This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to reviewing The Wild Wild West (1965-1969) series, so I’ll be launching into it a little bit when I first saw it before addressing these two made-for-TV movies. As of this review the star, Robert Conrad (Jim West), is still living! According to IMDB he’s currently eighty-two! His co-star, however, Ross Martin (Artemis Gordon) died back in 1981. At least he stuck around long enough to crank out these two (sub-par) reunion movies, and I think they would have at least done one more had he not died.
I was born the year the series ended so it was a part of my childhood in re-runs. I can’t remember the night it always came on, but its memory is mixed in with Chiller Theater (1971-1982) and Space: 1999 (1975-1977). I wasn’t really a fan of it, but you know how it is when you’re a little kid, sometimes you’ll watch anything that’s on the TV. I think my mother and my grandmother were fans, which may be how I ended up casually seeing it. I didn’t actually become a fan until I started to grow up.
I do have semi-vivid memories of these two movies, and unfortunately being disappointed with the tone they took. Jim and Artemis are not at the top of their game as they once were in the series, so much so they almost bungle their way through these investigations, and only coming out on top by pure accident. I haven’t seen either of these telefilms since they aired, and looking at them now I can kind of understand this tone now. I mean they are supposed to be in retirement and have gone soft in physicality and skill, so making them a tad bit inept makes sense, but playing up the comedy as they did just doesn’t match the tone of the show. It’s not so jarring to see now, though, than it was when I was a kid. That good ole’ “nostalgia factor” drove a lot of the vibe the last couple of nights, and that’s probably why I can stomach these two movies now more than when I was a kid.
In The Wild Wild West Revisited (1979) it’s 1885 and Jim West (Conrad) is living the drunk retired life down in Mexico with his numerous wives, while Artemis Gordon (Martin) is traveling with a circus. Both of these superstar secret service agents are pulled out of retirement when a familiar madman from their past rears up and tries to take over the world using mechanical clones of the world’s leaders. Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless (Michael Dunn), a megalomaniacal little person, was their main villain in the series, but according to this film he died five years prior. What they didn’t know was that he had a son, Miguelito Loveless, Jr. (Paul Williams), billed as Michelito in the credits (not sure what happened there), and a daughter, Penelope (Trisha Noble). Both, more so with him than her, are hellbent on controlling the world with their mechanical clones. Even the President was replaced. The late Harry Morgan of MASH (1972-1983) fame plays the head of the Secret Service, Robert T. Malone. After an eighteen-minute reunion/training session where Gordon feels West isn’t up to snuff physically, both men are back in their trademark uniforms and on their trademark train to stop Loveless, Jr.
In More Wild Wild West (1980) West is back in Mexico and Gordon is now an actor, but as usual another madman eager to take over the world rears his ugly head, again, and they have to be recruited. Again. Gordon is approached first who says, no way, but when push comes to shove he relents, only if West is on board. West won’t be on board, because he’s said, ‘that’s it, I’m hauling my ass back to Mexico when this is all over with’ after their first mission. But unbeknownst to Gordon West is in hot water again, this time a girl he jilted wants him dead so she and her cousins try to corner him in a shootout. This is how West gets back in the Service. He’s recruited right at the crucial moment he’s cornered in and would have agreed to anything to get his ass out of it. Gordon is livid, but after another “training montage,” this time with Gordon participating, they’re back in uniform, again, and off to save the world from Albert Paradine II (Comedian Jonathan Winters).
I will admit this follow-up isn’t as entertaining as the first one. Paradine is a weak villain who uses invisibility, this time to disrupt an international Peace Conference hoping to start a world war. Rene Auberjonois was in the first one playing British agent, Sir David Edney, and he’s back in this one, partnered this time with General Hospital soap star, and a very, very young looking Emma Samms as Mirabelle Merriwether. She’s only in the movie for mere minutes too. The final act is alaso weak as West and Gordon try to find an invisible man at the Conference, and there’s a bomb too. What is it with these Wild Wild West madmen and bombs? Loveless, Jr. had one in the first movie, and I think bombs were a prevalent thing with his father in the series, too.
Previously these two movies could only be found in the The Wild Wild West: Complete Series sets that came out in 2008 and re-released in 2015. Now you can buy them in this double feature DVD here on Amazon!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.33:1 full frame—2.0 English Dolby Digital Mono—English subs only.
The transfer looks real good on Revisited, but not so great on More.
Extras included . . .
- Promotion Spots
I thought I’d look up these TV movies up on Wikipedia, but they don’t have a page of their own, only being talked about under the general Wild Wild West page and I found a couple of interesting bits:
1). Conrad once revealed that CBS intended to do yearly TV revivals of The Wild Wild West.Variety, in its review of the first TV movie, concurred: “A couple of more movies in this vein, sensibly spaced, could work in the future.” Ross Martin’s death in 1981, however, put an end to the idea.’
2). Conrad was later quoted in Cinefantastique about these films: “We all got along fine with each other when we did these, but I wasn’t happy with them only because CBS imposed a lot of restrictions on us. They never came up to the level of what we had done before.”
So, I guessed that right, there would have been more had Martin not died. Maybe that’s for the best, if every one of them were to be as lackluster as these two.