Due to Trixie being ill last weekend, I wasn’t in the mood for watching any movies. However I did recently finish the second season of Wild, Wild West, so it gets this post all to itself. The two big differences from S1 are that it’s in color, and a lot less sexist.
Not non-sexist. It’s still a show where men are men and women are eye candy. However it’s not as over-the-top sexist as I found the first season, just average sexism for 1960s TV. It also had one memorable female role: Agnes Moorehead (best known as Endora on Bewitched) as Emma Valentine, a society matchmaker with a plan to take over the United States and a biting tongue. After her steampunk computer-matchmaking system processes Jim West’s taste, Valentine sneers that “your ideal girl is a combination of Helen of Troy, Aphrodite and Lola Montez,” the latter being a well known dancer/courtesan. There’s also an enjoyable female crime boss in “Night of the Poisonous Posey.”
Racewise, there are some problematic episodes. Sammy Davis Jr. in “Night of the Colonel’s Ghost” is an early example of the Magic Negro and Nehemiah Persoff gets into yellowface for “Night of the Deadly Blossom.”
Airing the show in color is a mixed bag. It’s nice to see, but it sometimes feels too bright and pastel. That may reflect that color TV was knew and they wanted to make the most of the palette. Or maybe not.
Dr. Loveless, played by the swaggering dwarf Michael Dunn, returns for four more episodes (the scene above is from “Night of the Bogus Bandits.”). The show tried expanding the rogue’s gallery with Count Manzeppi (Victor Buono), a sinister stage magician who leads a team of circus performers turned killers. Manzeppi appears in two episodes, but he really doesn’t work for me. He’s just too arrogant, and invariably seems to be four steps ahead of Jim and Artie, and I never really bought him as believable. Emma Valentine would have been fun to reuse but even though she escapes at the end of the episode, the teaser has her recaptured off-stage.
A minor change in the show is that Jim and Artie’s status as government agents are now publicly known. They’re famous undercover men; when Jim apparently kills Artie in “Night of the Skulls,” it’s front page news.
Overall, though, the series delivers what it did the first season. Lots of action and spectacular fight scenes, strong guest stars (Moorehead, Davis, Ed Begley Sr., Boris Karloff) and plenty of steampunk science (shrinking rays, robots, mind-control drugs, difference machines [not called that]). Plus the occasional supernatural-ish episode, whether explained away (“Night of the Wolf’) or not (“Night of the Man-Eating House.”).
I’m looking forward to S3, though there’s enough to watch I haven’t started it yet.
#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.