I've been watching the four seasons of Wild, Wild West on video over the last month or so, catching the adventures of secret service agent James West (and fellow agent Artemis Gordon) fighting bad guys in an era just after Lincoln's assassination. Because I've looked up some information about the series on the internet, I wasn't that surprised to find a picture of James West as I was scrolling down Facebook on my computer. I was surprised to find out that it wasn't an ad generated by my past research, but was instead an obituary. Robert Conrad, the man who played the title character, had died at the age of 84.
Robert Conrad had a long career in successful television programs beginning with Hawaiian Eye in the fifties and Black Sheep Squadron in the seventies, but his stint on the Wild, Wild West was the most memorable. The show itself was an interesting blend of two of the top film/TV genres of the time that seemed mutually distinct from each other. The Cold War-inspired success of James Bond films and TV shows like The Man from Uncle and Secret Agent, showed that secret service agents were in vogue, while 'westerns' were still in their golden age in theaters and on television.
Putting James Bond back 100 years into the Old West was an interesting synthesis and one that seems to have worked well. The show garnered good ratings and reviews, however, was cancelled after the fourth season due to the government and networks wanting to limit the amount of violence on TV after the assassinations of RFK and MLK and a growing pacifist movement growing in regards to the Vietnam War.
Ironically, through the 1970s it was replayed in syndication in many markets just after school, and that's when I first enjoyed the show. The introduction featured in order: West slugging a man walking out of a saloon, pulling a pistol on somebody trying to cheat at cards, shooting another man who had the drop on him, and lastly punching out a lady that tries to knife him in the back. OK, so maybe it did have some violence, but it was more like the cartoon violence of that era.
Conrad played the role as a cross between Sean Connery's 007, Richard Boone's Paladin, and Adam West's Batman: part secret agent, part cultured cowboy, part comic book camp superhero. During almost every episode he would explode into two or three brawls with the minions of the bad guy, woo or convert one or more of the guest starlets, and ultimately win the day for the good guys using gadgets that seem futuristic for the time. It would almost always end with agents West and Gordon paired with the episode's women on their 1870s love train.
It wasn't as if the villains were that far behind as far as gimmicks and gadgets. West's archenemy was a Spanish dwarf by the name of Dr. Miguelito Loveless, and what he lacked in height, he made up for with inventiveness, often moving the series into the genres of fantasy and science fiction. Special paintings that one could enter when the proper tuning fork was struck. A powder that shrunk people to a twelfth of their size. These weren't the only fantastic creations that shouldn't have been around 140 years ago that were introduced into the series making it more than just a western with secret service agents.
But perhaps the most enduring aspect of the show other than the superb storylines is that the frequent brawling and other stunts that James West found himself a part of were actually performed by Conrad himself, rather than stunt doubles, in superbly choreographed melees. Conrad would actually be honored later in his career as an accomplished stuntman, an honor rarely given to one outside of the profession of stuntman.
The episode Conrad slipped from the chandelier and was seriously hurt actually was slated for the third season, but they eventually finished the episode a few months later and put it into the fourth season, with the healed Conrad getting up off of the floor and finishing the skirmish. Studio execs would want the franchise star not doing his own stunts after that scare, but Conrad would continue to do his own stunts to the last, only allowing a double in (for sake of the execs) when there was a fall of 5' or more involved.
Robert Conrad as James West was an inspiration to me due to his ability to fight his own battles, his ability to endure when faced with legions of bad guys, and his ability to do so in defense of his country and his friends. If you haven't ever seen the show, or haven't seen it in ages, you should. If not out of respect for Robert Conrad's death, then out of respect for being entertained for 50 minutes.
If there wasn't enough reasons to dislike 2020, another icon of 1960s masculinity has died. Sean Connery, the James Bond, has passed away at the age of 90. Here's a video of his ten best performances. They left off his stint as Zed in the movie Zardoz.
One of his most iconic action scenes, in my opinion, was his fight with a Russian killer on a train. I can’t recall the name of the movie. The Russian was the actor who played the role as the caption of the fishing boat in the movie Jaws.
finny I don’t recall you posting this topic. I also liked Wild Wild West
You're thinking of "From Russia with Love", I include the train fight below. The Red Grant character he vanquishes was a very interesting character in the novel of the same name, he was watered down a bit for the cinema of the time, but the fight was classic and set a standard for other films. You did comment three times on the previous page about Robert Conrad, Willy.
Thanks for posting that film clip. Your right, I did post on here before. I guess the only thing funny is my lapse of recall. My X always said I didn't know what I was talking about. Now she has proof.
It was sad to see that Connery has died, so many great movies he was in over the years besides the Bond movies. Even though he wasn't my favorite Bond he was still one of the best of the Bond actors. Just a few days ago I watched the movie Outland with him in it, always been one of my favorite movies of his.
Going back to the original topic, The Wild Wild West, I've come to find out that its on the FE channel (104) on Spectrum almost every day. For a long time they aired 2 episodes during the week, at the beginning of Oct they replaced the first episode with 2 episodes of the Addams Family. Found another good channel for watching old stuff that I watch every day, COZI on channel 178, during the week in the mornings they have Charlies Angels, The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man, from Noon to 2 they have a couple episodes of Emergency!, one of my favorite shows from when I was a kid. Its been a blast watching all these old shows again.