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 Review of The Night of the Big Blackmail
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couldron
SS novice field agent

1438 Posts

Posted - 09/16/2006 :  13:29:33  Show Profile
If anyone wonders about my absence, I have one word LIGHTENING.

This is one of those episodes that upon watching it for this review I have changed my mind about. Harvey Korman was part of the Carol Burnett Show and I am afraid it has taken me this long to get that connection out of my mind. This is a very good script and of course it has all those anachronisms. The Kinetescope, and the projection screen. One that no one ever seems to notice is the relatively unimportance of the US. We didn’t become a so called super power till much later. All that aside this is a great episode. It brings back the gimmicks including the putting the boys into impossible situations before the commercial break. It is nice to see not only the sleeve gun in use but also exposed on Jim’s arm. It is also a pleasure to see Artie working in his lab once more.

I love that cat. I became a cat person by accident, my mother wouldn’t let me have a dog.
Jim: When are you going to get rid of that cat.
Artie: He stowed away in Denver I am going to see he get home.

Oh no, I thought, that cat is going to get them caught. How clever it was that Jim and Artie had a secondary plan for those watching them.

When Jim was talking to Mr. January, and they both had their guns out. What happened to Jim’s derringer?

It was fun to see them exit out of the fireplace as it was to watch Artie apply is smooth talk on his supervisor.

That rolling spike explained a lot of disappearances and I thought that the talk between Jim and Artie over the levers was cute and reminiscent of Amnesiac when they were discussing if more or less weight would set off the bomb.

Of course, that safe was just bizarre and gave Jim another fight sequence and one handed. There escape was the shooting bucket, o.k. I know that it wasn’t a bucket but it was the same idea. I loved it especially since it tied together the fallen pot earlier in the episode.

The one thing lacking was a beautiful woman lead. I can’t say that I missed it.

My rating






Now I am off to catch up on I have missed and to that Impossible quiz.

Redhead1617
SS novice field agent

USA
1393 Posts

Posted - 09/16/2006 :  14:55:12  Show Profile  Visit Redhead1617's Homepage
you okay Mary?!?!

Big Blackmail... I must lable this one as a guilty pleasure. I'm not entirely sure why I like it and watch it as often as I do because it's not as action packed as other episodes.

Kitty!!!!! I'll take the kitty!!!!! I love my cat, even though she's insane. But yeah, cats mean trouble! I also love the setup with the toy train and the cut-outs, but even without the cat knocking them over, how long do you honestly think it would take for the bad guys to smell something fishy?? that was only a very smalll track, now if the track were about half the length of the parlor or full length of the parlor, it would have been stayed them longer if the cat wasn't there (but then again, we are talking about a cramped train car )

I do like seeing President Grant, I love the epiosdes where we see him, it just shows another relationship between our boys and their commander in chief.

I still after many viewings find Artie's show a riot!!!!

hmmm I do have to pull this episode out again...

(I can't wait for the entire series to be out on DVD!!!!!!! No more commercials!!!!!! No more tv cuts!!!!!!! No more cuts from taking the VCR off pause too late!!!!!!!!! No more tracking problems!!!!!!!)

anyway, rating

~Red

*sigh...where's MY Ross Martin?
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Herr Ostropolyer
SS 1st assignment - desk job

USA
209 Posts

Posted - 09/17/2006 :  07:18:51  Show Profile
Hey couldron,

Great to have you back! I was getting a little bit worried. Excellent review as always,and that goes for you too Red!

What can I say, TNOT Big Blackmail is one of season four's best! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this was penned by David Moessinger, but ccb could probably confirm this (Figures we have a review and I forget the Kessler Bible at home!)who also wrote the season 3 opener TNOT Bubbling Death. It's a shame he did not write any other episodes because he had the full grasp of the ingridients needed to make a top notch WWW!. True, their was no glamour girl in this one, but none was needed because the mission was far too dire. However, he had all the other essentials: gadgets, action, and a great team dynamic! The topper is that Moessinger brings us the impossible mission angle, and like TNOT Bubbling Death, TNOT Big Blackmail is quite the dosey!

I know what you mean couldron. It is very difficult (at first) to watch Harvey Korman as the evil Hinterstoisser. I keep seeing his performance get a little over the top ala his Hedly Lamarr in "Blazing Saddles", however he plays the villian superbly. I also feel that Korman's portrayal is brought back down to earth by the arrival of Count Hackmar so kudos also go to Martin Kosleck (We will see him again in TNOT Diva), but he (Kosleck) was always excellent playing nefarious villians.

I believe that this episode is such a guilty pleasure to me because it is basically a Grant assassination attempt, however this one differs because it is a character assassination (The recorded dodgy deals with Japan) instead of the usuall "I have to kill Grant because he did me wrong so many years ago" assassination plots. Plus, the payoff is RM's comical impersonation of Grant which not only brings the house down, but also ruins the Baron's scheme! Artie is truly ahead of his time doing silent comedies 60 years ahead of Chaplin!

The cat scene is nothing short of priceless and I find it fitting that another feline (a lion) will subdue the thugs via knock out gas!

The intrigue is fantastic with several agents entering the embassy never to return! Plus, the episode takes place entirely in Washington, thus proving that our boys are not always in the West!

We get Artie in the lab car, Jim's sleeve gun, the bucket junp, and an ahead of its time Artie invention (The Movies) that Jim naturally tells Artie will never catch on.

Top marks for Roy Engel, who is truly worried that his most trusted agents have failed this vital mission, plus the look on his face of sheer relief as Jim and Artie sudden appear by his sides at the viewing is truly priceless.

Oh and I almost forgot! Kudos go to RC and RM who are on top marks. RC with his wonderful stuntwork, the one handed fist fight gets me every time! Also, the gracious return of the Herr Ostropolyer disguise, this time a little bit younger and dripping with charisma, How RM woos the night chef supervisor cracks me up every time!

So you can't go wrong with TNOT Bigblackmail. Great fun all around! The only problem is that there were not anymore episodes like this one.(Honestly, if the 4th season followed this example then we would have had one of the best seasons of our fine series.)

5 out of 5 stars!

Herr Ostropolyer

"Can you please say that again because I love how your nose crinkles." -Artie as Herr Ostropolyer wooing the night supervisor in TNOT Big Blackmail.

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ccb
SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3799 Posts

Posted - 09/18/2006 :  15:46:32  Show Profile
In what turned out to be a very uneven season, CBS had to have recognized "The Big Blackmail" as a rock-solid opener for 1968. As Herr O. reminds us, it was written by David Moessinger, whose only other script for the series, "The Bubbling Death" (which opened the third season), also riffed then popular Mission: Impossible. Too bad he didn't give us more, but at least he gave us these two.

The things I admire in this episode:
  • Its originality. By this time—heck, by the third season—the producers were running out of fresh ideas that could fit the series' format and budget. "Blackmail" is totally fresh, wonderfully anachronistic, and altogether unbelievable. Just the ticket for our fair series.

  • Its plotting and pace. This is an exciting, well plotted 48 minutes—perhaps even more so than "The Bubbling Death." While too many episodes wandered in search of ways to fill up an hour (think of any script by Edward J. Lakso), this one is outlandish in how much it squuezes into about eighteen hours of "real time."

  • A superior blend of gadgetry, characters, and choreographed mayhem, all of which give us many happy moments: the chemical leach that saves our heroes from an inescapable death-trap (a rare nod back to an earler episode: the first season's "Glowing Corpse"); the sequence photographs projected onscreen; the vain kitchen cook (Alice Nunn); Martin Kosleck's nasty Prussian; the fights in the architect's office and the boiler room (in the latter, even Mr. West has trouble taking on five burly bruisers with one hand tied behind his back). Even our third go-'round with the miraculous bucket projectile is the best. Bless his heart, Irving Moore didn't cheap out on us: for the first time West—probably Jimmy George—was hoisted on Peter Pan wires up the chute.

I know: There's no beauty for Jim to romance, save five seconds with the daughter of the Albanian ambassador. But that's five seconds more than "The Surreal McCoy" gave us, with no women at all, and that doesn't seem to have deep-sixed many of our ratings. In "her" place is a fine if brief turn by one of the series' few African-American performers: Ron Rich as the terrorized but informative Mr. January.

Finally, The Korman Factor. Evidently, Harvey's association with Carol Burnett's broadly comic troupe was occasionally a problem for the production crew, too. (See the Kesler Bible.) On the other hand, I think he does a fine job in the "Colonel Strasser" role. I don't like typecasting—especially when comedians, who have the harder job of making us laugh, try their hand with a serious part. Korman plays it straight, doesn't mug or chew scenery, and manages to look genuinely shaken when threatened by his littler superior (the count). In the Act I chat with Grant and Gordon, I especially like the way Korman simply bites off the end of his cigar and spits it out in front of the American President. What a neat expression of contempt!

Really, my only complaints with this episode are its title—I like alliterative titles, but here there's no attempt at blackmail—and Conrad's weeks–later short haircut in the tag. But that's small beer for this troubled season.

— to prove to myself that I can give five stars in Season Four!
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CharlieTobin
SS spy school graduate

USA
95 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2006 :  11:50:30  Show Profile
Here it is...

This was the first episode of "The Wild, Wild West" I ever saw, on a Thursday morning back in 1988. It came on after some other homogenous TV show, and from the teaser to the very end, I was hopelessly hooked. As a gadget-loving young boy, seeing that cable lift pull Jim up several floors before entering the building was something I'd never seen before. At every commercial break, I kicked myself for not popping a blank tape in the VCR and capturing all the creative genius unfolding (not even for its first time!) before my eyes.

Unlike others who have written here already, I hadn't seen the Carol Burnett Show before (or after) seeing this episode, and the true comedic talent of Harvey Korman is something I've only read about (and finally saw a few years back on an awards program, where the CB Show was recognized, and they were all joking about their old age. Korman gave a shout-out to the Depends people :). I feel like I've missed out on the laughs, but for this episode, it proved his ability to play the other extreme. I do like those before-and-after photos in the Kesler book with Korman and Ross Martin playing it deadly-straight, followed by what looks to be some pretty intense laughter.

This is the one that got me hooked. At this point, I'm willing to forgive any and all shortcomings, absent leading ladies, and possible blunders for a great introduction to a life-changing series.

1/2. Just because.

"Eyes aren't enough these days!"
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Silver
SS novice field agent

882 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2006 :  13:26:32  Show Profile
Harvey Korman. I'm one of the lucky ones who can appreciate his serious work despite having grown up seeing Tim Conway drive him to hysterics every episode of the Carol Burnett Show.



Okay, I admit it, I keep waiting for him to crack up. Hey, I tried. Once you've seen Harvey play it straight only to have Tim give him one look and drop him dead, you never escape the expectation. You know, Harvey himself said that for years after the show ended, he couldn't be in the same room with Tim without losing it.


"I sometimes wonder what the ventnors buy one half so precious as the goods they sell." - Omar Kayam
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MaudeB
SS novice field agent

582 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2006 :  13:53:39  Show Profile
I hope they have "The Carol Burnett Show" on DVD. Ross Martin was a guest star on an early show, and he was recognized in the audience once during her question/answer opening.

Boy did (do) I have a crush on him!
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Redhead1617
SS novice field agent

USA
1393 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2006 :  17:42:39  Show Profile  Visit Redhead1617's Homepage
quote:
Boy did (do) I have a crush on him!


Paws off Maude!! j/k

~Red

*sigh...where's MY Ross Martin?
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MaudeB
SS novice field agent

582 Posts

Posted - 09/20/2006 :  07:43:42  Show Profile
If only my paws were on him! (Sigh)
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Silver
SS novice field agent

882 Posts

Posted - 09/20/2006 :  09:12:52  Show Profile
If your paws were on him they'd be on top of my handprints.




"I sometimes wonder what the ventnors buy one half so precious as the goods they sell." - Omar Kayam
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MaudeB
SS novice field agent

582 Posts

Posted - 09/20/2006 :  09:35:40  Show Profile
I'LL TAKE IT!

(Boy, this could start a less than family oriented discussion thread.)
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ccb
SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3799 Posts

Posted - 09/21/2006 :  15:11:40  Show Profile
I support Sgt. Tobin's right to a 5-and-one-half star episode. Any episode that would hook anybody on The Wild Wild West is by definition a five-and-one-half star episode.

Though he doesn't mention it—and I didn't either—I'd bet another hook in "Big Blackmail" is for most of us Richard Shores's third music score for the series. It may be his strangest, with that Indian tabla, electric organ, and weird percussion, but it is definitely ear-catching.

Back to Harvey Korman: A curious thing is that, funny man that he was, his main job on Carol Burnett's show was to play straight man for her and Tim Conway. If you want to see HK in his comedic prime, rent Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles—though beware: that's a movie so politically incorrect that the producers interviewed on the special features all agree that it would never be green-lighted today.
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Silver
SS novice field agent

882 Posts

Posted - 09/22/2006 :  07:51:01  Show Profile
You are so right about Blazing Saddles. We should be glad it got made when it did, because it is, in my opinion, brilliantly funny. And yes, HK does shine! I'll give him my highest compliment to an actor of any genre - I actually forgot about the fact that he was Harvey Korman part of the time, just saw the character.


"I sometimes wonder what the ventnors buy one half so precious as the goods they sell." - Omar Kayam
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ccb
SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3799 Posts

Posted - 09/22/2006 :  08:17:32  Show Profile
Inside joke for other Blazing Saddle fans: "That's Hedley."

Did you know that Heddy Lamar sued the movie's producers? They paid her off and kept the gag.
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Ptolemy
SS 1st assignment - desk job

463 Posts

Posted - 09/22/2006 :  09:21:18  Show Profile
quote:
Did you know that Heddy Lamar sued the movie's producers? They paid her off and kept the gag.

I remember when Hedy Lamarr passed away back in January 2000, everyone at work was quoting Blazing Saddles. It's somewhat ironic, really...that the actress once known as "The Most Beautiful Woman in Films", would be best remembered (at least in name) by the general public for a film she was never in...and sued Mel Brooks for mocking her name in that movie!

I hate to admit it, but the only Hedy Lamarr movie I can recall watching is Samson and Delilah...Lamarr played Delilah and Victor Mature played Samson.(It just wouldn't have worked right the other way) She turned down the lead roles in Gaslight and Casablanca. So...as fate would have it... it's Blazing Saddles that has cemented Lamarr's name in the public mind.

Governor Le Petomane: Thank you, Hedy, thank you.

Hedley Lamarr: It's not Hedy, it's Hedley...Hedley Lamarr.

Governor Le Petomane: What the hell are you worried about? This is 1874. You'll be able to sue her!
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Cindylover1969
SS novice field agent

United Kingdom
1268 Posts

Posted - 09/23/2006 :  09:33:28  Show Profile  Visit Cindylover1969's Homepage
quote:
Originally posted by ccb
Though he doesn't mention it—and I didn't either—I'd bet another hook in "Big Blackmail" is for most of us Richard Shores's third music score for the series. It may be his strangest, with that Indian tabla, electric organ, and weird percussion, but it is definitely ear-catching.


Since Shores scored "The Night of the Burning Diamond" in season one, "The Night of the Eccentrics" in season two (who can forget THAT fight music?) and "The Night of the Firebrand" in season three, wouldn't that make this his fourth score (as well as making the late Mr. Shores the only composer to score specific episodes in all four seasons)?

"Make them both as uncomfortable as possible." - Marquis de la Mer, "The Night of the Watery Death"
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ccb
SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3799 Posts

Posted - 09/23/2006 :  14:08:31  Show Profile
Cidylove1969: Since Shores scored "The Night of the Burning Diamond" in season one, "The Night of the Eccentrics" in season two (who can forget THAT fight music?) and "The Night of the Firebrand" in season three, wouldn't that make this his fourth score (as well as making the late Mr. Shores the only composer to score specific episodes in all four seasons)?

You're arithmetic is correct, as is your deduction. The only other composer whose work spanned all four seasons was CBS music supervisor Mort Stevens. For the most part, however, he wrote only specific cues and edited together cues by other composers.

In Season Four Mr. Shores pretty much assumed the place held by Richard Markowitz in Season Two and Jack Pleis in Season Three: namely, principal composer of cues for a season's soundtrack. Also in Season Four, Shores gave us "The Sedgewick Curse" and "The Kraken"—all of whose cues underscored much of the fourth season's episodes.
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SordoTheBandit
SS 1st assignment - desk job

478 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  08:38:09  Show Profile
http://www.filmmusicsociety.org/news_events/features/2004/021304.html

His favorite show of the '60s was not at MGM, however. "I have very fond memories of The Wild Wild West at CBS," he said. "It was a western, but not a western. They had a lot of tricks and gizmos, private-eye stuff. It was clever and funny and fanciful. I liked that show." Shores wound up doing six episodes of the Robert Conrad-Ross Martin favorite: one each in the first, second and third seasons, and three in the fourth. (Several more were tracked with his music, and as per common practice of the time, he received screen credit when a majority of a show's music was his – hence his name on a total of 15 Wild Wild Wests.)

His first was "The Night of the Burning Diamond," composed in March 1966 for a 17-piece ensemble, including – for the disappearing bad guy – the use of Jack Cookerly's souped-up organ with Echoplex (an early indication of Shores' ongoing fascination with the tricks that the technology of the time offered).

"The Night of the Eccentrics," the second-season opener and first to feature Victor Buono as black-magic purveyor Count Manzeppi, featured music of appropriately bizarre charm, with an effective combination of harpsichord and Fender bass. "Night of the Firebrand," a third-season adventure with Pernell Roberts and Lana Wood, was especially music-driven, featuring the complex melodic lines and surprising rhythmic patterns that had made his U.N.C.L.E. scores so distinctive. Fourth-season episodes ("Night of the Kraken," "...the Sedgewick Curse" and "...the Big Blackmail") were marked by offbeat percussion and keyboard effects.

"The Wild Wild West was perfect for his style," recalls Don Ray, "because it wasn't really 19th-century. He wrote, essentially, in a very sophisticated dance-band style, beyond Stan Kenton. When he was writing for Gunsmoke, it wasn't of the period, but it was so good psychologically and musically that it worked."

It was also on Wild Wild West and U.N.C.L.E. that Shores' penchant for electronics first became apparent. As his frequent lyricist Stewart Cohn wrote at the time: "Not always content with the limitations of the conventional musical instruments at hand, Shores is in constant search for new sounds for his film scores. Happily, some of the new 'now' instruments, such as the Gibson Electric Organ, are extremely facile and may be utilized in an infinite number of musical situations." The '70s would see a similar fascination with the ARP synthesizer and Yamaha Electone organ.


I loved all his work.

The Wild Wild West: "Escapist entertainment of the highest order."
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CharlieTobin
SS spy school graduate

USA
95 Posts

Posted - 09/26/2006 :  16:52:33  Show Profile
Excellent reference, Sordo! Shores was indeed a gifted man.

I know I have a tendency to kick a dead horse, but I cannot recommend these enough--and they're in limited quantity! For more of Shores' genius, as well as many others...:

http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm?ID=3053
http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm?ID=3623
http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm?ID=4082

"Eyes aren't enough these days!"
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orrin cobb
SS novice field agent

USA
959 Posts

Posted - 10/02/2006 :  12:34:11  Show Profile  Visit orrin cobb's Homepage
As I recall, about the same time as this episode aired, there was a "Mission Impossible "caper involving using a cat to help the team carry a precious jewel in or out of a building through the air vents with Barney guiding him. I remember thinking that this was the same cat actor as used in "TNOT Big Blackmail".
All in all "Blackmail" is one of my all-time favorite episodes.

"Let's get this train on the road!"-Artemus Gordon
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Desert Roger
SS novice field agent

4355 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2006 :  07:07:19  Show Profile  Visit Desert Roger's Homepage
For years this was my favorite episode (until Surreal McCoy and Limbo took the top spot).

This is a good episode for someone who has never watched the show before.

Funny how this episode of The Wild Wild WEST was set in the East: Washington, D.C.
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