West departs Raven's headquarters in a bid to ruin the organization's plot to kill a Mexican official. The Secret Service agent, though, doesn't realize he has been programmed to ...
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West departs Raven's headquarters in a bid to ruin the organization's plot to kill a Mexican official. The Secret Service agent, though, doesn't realize he has been programmed to assassinate the official -- and it appears he has done just that. However, fellow agent Frank Harper disguised himself as the official and wore a bulletproof vest, enabling him to survive the attack by the brainwashed West. Meanwhile, West bides his time, pretending to join Raven until he could find out more about Raven leader Tycho who claims to know "all that ever was." Harper, meantime, and other agents research the background of Raven's Professor Toombs. Harper disguises himself as Toombs' mentor, a disgraced German scientist. The agents try to break the case before Raven can strike again. Written by
Jim West vs. The Hordes of Ghastly Grim and Ancient Raven
One advantage we enjoy over the WILD WILD WEST fans of 1969 is the ability to watch this epic two-part episode commercial-free and back-to-back, letting it unfold like a major motion picture, which is exactly the scope and effect of "The Night of the Winged Terror."
Mr. Pomfritt, is that you? William Schallert, whom I always think of as the long-suffering professor on DOBIE GILLIS, landed a plum role playing Frank Harper, subbing for Artemus as sidekick to Jim West. Schallert's performance is much more convincing than his pasted-on moustache. Schallert also enjoys a scene with Robert Ellenstein, playing the second Dr. Occularis, reuniting two guest stars from "The Night of the Gruesome Games" from earlier this season.
Beautiful, raspy-voiced Michele Carey, fresh from co-starring in Elvis Presley's LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE, is effective as the femme fatale Laurette. She really isn't evil, just deluded by an almost religious devotion to criminal mastermind Tycho: "Tycho is the genius of the ages. It is from him that all knowledge flows," she gushes dreamy-eyed to Jim. I wondered what substantive role such a sycophant could play in Tycho's great scientific schemes, but then I remembered she had already proved her value by eliminating the obsolete Dr. Bombay--I mean Dr. Occularis--by slipping him the backward-firing gun swiped from Dean Martin's Matt Helm classic THE SILENCERS.
Speaking of which, there is a definite super-spy vibe in "The Winged Terror" that adds tremendously to its appeal. After Jim scurries through the air vents and emerges in Tycho's sanctum sanctorum, he's humbled to find he's been outfoxed by the foxier Tycho, who was sitting there fondling his pet Blofeld-like whilst awaiting his adversary's arrival. Then, like virtually every Bond villain beginning with Doctor No, Tycho details his elaborate plans for conquest, even for effect igniting a map of the United States with a roaring flame that makes the opening of BONANZA look like a cub scout weenie roast. It's an effective scene as Jim rears back from the fire as Tycho boasts of his plot to spark Armageddon, reducing cities to ashes, from which will arise not the phoenix--but the Raven!
Forgotten in all of this bluster and bombast is the high-minded speech Toombs made to West in the first part, describing Raven as a collective of scientists possessing undreamed of knowledge and talents they would dedicate to freeing men and to ruling "the earth and its inhabitants scientifically." By the second half, Toombs is a buffoon being chided in the hallway by his colleagues for getting schooled by his old teacher! Jackie Coogan is criminally underutilized, having but one scene that spans a few minutes in the prologue. When it's replayed in Part II's recap, however, I noticed Red West's rogues' gallery are in attendance and block Jim from intervening. For all Toombs' palaver about the best minds and ruling scientifically, there seems to be no substitute for Neanderthal muscle to ensure Raven's schemes are successful.
Nice touches include Roy Engel in his recurring role as President Grant, sneaking aboard The Wanderer to lay out the scenario personally, lends the plot gravitas and urgency. I also liked Grant passing along regards from Arte, lest we forget, but I wince at the producers trying so hard to paint him as a Lothario. Seriously, "a steady influx of lovely ladies" into DC just because Arte's there? In "TNOT Pelican" a giggly record from Arte's secretary implies he was groping and tickling her during the recording session. Oh, well, such I suppose is the sordid side of the super-spy vibe.
THE WILD WILD WEST often resembled a live-action comic book, and that is very much evident in this epic episode written by erstwhile GREEN HORNET scripter Ken Pettus. Raven struck me as an homage to 1960's-vintage Hydra, arch-nemesis of Nick Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D., from its tentacle-like logo to its gaudy, caped uniforms. Tycho was the epitome of a comic book villain--and of course I mean that as high praise. I wondered if he wasn't inspired by the Hulk villain The Leader, another genius with an oversized head introduced in 1964. In addition to comic books and spy movies, the story draws from THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, which effectively portrayed conditioning and post-hypnotic suggestion for purposes of assassination. (It would have been too cool but perhaps too obvious to have cast Khigh Dhiegh as Tycho!)
There was so much to enjoy here: the exploding pinatas, the tranquilizer dart from the statuette (on loan from sister show WILD WILD KINGDOM?), and especially Harper convinced he's Sneed trying to assassinate Harper by shooting at his own reflection in a mirror! Wow! I wondered why "The Night of the Winged Terror" wasn't edited into a film like all those MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. two-parters. This story is a standout in the flagging fourth season and should serve as a rebuff to WILD WILD WEST fundamentalists who anathematize as apocryphal all episodes without Arte. Great fun with eminent rewatchability.
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