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 The Night of the Sabatini Death
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SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 03/04/2007 :  15:22:14  Show Profile

I really am curious how others view this episode. In some ways, it is a remake of the clunker Colonel’s Ghost but it is much better. The guest stars are top quality and turn in a tremendous performance. Ted de Corsia starts us off calling Jim to help him, he is unable to tell him everything before he dies but leaves us with a fascinating mystery. Isn’t his opulent wealth demonstrated in that lantern lit wheel chair? Jill Townsend is a sweet young victim needing the protection of Jim. We have the alumni of Gilligan’s Island –Alan Hale Jr. and Jim Backus. Hale is camppy in his performance but it is a needed element in this serious episode. Backus is a favorite of mine. I loved Mr. Magoo.
Before Magoo, however there was Judge Bradley Stevens in I Married Joan with the fantastic comedian Joan Davis. I wish we had more of Backus in this episode but his performance is both light and heavy. In his brief scenes he conveys so much. He was such an excellent actor. My favorite of this episode is Bethel Leslie. I love listening to her and I never tire of the lies she tells about all the balls she once attended. I find her voice especially chilling as she does away with her disguise in front of the blind girl. That whole bit is chilling as we see Booring’s shoes only coming coming….
Then there is Ben Wright who poisons his dying boss and tries to shove Jim over the balcony. Everything seems to tie nicely together. The church has burned down it seemed a throwaway piece of information but later we find out why. Going into the breaks seem to leave us at a dramatic point accompanied by wonderful matching music. We only get two fights and the last made no sense to me. I loved the end with a nod to the “Captain” of Gilligan’s Island. I also liked that burst of wind as Jim comes into town. The only thing I was disappointed in was what was left for Sylvia. Overall I love the mystery and how it is played out an the tightness of the script.


Ecstasy La Joie
SS novice field agent

1799 Posts

Posted - 03/04/2007 :  16:34:46  Show Profile
I like this episode, too. I like the mystery element and the town of hangers-on all suspicious about the newcomers. The beginning is a real teaser, with the bad guy going to West for help. It illustrates just how far-reaching and solid Jim West's reputation is. I think this is the first I ever heard of curare. WWW was a great place for "firsts." I always smile when I hear something mentioned on some other series, and I give myself a little pat on the back for being smart enough to watch such an educational show!

Jill Townsend fits her role perfectly. Of course, my preference is a show with a romantic slant for Jim and plenty o' kissing, but he is protective of her and that's better than nothing.

I agree with your comment,couldron, that Bethel Leslie's voice, while she sheds her disguise, is bone-chilling. I also like the part when she sweet talks Jim into checking her tack. What a wasted opportunity in the moonlight!

I enjoy seeing Jim Backus and Alan Hale, Jr. together in this one. Backus' performance is very entertaining, though short lived.

The one problem I always seem to have with this ep is Ben Wright and how he so quickly goes off the deep end (no pun intended). He had waited so long and to just lose it so badly seemed out of character. I also get confused with (is it Booring, or)Borman. I usually find myself at some point in the viewing of this episode taking a minute and trying to tie all of it together, to no avail. But then, I let it go and go back to watching Jim.

. I'd give a fifth, but I need the love scenes.
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SS novice field agent

United Kingdom
1271 Posts

Posted - 03/04/2007 :  19:43:15  Show Profile  Visit Cindylover1969's Homepage
Originally posted by Ecstasy La Joie
The one problem I always seem to have with this ep is Ben Wright and how he so quickly goes off the deep end (no pun intended). He had waited so long and to just lose it so badly seemed out of character.

That was weird, yes (and exactly how high up was that balcony? Jim went over later on with no ill effects). I also had problems with a) how the otherwise pretty good Jill Townsend's American accent suddenly vanishes once Borman starts after her again and never really comes back, and b) that Gilligan's Island in-joke*; those things always seem more out of place in this series than the anachronistic inventions (like sound recordings in the 1870s). Otherwise definitely one of the better Season 4 shows.

*Though it's still less grating than hearing Jim go "Sorry about that, chef" after the kitchen accident in "The Night of the Infernal Machine."

"Make them both as uncomfortable as possible." - Marquis de la Mer, "The Night of the Watery Death"
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Ecstasy La Joie
SS novice field agent

1799 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  05:39:25  Show Profile
I know what you mean about the in-joke. I've never really questioned the anachronistic inventions and remote control doors on the show. They are presented in such a way and with such design details that they just look like part of the culture. But, the in-joke seems almost an invasion of some other show into that nice little world we accept without question. It's as if the WWW is reality and all other shows are just stories that take creative license.
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Herr Ostropolyer
SS 1st assignment - desk job

209 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  15:32:17  Show Profile
Hey all,

Great reviews as always, but I'm going to have to go against the grain with TNOT Sabatini Death. It's very good for a fourth season episode, but it isn't one I instantly hunt down to fill my WWW fix.

The positives:

The plot is a very dark and mysterious gothic that plays fairly well.

Jill Townsend's Sylvia is very convincing as to why West was summoned by Sabatini to protect her in the first place. One can forgive the fact that a Secret Service man is going to carry out the final request of a dying gangster. She is very innocent, but not the usual window dressing. Her backstory is a tragic one, but her repression of these events wears a little thin.

Ned Brown is another highpoint because he is further insight into the inner workings of the Secret Service. This time we have a chemist, instead of another master of disguise and it is refreshing.

The Baddie, Bethel Leslie's Melanie was excellent, because at first she was above suspicion and one felt comfortable that she was taking care of Sylvia, which helped the big pay off in that she was using Sylvia's handicap to pump information from her, thus having an excellent psychological torment.

RC does an excellent job as always, and I have no complaints about his performance.

The Negatives:

Sabatini Death is an unnecessary rehash of the already mentioned TNOT Colonel's Ghost, which was a rather dull second season episode to start with. Plus, I agree that this is a better version of that story, but why rehash it in the first place. TNOT Sabatini Death feels padded to me with this rehash because we have a town full of suspects waiting to get their hands on the missing treasure, Misdirection occurs thus causing not only the padded feel, but some performances like Ben Wright's Clarence the butler to be pretty ridiculous.

Also, West is told to beware of Boorman. Well, he should have suspected that everyone but Swanson was in cahootz with Boorman, thus that is how it turns out. Everyone remaining in Calliope minus Sylvia and Swanson is a member of the Boorman gang. (Yuck!)

I enjoyed the refreshing Ned Brown character in that he wasn't a master of disguise and a chemist, however he is barely in the story and doesn't really use his talents for anything. It was almost as if he was a guest star just so they could do the end tag. (More on that later.)

Also, there is another nagging problem in that there is a stellar guest cast that is under used. Ben Wright, Jim Backus, and Alan Hale are all under used. So why waste the talents of these fine actors if you are not going to use them. For instance, Ben Wright's Clarence is turned into a raving lunatic that falls out a window, thus used only for misdirection and padding. Jim Backus' Swanson is the sacrificial lamb, but he was excellent in the episode being very macarbe, but played as comic relief. And Alan Hale is a chemist who never uses chemistry to help Jim, and besides being frightened by a cat at the graveyard does little else than show up at the resolution and the goofy tag. If RM were not ill, this episode would have been pointless for him to be in as well.

Many have complained that Pat Paulson's appearence back in TNOT Camera really dated the show. I sadly have the convience of not knowing of Pat's other work so he did not date TNOT Camera for me. However, Alan Hale's remark at the end of the tag is so cringe worthy. He will always be the Skipper from Gilligan's Island, but the line was so obviously forced that it really dates our favorite show. I wish they followed their dictum for 4th season episodes and just rehashed a PYT end tag which would have been far better than what we got.

TNOT Sabatini Death gets 3 out of 5 possible stars.

Herr Ostropolyer

"I just want to be alone on a deserted Island." -Ned Brown's cringe worthy quote in TNO Gilligan's Island opps, I mean TNOT Sabatini Death

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SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2007 :  19:15:56  Show Profile
With "The Sabatini Death," we move into those last Artieless episodes where you can tell that the scripts in development had not yet reached the point of no return with plots requiring a mandatory "agent in disguise." Although Ned Brown briefly assumes a different identity ("Tobias"), it's needless.

Since I agree with much that everyone has already said, it's inevitable that I find this one a mixed blessing. The downsides are fairly obvious: most especially the reused footage from "The Colonel's Ghost" with West's entrance into the ghost town. While director Charles Rondeau (also back from "Colonel's Ghost") and others went to enough trouble to dress RC in pretty much the same wardrobe he was wearing in the earlier episode, they made no effort to conceal the fact that Jim's sideburns grow about an inch in a second or so. Pretty soon, from Act II until the end, West is back in the same old tired trail-duds. Years ago sassy honored us with her own quiz question, based on the hand-held camera recording the alley fight in Act II. I don't care for its herky-jerkiness. I miss the more careful set-ups and montage of a classic West brawl, though I'm interested to know what others think. Another example of poor camera placement is the image of the villain's lurching feet. Why on earth they shot down on the fellow's boots with a hand-held camera, from a point of view suggesting that we are the bad guy, is beyond me. With a little more care, those scenes could have been set up and shot a lot more effectively. Think about the close-up of the nurse's shoes in de Palma's (pretty awful) Dressed to Kill, and you'll know what I mean.

On balance, however, there's more here that I like than not:
  • Shirl Hendryx's one and only script for the series. It isn't your typical mad scientist or demented cavalry officer, and that's good. It's a fresh departure, while offering the viewer a plausible reason (locating the miscreant Borman) why the Secret Service would involve itself in a personal matter.

  • This is one of the few out-and-out mysteries that the series gave us. While it doesn't have the wit of "The Tottering Tontine," "Sabatini" does have a convoluted plot with surprises: (a) the lady of the piece is not a mistress but a beloved daughter; (b) her adversaries pretty much all-dunnit, yet (c) never discover what they're looking for. The search for a half-million dollars ends up one big fat red–herring for everyone, the audience included. That's creative, and a lot more entertaining than the aching predictability of "The Colonel's Ghost."

  • The gothic atmosphere, complete with the graveyard and skulking inside a mausoleum. Because "Man-Eating House" is just about my favorite of all episodes, how can I not enjoy another episode that gives us night exteriors of the Day mansion, plus some of Bob Drasnin's wonderful music from that show. Listen especially to the cues for the scenes where Sabatini buys the farm, Brown investigates the cemetery, and Sylvia reaches deep into her past.
  • Finally, this episode gives us one of the best ensemble casts of the fourth, or any, season: Bethel Leslie, Alan Hale, Jim Backus, Ted de Corsia, Ben Wright, Don Barry, and many others. I disagree with those who think that Backus and Wright checked out too early. While I'd have enjoyed more screentime for them both, the fact that their characters both die long before the episode ends suggests that almost everyone—except West, of course—is in danger of buying Sabatini's farm. That creates at least some suspense.

Finally, the tag: cute or cloying? Dated or timeless? While indisputably the most self-referential of winks by the CBS eye, I confess that I get a kick out of it. The reason this one works for me—and Pat Paulsen didn't—is simply the fact that Gilligan's Island was and remains a part of our pop cultural repertoire. Whether you were seeing this episode in 1969 or 2007, anyone familiar with 60s television—which is anyone watching The Wild Wild West—would think "Gilligan" the moment they saw Alan Hale and Jim Backus in the same episode (though, you'll notice, never in the same scene). The tag simply puts a comical exclamation point on what almost everyone in the audience is already thinking. And loveable Alan Hale's own wink, big grin, and belly–laugh puts the joke over just right.

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Ecstasy La Joie
SS novice field agent

1799 Posts

Posted - 03/06/2007 :  08:50:34  Show Profile
You're right, ccb. The tag was done just right. I don't mind it, it's kind of cute. And it's true that the audience is already there mentally. If it's done on WWW, then it must be classy!
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Dieter Epping
SS senior field agent

6517 Posts

Posted - 03/06/2007 :  09:06:39  Show Profile
I agree with ccb and couldron's reviews alot. This is one of my personal favorite 4th season eps because of the spookyness and the great creepy music. I always like these haunting-type eps. Bleak Island is another. 1/2 stars for me.
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SS spy school graduate

95 Posts

Posted - 03/07/2007 :  12:50:47  Show Profile
Boy, it's been a long time since I've seen TNOT Sabatini Death, but I'll toss in my two cents from what comes to mind:

The one thing I always think about with this episode is Ben Wright's plunge to (apparent) death, which has already been mentioned bountifully in this review. That brief, ten-second window where he suddenly snaps and topples over the edge, accompanied by that great stock "falling to my death" scream (which, I believe, also followed Wright into the lethal spike pit at the conclusion of "TNOT Dragon Screamed"), is the most firmly cemented recollection of the episode. Like I said, it's been probably ten years since I last saw this one.

I agree with ccb's mention of Robert Drasnin's haunting score for this episode--extremely effective. The very dark, rough quality of the picture, combined with the music, makes for a very suspenseful hour.

My dad chuckled when he saw the tag with Ned Brown heading off to a desert island. It's a great touch, in my opinion.

"Eyes aren't enough these days!"
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SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 03/07/2007 :  16:42:39  Show Profile
This episode has really drawn some rave reviews. Isn't it interesting that, for all differences, so many of us have ranked this Artieless episode as highly as, if not more highly than, any of the other Season Episodes to this point?

I think that says a lot for the script, the cast, and maybe also the fact that they didn't try to make West's partner into a subpar Artemus Gordon. The Ned Brown character works because he doesn't try to be a master of disguise, the script doesn't need it, and Alan Hale, Jr., is such an endearing actor.
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SS novice field agent

554 Posts

Posted - 03/07/2007 :  19:58:18  Show Profile
I loved this episode, I still remember it from 1969. The rehashed music fit well into the various scenes. I liked the Skipper and even his theme music at the end. I had fun watching it back in '69 and I still have fun now.

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