|Available at Amazon.com|
The Wild Wild West: The Fourth Season was the end of the railroad track for Jim West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin). The secret agent cowboy series still pulled in healthy ratings, but evil forces were at work behind the scenes. During the late ‘60s, there was a push to clean up the violence in TV shows that children enjoyed. After the sanctimonious forces scrubbed clean the animated action on Saturday mornings, they turned their devious mission on prime time. The Wild Wild West featured gun battles, explosions, fist fights and Robert Conrad’s amazing ass. It was an easy target for the crusade to keep children innocent until they’re drafted to serve in Vietnam. The network didn’t have too many reasons to keep fighting these annoying protesters. Its 104 episodes were enough for syndication. The series had a high budget. Ross Martin had health issues. At the end of season four, the network sacrificed the show to protect the children of America. Oddly enough, this didn’t stop local TV stations from airing The Wild Wild West in the after-school slot for years to come. That’s how a second generation became fascinated with a gadget filled train.
Unlike certain shows that were defanged to appease the non-violence fascists, the final season doesn’t turn into pillow fights and West defeating evil with acts of charity. “The Night of the Big Blackmail” gives us the world’s first extortion film. An evil country has created a fake movie that if publicly shown will destroy President Grant’s reputation. West and Gordon have to break into an embassy and figure out how to redo the blackmail footage to discredit the evil country. It’s like Mission: Impossible on the Range. “Night of the Juggernaut” unleashes a murderous menace on poor settlers. “The Night of the Kraken” terrorizes San Francisco Bay with a giant octopus-like creatures. Jim and Artie have to go deep under the sea to free the seaport. Ladies, this means plenty of shirtless time with Robert Conrad. Ted Knight (Too Close for Comfort) plays the heavy.
The fourth season was not a good time for Ross Martin. After recovering from breaking his leg, he had a heart attack. He had to take nearly three months off to recover. Instead of shutting down, the Secret Service sent guest agents to assist West. Jeremy Pike (Charles Aidman) is the first to fill in for Gordon. He’s basically playing Gordon except with a different accent. “The Night of Miguelito’s Revenge” turns out to be the only episode with Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn). This time the tiny terror is using a circus to take revenge. Shame Loveless didn’t have a proper final episode with both West and Gordon. “The Night of the Sabatini Death” is a joy for fans of Gilligan’s Island. Gordon’s replacement is Alan Hale Jr., aka “the Skipper”. During a hunt for a crime czar’s hidden treasure, West and the Skipper encounter a funeral home director played by Jim Backus, beloved as Thurston Howell III. If only the diabolical villain had been played Bob Denver, it would have been the perfect stunt casting. “The Night of the Winged Terror” is a two-parter that deals with evil opticians and exploding pinatas. The replacement agent is William Schallert (The dad from The Patty Duke Show). Martin returned for the final batch of episodes. He’s at his charming best in “The Night of the Diva” with his assignment to protect a famous Italian opera soprano. The man climbed back in the saddle and the network shot his horse.
The Wild Wild West‘s cancellation was completely premature. The fourth season wasn’t close to coasting on fumes. Conrad and Martin maintained their wonderful repartee. Shame on the torch and pitchfork hippies that thought taking this show off the air would make America a peaceful place. History has proved these people wrong since after The Wild Wild West went off the air, the average high school became as lawless as the Wild West.
“The Night of the Big Blackmail,” “The Night of the Doomsday Formula,” “The Night of the Juggernaut,” “The Night of the Sedgewick Curse,” “The Night of the Gruesome Games,” “The Night of the Kraken,” “The Night of the Fugitives,” “The Night of the Egyptian Queen,” “The Night of Fire and Brimstone,” “The Night of the Camera,” “The Night of the Avaricious Actuary,” “The Night of Miguelito’s Revenge,” “The Night of the Pelican,” “The Night of the Spanish Curse,” “The Night of the Winged Terror” (Two-parter), “The Night of the Sabatini Death,” “The Night of the Janus,” “The Night of the Pistoleros,” “The Night of the Diva,” “The Night of the Bleak Island,” “The Night of the Cossacks,” “The Night of the Tycoons” and “The Night of the Plague.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. Plenty of scenes take place in dark spaces, but the high quality transfers bring out the detail. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono without any discernible defects.
None. Hopefully they’ll put out a DVD with the two Wild Wild West reunion movies starring Conrad and Gordon.
The Wild Wild West: The Fourth Season proves that this series did not run out of ideas and sputter to death. It’s disgusting that self righteous hooligans killed James West.
CBS DVD presents The Wild Wild West: The Fourth Season. Starring Robert Conrad & Ross Martin. Twenty four episodes on six single sided, dual layer DVDs. Running time: 1,216 minutes. Episodes originally broadcasted: Sept. 27, 1968 to April 4, 1969. Released on DVD: March 18, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.