West, Jim West - before he was wicki-wicki-wild, he was a suave spy
September 22, 2017 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Wild Wild West is a American steampunk western action comedy film from 1999, featuring Will Smith as U.S. Army Captain James West and Kevin Kline as U.S. Marshal Artemus Gordon, who together face off against a giant robotic spider and other mechanical menaces. But did you know the movie wasn't (just) an attempt to blend nostalgia for rollicking westerns and a more contemporary fascination with steampunk, but a remake of a TV series that was intended to capitalize on the then-contemporary 1960s spy thriller trend? It's true. Behold: The Wild Wild West, a western series with gadgets that ran on the CBS television network for four seasons, with 104 episodes that aired from September 17, 1965 to April 4, 1969.

Jim West and his sidekick/ gizmo maker Artemus Gordon were carried from the original series into the 1999 film, but instead of being all about retro steam-powered technology, the series was an attempt to bring the spy games into the American west of a century prior. The two Secret Service agents were tasked with protecting President Ulysses S. Grant and the United States from all manner of dangerous threats and villains. The series ran from 1965 to 1969, then the original cast came back together for a television movie in 1979, and a second in 1980, and you can watch all of it online:

Season 1

1-1 The Night of the Inferno (episode promo that gives away some of the plot)
1-2 The Night of the Deadly Bed
1-3 The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth *
1-4 The Night of Sudden Death
1-5 Night of the Casual Killer
1-6 The Night of a Thousand Eyes
1-7 The Night of the Glowing Corpse
1-8 The Night of the Dancing Death
1-9 The Night of the Double-Edged Knife
1-10 The Night That Terror Stalked the Town *
1-11 The Night of the Red-Eyed Madmen
1-12 The Night of the Human Trigger
1-13 The Night of the Torture Chamber
1-14 The Night of the Howling Light
1-15 The Night of the Fatal Trap
1-16 The Night of the Steel Assassin
1-17 The Night the Dragon Screamed
1-18 The Night of the Flaming Ghost
1-19 The Night of the Grand Emir
1-20 The Night of the Whirring Death *
1-21 The Night of the Puppeteer
1-22 The Night of the Bars of Hell
1-23 The Night of the Two-Legged Buffalo
1-24 The Night of the Druid's Blood
1-25 The Night of the Freebooters
1-26 The Night of the Burning Diamond
1-27 The Night of the Murderous Spring *
1-28 The Night of the Sudden Plague

Season 2 - now in full color!

2-1 The Night of the Eccentrics
2-2 The Night of the Golden Cobra
2-3 The Night of the Raven *
2-4 The Night of the Big Blast
2-5 The Night of the Returning Dead
2-6 The Night of the Flying Pie Plate
2-7 The Night of the Poisonous Posey
2-8 The Night of the Bottomless Pit
2-9 The Night of the Watery Death
2-10 The Night of the Green Terror *
2-11 The Night of the Ready-Made Corpse
2-12 The Night of the Man-Eating House
2-13 The Night of the Skulls
2-14 The Night of the Infernal Machine
2-15 The Night of the Lord of Limbo
2-16 The Night of the Tottering Tontine
2-17 The Night of the Feathered Fury
2-18 The Night of the Gypsy Peril
2-19 The Night of the Tartar
2-20 The Night of the Vicious Valentine
2-21 The Night of the Brain
2-22 The Night of the Deadly Bubble
2-23 The Night of the Surreal McCoy *
2-24 The Night of the Colonel's Ghost
2-25 The Night of the Deadly Blossom
2-26 The Night of the Cadre
2-27 The Night of the Wolf
2-28 The Night of the Bogus Bandits *

Season 3

3-1 The Night of the Bubbling Death
3-2 The Night of the Firebrand
3-3 The Night of the Assassin
3-4 The Night Dr. Loveless Died *
3-5 The Night of the Jack O'Diamonds
3-6 The Night of the Samurai
3-7 The Night of the Hangman
3-8 The Night of Montezuma's Hordes
3-9 The Night of the Circus of Death
3-10 The Night of the Falcon
3-11 The Night of the Cut-throats
3-12 The Night of the Legion of Death
3-13 The Night of the Turncoat
3-14 The Night of the Iron Fist
3-15 The Night of the Running Death
3-16 The Night of the Arrow
3-17 The Night of the Headless Woman
3-18 The Night of the Vipers
3-19 The Night of the Underground Terror
3-20 The Night of the Death Masks
3-21 The Night of the Undead
3-22 The Night of the Amnesiac
3-23 The Night of the Simian Terror
3-24 The Night of the Death Maker

Season 4

4-1 The Night of the Big Blackmail
4-2 The Night of the Doomsday Formula
4-3 The Night of the Juggernaut
4-4 The Night of the Sedgewick Curse
4-5 The Night of the Gruesome Games
4-6 The Night of the Kraken
4-7 The Night of the Fugitives
4-8 The Night of the Egyptian Queen
4-9 The Night of Fire and Brimstone
4-10 The Night of the Camera
4-11 The Night of the Avaricious Actuary
4-12 The Night of Miguelito's Revenge *
4-13 The Night of the Pelican
4-14 The Night of the Spanish Curse
4-15 The Night of the Winged Terror (part 1)
4-16 The Night of the Winged Terror (part 2)
4-17 The Night of the Sabatini Death
4-18 The Night of the Janus
4-19 The Night of the Pistoleros
4-20 The Night of the Diva
4-21 The Night of the Bleak Island
4-22 The Night of the Cossacks
4-23 The Night of the Tycoons
4-24 The Night of the Plague

* episodes featuring Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless, Jim West's most notable arch enemy, who was portrayed by Michael Dunn, a great actor and a good singer.

Another throwback: Ross Martin, who played Artemus Gordon, talks about the show being cancelled, and answers a question about "today's fashions" from a young square, in a segment from Happening.

"No one escaped injury," or so Robert Conrad tells us in a mini-documentary of clips from TBS, in which Conrad talks about the show, his stunts, and the fact that his tight pants ripped out a hundred times, as you can see in a continuity blooper from season 3, episode 19, "The Night of the Underground Terror".

The cast came back together for two television movies:
1979 - The Wild Wild West Revisited, now with more Batman-type camp and half-assed hijinks (less than glowing review)
1980 - More Wild Wild West (TV broadcast clip only), which turns to Scooby Doo levels, with Jonathan Winters as a "daffy megalomaniac."

As Michael Buening in his review of the first season for Pop Matters, the show frequently straddles a mighty precarious line between Batman-style cartoonishness and questionable caricature, with racist cultural depictions and quite a bit of cross-dressing by Artemus, which is also a feature of the steam-punk parody on the series from 1999. You might remember Will Smith's video or even the live performance of the theme song for the film, which has a tragic score of 17% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and took a number of Razzies. Robert Conrad, the original Jim West, "accepted" those awards to show his objections to the movie, a movie which may have been a round-about way for producer Jon Peters to finally feature a giant spider, as he wanted to include in a Superman film, while also including director Barry Sonnenfeld's "homage to penises".

Really, you're probably better off skipping this anti-tribute, though you may enjoy Roger Ebert's review of what he called a "comedy dead zone," or skip to the final paragraph:
"Wild Wild West'' is so bad, it violates not one but two rules from Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary. By casting M. Emmet Walsh as the train engineer, it invalidates the Stanton-Walsh Rule, which states that no movie with Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh can be altogether bad. And by featuring Kevin Kline without facial hair, it violates the Kevin Kline Mustache Principle, which observes that Kline wears a mustache in comedies but is cleanshaven in serious roles. Of course, Kline can always appeal on the grounds that although he is cleanshaven in his main role here, he sports facial hair in several of the other roles he plays in the movie. Or perhaps he could use the defense that ``Wild Wild West'' is not a comedy.
Maybe it's best to stick with the original series. Circling back, here's 11 whopping facts about The Wild Wild West.
posted by filthy light thief (95 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
 
I loved this tv show. I had such a crush on Artemus/Ross, and Conrad was pure eye candy! Costuming knew what it was doing with the bolero jacket and tight tight pants.

I think that this may have been the first instance of what we now call Steampunk on American TV (of course it didn't have that name then, but man it sure fits the bill--especially that first season).

Ross Martin was an astoundingly intelligent and talented man--very much worth the trip not just to Wikipedia, but to fansite bios as well.

As one might guess, the movie was putrid. Seriously awful.
posted by tzikeh at 11:22 PM on September 22 [8 favorites]


The videos are being taken down by the Youtube account owner from what I can see. There may not be viable content here after long.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:31 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


Or maybe the links are busted?
posted by gusottertrout at 11:32 PM on September 22


obligatory Kevin Smith clip on the giant robotic spider.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:53 PM on September 22 [7 favorites]


Ok... the FPP's framing "You Might Know Will Smith's X," but "Did You Know" makes me feel really old.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 11:53 PM on September 22 [30 favorites]


I loved that show. Thanks, OP!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:56 PM on September 22


So, the uploader seems to have mislabeled some episodes. I thought I should watch a Dr. Loveless episode, opened up The Night of the Green Terror, and found myself watching The Night of the Man-Eating House, which I very much enjoyed. FYI.

Also, trying to figure out more about this show has caused me to type the google query "wiki wild wild west" which I am noting without comment. Thank you for this excellent post, filthy light thief.
posted by figurant at 12:41 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the movie. Did I think it was high art? No. Did I think it was well done? No. Did I think it was even a good movie? No. But for some reason we found it to be some good turn-your-brain-off fun. How in the hell they pulled Kenneth Branagh for this flick, I'll never know. I'll never tell you that it's a great movie or that you need to give it a chance, but it's always been goofy fun for us.
posted by azpenguin at 12:59 AM on September 23 [9 favorites]


The TV series was one of my childhood go-to shows. Very good fun and humor. Plus, I'll forevermore have this earworm: "What do you do with a drunken sailor...."
posted by mightshould at 2:30 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


My mother did not permit me to watch The Wild, Wild West in its original run because it was, to her mind, too violent. It was also probably opposite something else the family wanted to watch. I have since made up for my childhood loss. I get the concern about violence, though, which was one of the things that doomed the show. Still ... West and Gordon lived on a train! That went wherever they wanted it to! And it carried their horses!

I'm a big fan of the first TWWW movie, too. Paul Williams was wonderful as Miguelito Loveless Jr. ("Fascinating! Always that same damn mushroom cloud!")
posted by bryon at 2:49 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Whatever the 1999 film's flaws, it did eventually lead to Neil Cicierega's remix of the theme song.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:34 AM on September 23 [6 favorites]


I, an old person, grew up watching reruns of TWWW pretty much every day after school, and man, I loved that series. I’m not sure I want to revisit it as an adult. It can’t be as good as I thought it was when I was nine.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:49 AM on September 23 [10 favorites]


Do note that it's possible to travel privately by rail. But no mater how rich, adding a rolling lab like Artemus Gordon had is probably ill advised.

I remember these, probably syndicated reruns but the pace and 60's humor will certainly feel dated. My visceral memory is of waiting through the main characters antics for Artemus to finally show up with an amazing device to save the day.
posted by sammyo at 4:11 AM on September 23


Great, time-sensitive, post!
posted by filtergik at 4:38 AM on September 23


When I was six or seven, I remember loving this show and waiting with bated breath for the next adventure (which took a week in those days). All my friends--those who were allowed to watch it--loved Jim West. I loved Artemus Gordon. Liking the smart guy made me a freak in elementary school, but has served me well in the ensuing years.
posted by pangolin party at 4:40 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


There's also a delightfully entertaining How Did This Get Made? episode devoted to The Wild Wild West. “It's Men in Black but way more racist!”
posted by Fizz at 4:54 AM on September 23 [6 favorites]


Should also mention, Kevin Smith as guest star.
posted by Fizz at 4:55 AM on September 23


Also, this is a wonderful post. Thanks for all the work/effort you put into crafting it.
posted by Fizz at 4:56 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


Yes, this was such a fun show to watch. I too am oldish , and remember it well. I loved Ross Martin as Artemis. The whole thing was a little spooky too, especially evil Dr. Loveless.
posted by chocolatetiara at 5:02 AM on September 23


I was eight years old in 1965. Wild Wild West had enough of an impact on my developing world view that I was seriously shaken years later when I learned of how corrupt the Ulysses S. Grant administration was.
posted by layceepee at 5:05 AM on September 23 [7 favorites]


I thought we all agreed never to mention the movie again.

By we all I mean everyone who ever saw the movie.
posted by Catblack at 5:22 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


It can’t be as good as I thought it was when I was nine.

I enjoyed the show as a kid. I just watched an episode and was surprised at how entertaining it still was for me.

I watched "The Night of the Druid's Blood" which starred Don Rickles as a magician who unabashedly claims to be a worker of black magic and a Satanist. West meets him at a party at the house of a Senator. And everyone is so... polite to him. They smile and nod and hold polite conversation. They like his magic. All these mannerly, genteel people acting like having a Satanist at a party at an upper crust home is no big. Just another interesting thing for a person to be.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:29 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Possibly the easiest pitch in TV history, James Bond + Maverick?
posted by Beholder at 5:40 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


I have seen the 1999 movie many times. It has a lot of problems. But I love it.
posted by chavenet at 6:13 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Finding out that Robert Conrad was a terrible person (thanks a lot, Battle of the Network Stars) made me feel like a fool for loving this show and Jim West.

Luckily, Ross Martin remains an unspoiled delight.

Um, right? RIGHT?
posted by allthinky at 6:33 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


I too am willing to admit it: yes, I enjoyed the 1999 movie. It's got some major flaws and it'll never be one of the classic movies remembered decades from now, but it was still a lot of eye-candy fun.

I grew up on the original TV show: fortunately for me, my older sisters liked it, because otherwise I'd never have gotten to see it (they were bigger plus they outnumbered me, so let's face it, I didn't get a lot of say in what we watched). I've always had a crush on Robert Conrad --- as tzikeh says above, the costuming department definitely knew what it was doing with those tight pants and bolero jackets! But Ross Martin's Artemus Gordon was the one I wished I could meet in real life; his brains and creativity and willingness to think outside the box, traits that the actor (spoke seven languages! degrees in business and in law! violin prodigy!) shared with his character, made him someone to look up to.
posted by easily confused at 6:42 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


I recently wrote about the film!

It is almost possible to enjoy the film thanks to Kenneth Branagh's absurdly mannered performance — he wears a preposterous beard and mustache combination that looks like the sort of curlicue you might find on a formal wedding invitation. He speaks with a Southern accent so exaggerated that he sounds like a drunk man screaming Blanche DuBois's dialogue after having locked himself in the bathroom of a dive bar.

Unfortunately, as much as I like a good hammy performance, I have to agree with the original Jim West, Robert Conrad, who was furious at the whole film. He pointed out that the character that Branagh plays in the film was a little person in the original series, played by a terrific actor, Michael Dunn. By casting Branagh, the film took a role away from a little person and gave it instead to an able-bodied man pretending to be disabled. Conrad felt like there are plenty of little people in Hollywood who would have been terrific in the role, and I agree with him, although I worry the resulting film would have been a series of short jokes.

posted by maxsparber at 6:48 AM on September 23 [6 favorites]


Catblack: "I thought we all agreed never to mention the movie again.

By we all I mean everyone who ever saw the movie.
"

I was pretty enthusiastic about Barry Sonnenfeld as filmmaker given the two Adams' Family films, Get Shorty and the first MIB not to mention his background working for the Coen Brothers but he really fell off a cliff with WWW and never recovered.
posted by octothorpe at 6:48 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


By we all I mean everyone who ever saw the movie.

Being a fan of the TV show and based on the commercials I saw advertising the movie, I NEVER SAW THE MOVIE.

But I still refuse to mention the movie.
posted by linux at 7:12 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


As one might guess, the movie was putrid. Seriously awful.

Someone had to get giant mechanical spiders out of their system.

Best bit of the movie was Burger King UK's promotional tie-in burger - a whopper with onion rings in it.
posted by Artw at 7:32 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


guys any movie with a giant fucking steampunk spider can't be all bad

GIANT.
FUCKING.
STEAMPUNK.
SPIDER.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:33 AM on September 23 [4 favorites]


and yet....
posted by schmod at 7:38 AM on September 23 [8 favorites]


Producer: Jon Peters

(He's an asshole, if you hasn't guessed)
posted by Artw at 7:38 AM on September 23


guys any movie with a giant fucking steampunk spider can't be all bad

GIANT.
FUCKING.
STEAMPUNK.
SPIDER.


Had I not seen the movie, I would have Schrodingerly agreed with you. But I opened the box and that cat is DEAD. And racist. And took a role played by a little person (in the 60s! And so indelibly!) And gave it to a not-little person. Who was in-film racist!

So, alas. It can be all bad. And it is. Thirty years on and the film has none of the charm of the original, but all of the racism. Like magic, but in reverse.
posted by tzikeh at 7:41 AM on September 23 [4 favorites]


I loved the show and happily watched it after school as a kid. Have not seen the movie but am so happy to be reminded of the show!
posted by leslies at 7:45 AM on September 23


confession: i have a soft spot for crass and mindless 90s schlock; i'm under no illusions it's actually good. but if i'm feeling under the weather, sprawled on the couch under a comforter, you're goddamned right i'm gonna turn off my brain, turn on that roland emmerich movie and stuff my face with carb-laden junk food through the incredibly implausible ending
posted by entropicamericana at 7:50 AM on September 23


Jim West
posted by dismas at 7:50 AM on September 23


Desperado
posted by dismas at 7:50 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


I've mostly known only Cartman's take.
posted by stevil at 7:51 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


The thing about putting something like a giant steampunk spider in your movie is that it tends to overwhelm everything else, and it's the kind of big spectacle that Hollywood SFX houses can crank out by the dozen. Barry Sonnenfeld's forte is in the smaller comedy bits that take you by surprise, and just as the second MiB film wasn't nearly as funny as the first because of the number of bits that were merely repeated (the talking dog, the little insect/salamander dudes), WWW seems to have flopped (I didn't see it, which in and of itself says something because I was a fan of the original TV show and have liked most of Sonnenfeld's stuff; the movie got a reputation as a stinker very, very quickly) because whatever charm was in the movie got overwhelmed by the big action set piece.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:57 AM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Best bit of the movie was Burger King UK's promotional tie-in burger - a whopper with onion rings in it.

I seem to remember they had the 'Wiki wiki Wild West' song on loop... their poor poor staff
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:57 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


"But did you know..." there was an old movie just like Will Smith's I Am Legend staring Charlton Heston?

Common, way to kick an old man when he's down. I have enough trouble getting up as it is.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:07 AM on September 23 [7 favorites]


"But did you know..." there was an old movie just like Will Smith's I Am Legend staring Charlton Heston?

There was an older one with Vincent Price called The Last Man on Earth.
posted by maxsparber at 8:41 AM on September 23 [6 favorites]


In 1997, producer Jon Peters hired Kevin Smith to write a Superman script, and insisted it featured Superman fighting a giant spider. That movie never happened, but two years later Peters produced Wild Wild West...featuring a giant mechanical spider.
posted by fings at 8:49 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


Dude loves spiders. It's his sole redeeming virtue.
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on September 23


I always loved the way the title card showed scenes from the episode.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:27 AM on September 23 [10 favorites]


I miss the age of spy everything. Get Smart, The Saint, Mission Impossible, Lancelot Link, these were the sweet spot for my young self.
posted by calamari kid at 9:31 AM on September 23 [4 favorites]


We should have gotten a Brisco County Jr. movie instead.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:39 AM on September 23 [15 favorites]


It's amazing how there isn't a good adaptation of "I Am Legend" and I'm pretty sure part of that is that there's something about the book which inspires every single director and screenwriter to assume they're more creative than Richard Matheson.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:43 AM on September 23 [5 favorites]


I loved loved loved this show as a kid. Thank you!
posted by Chrysostom at 9:54 AM on September 23


I loved the episodes I've seen.
posted by drezdn at 9:59 AM on September 23


Loved the series as a kid, the strangeness and inventiveness, the weird baroque texture to it.
Went back to glance at it on DVD, and I was stupefied by the sluggish pacing and editing. The pants were even tighter than I'd recalled. Also, Michael Dunn was an amazing Shakesperian villain, his character was fascinating.
posted by ovvl at 10:07 AM on September 23


I always loved the way the title card showed scenes from the episode.

Yes. I loved a lot of things about this show when I was a kid, but the opening title sequence, which was a little animated caractature of "typical" scenes from the show divided up into comic book panels that interacted with each other in surprising ways, was one of my favorites because of how, at each commercial break, the panels would get replaced one-by-one with stills from the current episode. It actually made you look forward to the commercial breaks!
posted by straight at 10:15 AM on September 23 [13 favorites]


The memorable animated title sequence was done by the DePatie-Freleng studio, best known for the Pink Panther title animation.

They were also responsible for animating James Thurber's cartoons for a series that was a young sobsister fave, My World and Welcome to It. Here's the first episode.
posted by the sobsister at 10:17 AM on September 23 [7 favorites]


God, I loved this show, in reruns when I was a kid thank you very much. Robert Conrad was so cool.

But that movie.

That fucking movie.
posted by Naberius at 10:39 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


I was a little too young for the original run of the TV series, but my brother and I watched the hell out of that show every afternoon when it went into syndication in the mid-70s. Robert Conrad always reminded us a bit of our father -- pugnacious and with a chip on his shoulder, but with a wink and a smile that made him charming. But we used to fight over who got to be Artemus Gordon when we played "Wild Wild West".

As far as the movie goes...fuck that shit.
posted by briank at 10:57 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


Something I didn't know until this sent me off down the rabbit hole is that Michael Garrison, the show's creator, was the same guy who (along with Gregory Ratoff) initially tried to launch James Bond onscreen, buying the film rights to Casino Royale from Fleming.

He thus separated Casino Royale from the rest of the Bond canon for many years, leading to both the Climax! episode featuring American agent Jimmy Bond, and the nigh incomprehensible 1967 spoof version.* It would take decades, a host of different rights holders, and a lot of weird corporate incest before those rights would get recombined with the rest of the Bond material, giving us the Daniel Craig reboot.

* which at least gave us The Look of Love, which is a damn sight more than the Will Smith/Kevin Kline Wild Wild West Movie can claim. I think briank expresses the regard in which decent people hold that film as efficiently as it can be done.
posted by Naberius at 11:12 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


If your cable company carries meTV (or, as I refer to it, The Old Folks and Shut Ins Channel) you can watch it as part of their Sci-Fi Saturday Night lineup. Michael Dunn and Conrad's trousers were national treasures that were wisely preserved. But my heart belongs to Artie Gordon. The worst episodes were in the final season when Ross Martin's health started getting bad and Gordon was "transferred to a desk job in Washington."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:26 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


I was age 10-13 when the original series aired Fridays at 7:30PM, a perfect timeslot for me to catch every episode (and for one season, beg my parents to let me stay up until 10PM when Star Trek had been moved to a 'timeslot of death'). Good memories. Never liked Westerns, except the comedic "F Troop", but loved spy shows. A previous commenter listed "Get Smart, The Saint, Mission Impossible, Lancelot Link," to which I must add Patrick McGoohan's Secret Agent/Danger Man and its mutant child The Prisoner, The Man from UNCLE where a Russian was the #2 HERO, I Spy where a Black Man was the #2 hero (yeah, I know, Cosby) and The British Avengers where Diana Rigg/Emma Peel was one of my first crushes and helped me to appreciate fictional strong women (but so was Get Smart's Agent 99). Oh, and Secret Squirrel because (1) squirrel and (2) Mel Blanc. It was a Golden Age when anybody, regardless of race, gender, nationality or species, could be a good guy but the bad guys always had Russian or German accents. (Trivia factoid: Rocky & Bullwinkle's bad spies, Boris and Natasha were supposed to have 'not Russian but Eastern European' accents but not even Paul Frees and June Foray could avoid the stereotype; but their bosses, Fearless Leader and Mr. Big, were VERY German).

By 1999, I was sadly torn. I liked Will Smith in Men in Black (kind of sci-fi spies!) and Kevin Kline in almost everything, but I avoided 30-year-removed remakes like the plague and never let the New West ruin my childhood memories. Still, giant robotic spiders.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:42 AM on September 23 [5 favorites]


Wait...There were people who didn't know the movie was based on the tv show?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:42 AM on September 23 [12 favorites]


I assume that to be a bit of poetic license on the part of Filthy Light Thief.

But then I am old.
posted by Naberius at 11:55 AM on September 23


Aw man, no mention of the great Victor Buono.
posted by aquanaut at 1:33 PM on September 23 [3 favorites]


I purely loved the TV series. The movie... less so. Much less so. Much much less so.
posted by Splunge at 1:34 PM on September 23


Finding out that Robert Conrad was a terrible person...

He was partly raised across the street from me. His neighborhood rep was that of being an overweight bully. We were all shocked when he wound up as the svelte hero of that show.

Personally, never having had any run-ins with the guy (he's a bit older than me), I loved the show.
posted by Chitownfats at 1:38 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Wait...There were people who didn't know the movie was based on the tv show?

We're old now.
posted by Artw at 2:07 PM on September 23 [2 favorites]


The Land of The Lost film also stunk. If the director/producer doesn't respect the source material, the movie is going to usually stink. Speed Racer is another example. These properties if done correctly could have been major franchises.
posted by Beholder at 2:42 PM on September 23


You don't really need to mention Victor Buono. It's not like there's any danger of him going unnoticed.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:45 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Oh, god. Loved it so much. Watched it every single day after school, and always paid attention to the opening credits -- since the various permutations were different in different seasons. Also, my best friend and I loved watching for all the recycled sets they used over and over again. There was a particular "room with wooden staircase" that they used endlessly, with just the bare minimum amount of set dressing to differentiate from "room with wooden staircase at the mining company" from "room with wooden staircase at the back of a casino" etc etc. Artemis Gordon forever. (Also, Dr. Lovelace scared the crap out of me back then.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:49 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Count me in as another child in the 60s who loved this show. I probably should watch this again just to see if it holds up or if it will be another childhood memory dashed to shreds, like the time I tried to watch an episode of Rat Patrol. Maybe WWW was what kindled my like for steampunk and spies. On further examination, I am attempting to write a weird West fantasy novel with plenty of intrigue and this is now all hitting way close to home.
posted by Ber at 2:51 PM on September 23


Speed Racer was awesome. What the fuck is happening in the world? Nothing makes sense now and people are just saying terrible thing about Speed Racer the movie online.
posted by maxsparber at 3:14 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Wait...There were people who didn't know the movie was based on the tv show?

I assume that to be a bit of poetic license on the part of Filthy Light Thief.

But then I am old.


SO MANY PEOPLE have never heard of this show who saw the movie. That's part of why I hate it so much.
posted by tzikeh at 3:19 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


is this where i confess i enjoy the schlocky lost in space movie as well
posted by entropicamericana at 3:20 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


The title card was cool, with the action bits freezing and becoming a part of it. As well as at the commercial breaks, the scene ending became a part as well. Watched this on reruns after school every day on the UHF channel back in the 70s.
posted by Windopaene at 4:02 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


I bet it wasn't as bad as the I Spy movie, though. (Haven't seen either one.)
posted by allthinky at 5:09 PM on September 23


Or the Mod Squad movie.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:17 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


I remember it well. What was considered the wild, wild, west was not very far west, but I can't think of an example.
posted by theora55 at 5:19 PM on September 23


One of the great recurring elements of WWW was the bar fight. It seemed like every episode had to have a scene of Jim West slugging it out with a gang of goons and pretty much punching them all over the place until some dirty guy broke a chair over Jim's back. If only Jim had been smart enough to take out the chair guy first, he would have won every brawl.
posted by SPrintF at 6:25 PM on September 23 [3 favorites]


FLT you a MFT ( MeFi Treasure )
posted by Twang at 6:45 PM on September 23


Golly, I loved that show. Robert Conrad was indeed eye candy, and it was well written, brisk, and funny.

And the move was indeed terrible.
posted by Peach at 6:57 PM on September 23


I have to be honest, I'm 37 and I've never heard of the original show until recently stumbling across it. Sorry for making folks feel old.

Also, I'm on team The Movie Is Rather Awful, but I also appreciate people who like bad movies (somehow, WWW is not yet on BadMovies.org as a movie-specific post/article). For whatever it's worth, Will Smith has recently commented on his own decision to star in the film, pursuing fame instead of quality, or something like that.


Beholder: These properties if done correctly could have been major franchises.

I agree. As Nostalgia Chick pointed out, Blazing Saddles addressed race in the old west and did it well (and it was a proper comedy!). But instead they chose to play up the worst parts of the original series, and wasted the actors all around. Given how big Westworld is now, as both a reboot of an old story/world and as a western setting with modern-like technology, WWW seems even more of a missed opportunity.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:59 PM on September 23 [2 favorites]


I totally imprinted on the original show. Michael Dunn is mesmerizing; the camera just adores him. And my crush on Ross Martin can be seen from spaaaaace. ♥____♥ Plus, as tzikeh rightly pointed out, the costuming department knew just what to do with Conrad's bod, and many of the scripts also had him tied up in various sexy-torture positions, often with no shirt on. I do like an action hero who is well-eyecandied.
posted by theatro at 7:41 PM on September 23 [3 favorites]


I grew up watching Wild Wild West. My parents were amazed that I was watching 'a western'. Then I showed it to them. Jim West didn't fight with boxing--he used Chinese martial arts (very rare on television at the time--except for Miss Peel on the Avengers and the Green Hornet, which had Bruce Lee!) His partner fought with disguises and inventions.

It was also very much a science fiction show. The evil genius Dr Loveless was always coming up with plans to take over the world, often using science well beyond anything that exists even today. Of course his minions were always local cowboy bumpkins who were always just dumb enough to mess up everything enough for Jim and Artemus to step in foil his plans. (Michael Dunn played the role wonderfully).

Like any good evil genius, Dr Loveless needed someone to brag to--it was the common trope of the evil genius only having respect for the people smart enough to constantly defeat him, so he ended up almost looking forward to them showing up.

(We won't even talk about the movie--ugh!)
posted by eye of newt at 9:06 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


I, too, loved the original series and will stop and watch if I run across a rerun. And (small claim to fame) I got to have lunch with Ross Martin in the early 80s at the Tucson Racquet Club. There was an open deck and a friend and I were at a table. Mr. Martin came out and was looking around for a seat. I recognized him immediately, of course, and asked if he'd like to join us. There was that instant appraisal—are these women weirdos? But he sat down and we had a pleasant hour discussing world cuisines and music and whatnot. The show was not mentioned but we did say we'd liked his work for a long time and he was pleased. And then it was over. But it's a very fond memory of mine.
posted by MovableBookLady at 9:18 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


I think partly because he's always making snarky comments to a "Jim" who does silly combat moves in tight pants, I have Ross Martin's Artemus Gordon permanently scrambled in my brain with DeForest Kelley's Leonard McCoy.
posted by straight at 10:14 PM on September 23 [4 favorites]


I was a fan of WWW when I was a kid - not enough to want to revisit it as an adult when that became possible; but I watched it every week.
(We had a lot fewer entertainment options back in the day.)

I haven't revisited it - partially because I could never quite get why women went for West rather than for the far more interesting Gordon - but, there it is, life is often like that....

Related: I saw some episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. recently, and was pleasantly surprised at the high production values and by the overall quality.

And it goes without saying that the (non-Marvel) Avengers movie from the '90s was also worth missing - RIGHT?
(I mean, I refused to see it because nobody - not even Uma Thurman - could ever replace Diana Rigg - but was ANY PART OF IT worth seeing?)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 11:25 PM on September 23


I seem to remember they had the 'Wiki wiki Wild West' song on loop... their poor poor staff

In 1999, I was working at a video rental store. They had these 30-minute promo tapes for new releases that you were required to play all day, every day. The one that promoted this movie had the entire music video for the title song in it. So every day for a month, I had to listen to that embarrassing, piece of shit song 16 times. And believe me, I had all the lyrics memorized. I can still feel the loathing that would well up every half hour. One night, I woke up at like 3 in the morning with that song in my head. AAAAAaaaaaaaagh!!!
posted by heatvision at 5:19 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]


Rough rider, no you don't want nada
posted by dismas at 7:35 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


The show caused me to grow up thinking Artemis was a boy's name.
(No, I didn't know he spelled it Artemus...)
posted by MtDewd at 11:07 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


The Land of The Lost film also stunk. If the director/producer doesn't respect the source material, the movie is going to usually stink.

I haven't been a fan of any version of "let's take an old franchise that played this material straight and turn it into a broad comedy" with the exception of the 21 Jump Street movie, which was pretty fun. (But then, I hadn't paid much attention to the series.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:16 PM on September 24


I knew WWW was a show (and I think I’ve seen the movie? Maybe part of it?) but wasn’t in an area that got reruns so never watched the show until now. It’s a lot of fun! I never watched the original Man from UNCLE either but have tried I pick that up partly because I really enjoyed the recent movie. It’s full of pretty.
posted by PussKillian at 4:48 PM on September 24


Yeah, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie really exceeded my expectations, so fun. I wish that movie took off and scored a sequel instead of Kingsman.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:57 PM on September 24 [3 favorites]


I always equated Brain (the mouse) with Dr. Loveless.

/The same thing we do every episode Mr. West. Take over the world! mwaahahaha
posted by exparrot at 6:10 AM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Nthing everyone's love for the show. Saturdays in my childhood were Star Trek and Wild, Wild West in some combination. I longed for a crossover -- and that may have been my first understanding of the concept of crossover. And speaking of Trek/WWW crossovers, Michael Dunn was also wonderful in "Plato's Stepchildren."

Also: "The character that Branagh plays in the film was a little person in the original series, played by a terrific actor, Michael Dunn. By casting Branagh, the film took a role away from a little person and gave it instead to an able-bodied man pretending to be disabled. Conrad felt like there are plenty of little people in Hollywood who would have been terrific in the role.

Can you imagine the scenery-chewing joy with which Peter Dinklage could inhabit the Loveless role?
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:23 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Doctor Loveless had everything: pathos, wit, glee, rage, sadism, ingenuity, resentment, sublimated desires... he's one of the great archetypal antagonists, along with Iago and Milton's Satan.
posted by ovvl at 4:49 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Michael Dunn was also a talented folk singer, and his nightclub act partner often played Dr. Loveles 's assistant Antoinette. I always loved seeing Antoinette because it meant Dr. Loveless was going to sing, and he had such a gorgeous tenor voice.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:31 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


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