West and his temporary partner Jeremy Pike investigate a Chinese gangster's theft of rare explosives from a San Francisco armory. Artemus Gordon (Martin) is said to be on desk duty in ...
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West and his temporary partner Jeremy Pike investigate a Chinese gangster's theft of rare explosives from a San Francisco armory. Artemus Gordon (Martin) is said to be on desk duty in Washington. The dying words of a murdered Chinese informant, leads Pike to go undercover in China Town searching for the thief, while West masquerades as a military prisoner at forbidding Ft. Alcatraz. Written by
Alcatraz was a military prison beginning with holding Confederate prisoners of war in 1861. By 1866, it was determined that its use as a defensive fort was obsolete and it became a full-time prison. It was transferred to the Department of Justice in 1933 and became a federal prison in 1934. It was at this point that it reached the height of its fame and notoriety. See more »
When West first arrives at Ft. Alcatraz a big pine forest can be seen in the distance beyond the walls. Alcatraz is a small island in San Francisco Bay, and the only native plants on the island would have been shrubs and succulents which needed little watering. See more »
Three months after debuting his signature character Wo Fat in the HAWAII FIVE-O pilot, Khigh Dhiegh plays a strikingly similar villain in this enjoyable, over-the-top episode.
Din Chang, like Wo Fat, is a criminal mastermind, one who has successfully taken over Alcatraz without anyone even suspecting it. It was frustrating to have to wait 32 minutes for Dhiegh to appear, but once he does he's in full command. Din Chang is like a James Bond villain, explaining his ambitious plan to his captive and relishing the astonishment and the accolades, though smart enough not be flattered into tipping his hand. When West feigns a desire to come to Chang's side, Chang blithely dismisses the idea: "My side is quite full."
Charles Aidman makes his third of four turns as Jeremy Pike. Jim and Jeremy work separately for most of the episode, which allows the spotlight to shine on Aidman in his individual scenes, especially one where he successfully attempts a daring disguise as an elderly Chinese man in order to get information from fearful puppeteers.
This script was clearly written with Artemus in mind, as Pike exhibits the same ready knowledge of such arcane subjects as Chinese goddesses and the wooden apparatus of a puppeteer. I missed Ross Martin, of course, but by this third appearance was warming to Aidman as his able substitute. I thought he and Conrad enjoyed an easy chemistry, even if it was the kind shared by lecherous frat brothers (especially evident in the epilogues).
Wasted along the way were a number of promising characters, most notably Buck Kartalian's Lt. Bengsten. He reminded me of a 19th century Columbo in his one brief scene. I kept waiting in vain for him to reappear during the episode. Andre Philippe hovered in the background but was never developed, even though he was presumably Din Chang's right-hand man. Miss Stafford served only to meet the fourth season's mandate to cast more minorities. Even Dr. Gibson seemed superfluous. The producers upended convention with Delilah the lady barber in "Miguelito's Revenge," and try again with Gibson as a lady doctor. But if this was a gesture of forward thinking it failed from the moment Gibson cringed in horror as Chang peeled off his disguise. From that moment on she was reduced to just another damsel in distress.
This episode suffers like many this season from padding, especially evident in the protracted epilogue, but also in the interminable scene where Pike slowly burns a hole into a crate of Chinese bells to create a simple distraction. The cannonball stacking subplot flirted with tedium, but wrapped up just in time and with some nice worm's-eye view camera work.
The climax with West foiling the bad guys' escape with a crude grenade was a letdown, as was the epilogue's revealing Chang's plan was not nearly as ambitious as West assumed. The rockets were a mere distraction to draw all the troops away from the Presidio so Chang and company could steal a payroll. Really? Surely Chang had loftier ambitions than that with all his meticulous planning and preparations.
"The Night of the Pelican" is still a winner despite its stumbles and shortcomings (add to those the giggly record updating us on Arte's antics). Khigh Dhiegh proved to be a larger-than-life and worthy adversary for West, even if one whose potential wasn't maximized. The scene with Chang and West is the episode's highlight, stirring up as it did good memories of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and many episodes of HAWAII FIVE-O. All in all, an episode worth watching and a worthy addition to the annals of adventure.
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