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couldron
SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 10/22/2003 :  13:20:35  Show Profile
Howling Light is an interesting episode. We have not one but two antagonist, Dr. Arcularis (Sam Wanamaker) and Ahkeema (Scott Marlowe). Ahkeema wishes to kill Ho-Tami (Ralph Moody) but his intentions are not selfish. He wishes to protect his people. He admires James West and in the end vindicates Jim. He is understandable and his goal is sympathetic even if his methods are not. On the other hand, we have a thoroughly despicable character in the Dr. who mercilessly brainwashes his victims. Sue Kesler reports in her book that Ted Voigtlander was nominated for an Emmy Award for Director of photography for this episode but lost out to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Artie has no disguises but the exchange between him and Ahkeema adds to the episode tension, gives a background to Ahkeema, and demonstrates how cool Artie can be. The shooting scene did leave me confused. The ending of having Jim rescue Artie only to find his friend tries to kill him is a nice twist. The sexist remark at the end I am ignoring. What bothers me is that Jim is portrayed as being able to shoot some one in cold blood. In a later episode, Gruesome Games, the villain tells Jim he knows he could not shoot him in cold blood so this is not consistent with what I would think of Jim. My rating is definitely weighted. This is one of my favorites



AdorableBlue
SS novice field agent

948 Posts

Posted - 10/22/2003 :  17:28:47  Show Profile  Visit AdorableBlue's Homepage
quote:
What bothers me is that Jim is portrayed as being able to shoot some one in cold blood. In a later episode, Gruesome Games, the villain tells Jim he knows he could not shoot him in cold blood so this is not consistent with what I would think of Jim
Now that you mention it, Mary, it kinda explains the scene to me (perhaps). Jim throughout the series had indeed been portrayed as one who never kills in cold-blood (TNOT Golden Cobra as well). Here, he was being programmed to kill regardless of situation and we see Jim pausing before Hotami. If the programming had been perfect, the minute Jim saw Hotami, he would probably have shot him. But Jim hesitated. And I always wondered why it took him so long to shoot him. When Akheema reminded Jim what he was to do, Jim still hesitated. Now that you brought up this thought, it kinda explains why he paused. Inspite of his programming, that part of him that don't just kill in cold-blood is still there.......

The fight scene between Jim and Artie is good. Its so endearing to see how much he cared for Artie, he knew he had to come back for him. And he never expected Artie's reaction. The way he evaded Artie and trying not to hurt him too much in the fight is so heart-warming. I'm sure West could have overcome Artie but for him to run away from the fight (West hardly runs away!) really shows he cared for Artie! He wouldn't hurt a hair on Artie (so he has said before!) and in the fight Artie only got one punch. One of my favorite scenes in this eps.

I liked the opening scene where Jim was relief it was not Artie's body, the dialogue between Artie and Akheema (about his rudeness or something) and of course, the final encounter scene between the Indians and Jim.

And ohhhhhh! If only Blue could brainwash James West!!!!!! Heheheeh!




AdorableBlue
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couldron
SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 10/22/2003 :  17:40:19  Show Profile
quote:
If the programming had been perfect, the minute Jim saw Hotami, he would probably have shot him. But Jim hesitated. And I always wondered why it took him so long to shoot him. When Akheema reminded Jim what he was to do, Jim still hesitated. Now that you brought up this thought, it kinda explains why he paused. Inspite of his programming, that part of him that don't just kill in cold-blood is still there.......



Blue you have given me food for thought. But what about his shooting Dr. Arcularis? He fired three time before he concluded it was not loaded.
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AdorableBlue
SS novice field agent

948 Posts

Posted - 10/22/2003 :  18:30:02  Show Profile  Visit AdorableBlue's Homepage
quote:
Blue you have given me food for thought. But what about his shooting Dr. Arcularis? He fired three time before he concluded it was not loaded.
When I first watched that, it did make me wonder. But later I thought perhaps Jim must have almost reached the unbearable point and just to play along with the bad guy as well, he might as well fire those shots, remembering somehow also, that the Hotami in the closet was a dummy (one he was shown earlier in the eps.). That way he kinda satisfied the Dr and gets his release from the pain.



AdorableBlue
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Redhead1617
SS novice field agent

USA
1393 Posts

Posted - 10/22/2003 :  20:32:33  Show Profile  Visit Redhead1617's Homepage
boy, my brain ain't with it if I can't remember that fight scene between Jim & Artie (well, I did have a 8pg paper, exam, and my Granny passing away , so yeah, my brain isn't quite there) The "fight" scene at the end you mean Blue?

but I did love the scenes where Jim is in a hurry to see "Artie" in the hospital , and as Blue said, the relief when Jim found it wasn't Artie , I also love when Artie finds out about the telegraph that said he was injured, the look on his face! The Madam Lafarge or whatever her name is scene was a riot!!! Artie's (or Ross' or both?) humor "Heads will roll & heads will roll on the guilditene, your head will roll!" "Thanks, you're a great help" (Please forgive the spelling and misquoting! ) I also liked the scene with Artie & Akeema in the train & oh! the risk Artie took by dishing it back out at Akeema! How brave! West talking Greta (or whats her name) out of the hypnosis reminded me a lot of the scenes in Star Trek Orig Series where Kirk talks the computer into destroying itself Also that intense fight scene (which is now coming back to me ) between Jim & Artie at the end, and when Artie wakes up & Jim's about ready to punch him again, & Artie goes "Hey, what's that for?" & Jim's reply. The character development and partnership is definately coming along quite nicely, especially in this ep

Rating:
(would have been 5, but Artie's remark at the end! )

quote:
If the programming had been perfect, the minute Jim saw Hotami, he would probably have shot him. But Jim hesitated. And I always wondered why it took him so long to shoot him. When Akheema reminded Jim what he was to do, Jim still hesitated. Now that you brought up this thought, it kinda explains why he paused. Inspite of his programming, that part of him that don't just kill in cold-blood is still there.......



well, here's my theory on Jim's hesitation & shooting Akeema & all that good stuff: Jim is a fighter (like so many other heros ex: Kirk in a few ST:TOS eps, Odysseus) and he is not going to let anybody control him no matter what. He is a tough fella, that's for sure, and like he told the girl, "if you really want somthing, you've gotta fight, and fight hard" Jim may have shot the clay Ho-tami because he may have well been at his wits end, but he definately didn't have it all together upstairs (I don't think anyway), he did faint after doing so. Jim doesn't seem to be the cold blood killer type, no, but he kills when necessary, when he's royally p*ssed, someone broke the law kinda stuff. When it came time to shoot the real Ho-tami, he couldn't do it, when he hesitates and walks away, he's fighting really hard internally because he knows it's wrong, and he just can't do that, but he's still not all together there upstairs, he has to shoot. So, he shoots Akeema, the flash of Akeema's pin was unexpectantly part of the programming when he had the gun in his hand and the flash from the pin went into his eyes earlier at the lighthouse, Akeema was the "bad guy" here also, Jim knew Akeema was part of the plot to assigniate Ho-tami. I don't think Jim killed Akeema in "cold blood" he kill him because he had to shoot something , and Akeema was the "bad guy" and Jim was still waging the battle inside to keep his bairins.
Now as for Arcularis, Arcularis was the bad guy, Jim was kidnapped to assigniate Ho-tami by this man, and Jim recognized the danger this man presented not only to one person, Ho-tami, but perhaps the outcome of the Indian nation. Jim didn't shoot in cold blood, without reason

~Red

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

849 Posts

Posted - 10/23/2003 :  06:24:10  Show Profile
This is one of my favs for sheer gorgeous factor of JW. And Intimidating!Artie! He is such a bad*** in this one. SO, that said, Jim says something like I'd shoot you to protect all these people, doesn't he? Sacrifice one for the good of the many. Everytime I see that episode I think the twinkle of the jewelry set up a secondary response unknown to the bad doctor. So Jim, fired as a response, not out of any real desire to kill Ahkeema - Jim would just punch him if he hadn't been in a trance. I love the partners fighting at the end. Nice doubling job! One of the best episodes.
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ccb
SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2003 :  14:33:20  Show Profile
I tend not to recall "The Howling Light" as one of my favorites, but I did my homework last night and watched this one again. By golly, I liked it more thn I remembered. Mary has done us all a service by inviting us to review these episodes in sequence, for our personal evaluations.

Many of you have already touched on the things I admire about it. Most important, for me, is its departures from so much that already had become formulaic in the series. Perhaps that's due to the fact that it was the first for which John Mantley had full control over its production (apart, I suppose, from initial script assignment). He wasn't as locked into the Freiberger formula, or anyone else's, and the results are surprisingly interesting:

1. In this installment, West isn't the invincible hero to the rescue. He's the one in distress and needs all the help he can get, from his own internal strength and the support of others, like Indra (Act II).

2. As Mary points out, there's not one but two very articulate heavies in this one, each with his own complexities: Ahkeema, the mastermind, whose villainy arises from principle (the fate of his fellow Native Americans) and who actually saves West from being murdered out of revenge; Arcularis, the arrogant scientist who's interested in nothing more than success in a cold-blooded Pavlovian experiment, yet who dissolves into abject cowardce when his laboratory specimens revolt.

3. West does not stereotypically fight his way out of this one. He wills himself out of the doctor's clutches, then bolsters the rest of the doctor's victims to find that resolve within themselves. Scriptwriter henry Sharp once said that he prefered episodes where West used his reason, not merely his fists.

4. Artemus does not stereotypically come to West's rescue. Though much of the episode is given to Gordon's attempt to find and save West, the Act IV surprise is that the partner has been conditioned to kill his best friend and he actually makes that attempt!

5. Paul Wendkos does a terrific job staging this episode, which, when you consider it, is largely a one-set, very theatrical exercise. It could have been as cold and static as Arcularis's experiment. In fact, it's quite inventive for series television. Notice the distorted lens he has Voigtlander use in Act I, when West awakens, groggy, in his dungeon. Notice also the tilted camera in Act II, when Artemus steps into the madwoman's hospital room. Arcularis's army on the stairs, in the Act IV climax, are more frightening, I think, because of the way Wendkos positions them: in robotic profile, cast in the shadows. Precisely because other directors tended not to be so creative, these little touches—along with West's and Gordon's difrerent sorts of cool under pressure—are really very nice. Why didn't, or couldn't, they get Wendkos back for other episodes?

6. Ted Voigtlander deserved his Emmy nomination for this episode. It's not easy to create the interior of a believable lighthouse on a two-dollar budget!

7. Finally, this is one of the few shows that actually took seriously white America's insconscionable treatment of Native Americans. In an way, both its leading representatives are given their own, different, and ambivalent last words: Ho-Tami receives a promise of peace, lest all the Indian nations be decimated; Ahkeema dies with (valid) predictions of tawdry, ignoble treatment of his people, which are left uncontradicted. In that respect, this episode of West ranks right up there with the best of Have Gun—Will Travel, another CBS western ahead of its time.

I'd give "Howling Light" five stars but for its annoying plot inconsistencies and flaws. I'm bothered that, in the teaser, Arcularis has apparently taken over the Good Samaritan Hospital without any interference whatever (even to dressing up Indra as a nurse); yet, in Act II, Artemus has the superintendent and staff breathing down his neck the whole time. Why the inconsistency? A lot of Act IV doesn't ring true for me, either. We all know that West is a crack-shot, and Ahkeema should drop dead on the spot after receiving multiple bullets. But no: He has to live to absolve West from being killed right there on the spot—which not only Ho-Tami but all the other braves in that Hotel foyer ought to have done, immediately (if West were not the hero). Even West, the Secret Service's finest, succumbs—if by programmtic misdirection from Ho-Tami to Ahkeema—to Arcularis's conditioning. His speech on the stairs towads the end doesn't ring true: The doctor's programming did work, even on him—it only misfired. So how is it that his little sixty-second pep-talk to Trowbridge and the others is sufficient to break their conditioning and save his hide? And why does Artemus simply wake up as though from a deep sleep? Well, because (a) West and Gordon have to reappear next week, as living partners in a new adventure, and (b) there's only five minutes left before we go to commercial, so we have to wrap this one up fast.

For me, then, this is a flawed but inventive, even noble, episode that merits at least .
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JimPhelps
SS 1st assignment - desk job

USA
417 Posts

Posted - 10/29/2003 :  09:58:01  Show Profile
TNOT HOWLING LIGHT


We are dealing with the “spy” genre and where would we be without a good old-fashioned brainwashing story, made in style the only way The Wild Wild West could do it. Of course the spy/adventure format is fertile ground for brainwashing stories, just a few from off the top of my head include: I Spy (It’s All Done With Mirrors), Mission: Impossible (Mindbend, and My Friend, My Enemy), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The Green Opal Affair, The Brain Killer Affair, et cetera) The Avengers (The Wringer, Too Many Christmas Trees, The Hour That Never Was, et cetera), of course The Prisoner did practically every variation of this type of plot, even an episode combining the brainwashing and doppelganger themes (The Schizoid Man) WHEW!

When compared with the latter series Dr Arcularis makes The Village administration seem like humanitarians. He is definitely one of the most sadistic villains in the entire series, his pure “scientific” detachment is something more akin to Dr Mengele, and the primitive brainwashing he puts his victims through is nothing less than torture. However, it is an effective and creative way to tell this kind of story in the time frame of the series. I suppose the “European scientist” Arcularis refers to when explaining his methods to Jim is to be taken for Pavlov; it can count as an anachronism I guess (Arcularis never says the scientist’s name). Pavlov, a physiologist, began research on digestion circa 1880; he stumbled onto his most famous discovery when he realized that his lab dogs became conditioned to associate the sound of a metronome with feeding time. He finally published his results on “conditioned reflex” in 1903.

There are several good moments, one of which is in the teaser, notice how RC takes a beat before he removes the sheet from the corpse, it’s a telling moment Jim West pausing for a moment to allow himself to accept the hard truth. The relief he expresses when he sees the body is touching but the happy moment is fleeting as Jim is immediately gassed and spirited away in what looks like a wicker coffin.

The first scene of Act I, sets the stage and provides us with the necessary exposition (which RM handles so well): Jim has gone missing (again) shortly before he is to meet with Indian Chief Ho-Tami with a message from President Grant regarding the Chief’s efforts to unite warring tribes into an organized group, presumably, so as to better negotiate with the federal government on Indian Affairs. To compound the matter Ahkeema, a proud, stubborn, well-educated Native American aide to Chief Ho-Tami, with questionable motives, is on board The Wanderer giving Artie all kinds of heat.

This is definitely a departure from what we had been seeing in the Frieberger episodes. Jim’s physical ability is not much help here, his excellent shape and metabolism helps him to resist the brainwashing for a long time but in the end he must use his mind to break free from the conditioning. Both Ahkeema and Arcularis are three dimensional characters with different motives, even Ho-Tami, although he only has one speaking scene is not a stereotype but a well thought out character who’s trying to do what he thinks is best. Ahkeema thinks he knows best and believes he can save his people if he can prevent Ho-Tami from “selling out” to the US Government. It’s a sad irony that one of the villains of the episode, Ahkeema, predicts the real fate of the Native American in his dying breath. Ho-Tami, for all of his good intentions is hopelessly naive, certainly Jim and Artie are honest men, but they do not direct policy.

There seems to be some question as to why Jim shoots Ahkeema since it appears his conditioning is beginning to break down even at the end of Act II when the reflection from Ahkeema’s bolo tie pin snaps Jim from unconsciousness. What I read from the episode is that Jim is fighting the programming even after he shows every sign of coming under its spell, he must shoot when he sees Ho-Tami but the reflection reminds him that he can snap out of the programming and he shoots at what he rightfully perceives is the greatest threat to him at the present moment: Ahkeema.

In comparison with other episodes Artie does not have much to do but play detective trying to locate Jim’s whereabouts. However, the part is not a superfluous afterthought like in “TNO A Thousand Eyes”, Artie uses his wits and intelligence to track down Jim, and the scene with Madame Dufarge (sp?) is cute, “Heads will roll! Heads will roll!” The only question I have is: How much time passes from Jim’s conditioning to Artie’s? It’s nighttime when Jim finally succumbs to the conditioning, he is in the hotel with Ahkeema presumably the next morning and the entire affair unravels in the lobby. When Jim returns to the lighthouse to rescue Artie it is night again and Artie has been conditioned to kill Jim. Arcularis says Artie was “almost” as difficult to program as Jim, well he spent about 10 days doing that. So how much time has passed? Not much it seems. Perhaps this explains why Artie was able to snap out of it so quickly as opposed to Jim.

The ending is gleefully sadistic for the audience as the evil doctor finally gets his comeuppance at the hands of his own former slaves. I believe the turning point for Arcularis’ prisoners comes when they discover that it is Ahkeema who is dead. I’ll admit it’s abnormally satisfying to watch Jim and Artie calmly discuss the pros and cons of rescuing the doctor amid his cowardly pleas for help. I can’t ignore the blatant sexist comment Artie makes in the tag. Surely, Jim and Artie are gentlemen and would never seriously consider using Arcularis’ methods on another human being.

The commercial break artwork is pretty cool. There’s Ahkeema, in what was meant to be the “twist” at the end of Act I, the tie pin for Act II, Jim’s close-up for the end of Act III once again illustrates how much I love this style because even the sweat on the side of his face is captured, and for Act IV there’s the lighthouse. Not bad.

An excellent beginning for Mantley, as he explores that WWW can be more than just the Frieberger formula. I give this one three and a half prosthetic noses out of four.


Mr. Phelps
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