movie unless you love badfilm as much as I do. +++
FOR MORE REVIEWS OF WEIRD WESTERNS CLICK HERE: Weird Westerns
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