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 The Night of the Steel Assassin
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SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 10/28/2003 :  16:57:33  Show Profile
Steel Assassin has the scariest villain of the series in the form of a man made of steel named Torres ( John Dehner ). John Dehner also played John Maxwell Avery in Casual Killers. John Dehner does such a good job of portraying a steel man. His movements are ones that are heavy and stilted. He is so evil. Torres is seeking revenge. He was blown up but has no sympathy for he chooses to try to blow up Jim. O. K. isn’t it dumb how the rockets miss JW.

Question: At the beginning of the episode, Jim shoots him the head exposing metal. Later, when we see him it is covered over. Why didn’t Torres cover his entire face instead of letting part of the steel show? Sexist remark alert !!! Artie says to Jim that there should be a law against educating women but in the case of Nina Gilbert (Sue Anne Langdon) I agree. She does such a good job of being a haughty, conceited over educated under mannered person. Don’t you just love to hate her. However, isn’t she so lovable as woman who indulges every whim without a serious thought her head.

Although I think the rocket idea is dumb, the scene is not. The look on Jim’s face of worry when he sees the president come into town and the shrug he gives when Torres says that “I hold nothing against you.” I thought was quite good acting.
Artie is very good in this episode. Some of the best lines of his are in this episode “That’s introduction enough” with a gun in his back “ with an old acquaintance always.” When asked to go down the stairs. How tough Artie is to be able to take a needle to the bone without flinching.

The relationship between Jim and Artie is mixed. Jim at times acts like a boss with an underling but other times they act like friends and good partners.

An interesting thing about this episode is that Jim is in danger at each commercial break. Even the end he is being attacked by the enraged Nina. Notice that he starts throwing things back at her. Artie on the other hand remained a gentleman.

K. you know Spanish so you can help me out here. When Jim meet the driver he asks him where the girl is to which the man answers “no entende” Which mean he/she/ or you do not understand. He should have said No entendo, which would mean I don’t understand. How would the town be translated Alto Nuevo . Alto means high or tall and sometimes stop. Nuevo is new. Maybe a New High??? Does anyone have an idea.

SS novice field agent

948 Posts

Posted - 10/28/2003 :  17:18:18  Show Profile  Visit AdorableBlue's Homepage
You said it, Mary. James West in danger is one of the elements that made me glued to WWW!!!!!! LOL! He's cute when he's in danger, cutest when he's all tied/chained up!!! Aaaaahem.... One of my fav. eps! A worthy adversary too.

I didn't find the rocket scene ridiculous.......I believe those are real mini-rockets that really went boom!? Its amazing though, to see how RC evade their paths! Esp. the one that went between his legs.....if he didn't spread his legs fast enough.......that would be disastrous! I thought that was a well-performed act.

Yes, yes, I did see Jim throwing things back at Nina! So cute! The playful boyishness in James West! But I would have thought that was something like an off-screen thing. Just like in the tags of most WWW eps, after Jim and Artie's final exchange of words, the two would break into laughter or smiles - which I believe was an off-screen thing. They've finished the acting of the day and they're back to themselves, laughing or smiling at whatever banters they've just had. Don't think it was in the script. Which is nice, see that sweet relationship between RC and RM.

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SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2003 :  21:55:44  Show Profile
I confess a sentimental fondness for this partricular episode: When it was first broadcast, I was around nine years old. "The Steel Assassin" is one of the earliest Wests I can recall, its images quite vivid.

Couldron may be correct that Torres is the series' scariest villain; he'd certainly be right up there. (The murder of Captain Gilbert, its suspensefully staged build-up, and subsequent fight scene may make for the series' most frightening teaser.) Mary is surely right that the lead heavy is beautifully played by John Dehner. Compare his lurching, labored Tores with his silky smoothness in "Night of the Casual Killer": same actor, two entirely different characters. While he is dementedly evil, for me Torres passes (later story editor) Henry Sharp's "sympathetic villain" test: You cannot justify Torres's crimes, but you are given to understand how he came to be so warped.

The big problem for me in this episode is the character (over) played by Sue Ane Langdon. I assume that her principal dramatic function is comic relief in what would otherwise be a relentlessly grim story, but, from where I'm watching, she ends up simply annoying me. She is also a plot contrivance with little rhyme or reason: Dramatically speaking, why would Torres think it necessary to hypnotize and kidnap her? Then, why would he drag her to Alto Nuevo, leaving behind so obvious a trail for West and Gordon to follow? That she is so dispensable from the real story—the first of many madmen to attempt assasination of Grant—is pointed up by the fact that she is altogether absent from Act IV, except for the comic tag to tie up loose ends. And I never miss her.

Still, Miss Giggles isn't enough to shanghai this episode. The atmosphere of the teaser and Act I is impressively moody. Despite the fact that you can see the fuses of Torres's rockets nearly sputter out before ignition (!), the shot of Conrad opening wide his legs for the rocket to pass through them is a great moment in the series. The death of Torres is also well done: Dehner again plays it just right—no flailing about, just a dignified self-drowning, with eyes wide open as they sink beneath the murk. Perfect. A wretch is finally released from the misery done to him, inflicted upon others.

One of the best and—obviously for me—most memorable of the Mantley episodes.

Geezer's Footnote : On the audio tracks of the first generation of prints of this episode—when broadcast in 1966, subsequently in syndication in the early 1970s—you could hear, very distinctly, a grating "death-rattle" in Torres's voice. You knew it was deliberate, not an imperfect track, because it was heard only when Dehnner speaks his lines. (It's preserved in an old audio cassette of the episode from the period that I own.) The implication was that Torres's larynx was as mechanical as almost everything else about him: a very nice touch, when you consider how sloppily some of the series later episodes were put together. In both the Columbia House reissues—altogether so on VHS, only a trace remaining in the DVD—apparently some unknowing sound mixer smoothed out on the soundtrack a roughness the original producers put there. Too bad.
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SS 1st assignment - desk job

417 Posts

Posted - 11/06/2003 :  13:47:06  Show Profile
TNOT Steel Assassin

This definitely goes down as one of Jim’s most physical challenges. Torres is literally made of steel and he’s impossible to beat in a fair fight. Torres is not only physically strong he’s a highly intelligent adversary for the guys; a self-taught physiologist, chemist, engineer, and all after surviving an explosion that should have left him dead. Torres is not unsympathetic however, he’s almost like a self-made Frankenstein monster and in the end he does the honorable thing.

The (weak) liner notes for the DVD of this episode makes a strange comment regarding the great character actor John Dehner. Something along the lines of him being an unusual choice to play Torres because he isn’t “physically threatening”. I couldn’t disagree more, Dehner is perfect in the part: older perhaps but, tall and with an intimidating demeanor (like John Avery) Dehner made scores of TV and movie appearances, most as villains and very effectively played.

And he is effective. The atmospheric teaser setting the action on a foggy San Francisco night does a great job of introducing us to Torres and his mission of vengeance against all those he sees as responsible for his present condition. RC does some great work in the opening as well as he happens across Torres who makes a most pithy comment: “A prudent man simply leaves”. Jim doesn’t have a word of dialogue but his facial expressions convey the range of emotions he’s experiencing from curiosity and concern, to bewilderment, then fear before the fadeout into the opening credits. Good work Bob! Had he been one of his contemporaries RC would have given Douglas Fairbanks a run for his money, he’s a better actor and just as good doing his own stunts.

From the opening we know that Torres is on a crusade of revenge against his former military colleagues. It takes just some cursory knowledge of American History (Ulysses Grant, former general, POTUS circa 1870’s) and an understanding of the series’ format and our equation has a solution: Torres is the first [and most certainly not the last] potential Presidential assassin in the history of the series, the title of the episode even uses the word “assassin”. Presidential assassins became almost a sub-genre within the show itself. For four seasons Jim and Artie faced just about every mad-scientist, gang leader, and disgruntled former Army officer, with a beef against Grant. This guy sure had a lot of enemies, hard to believe it when he seems so affable with Jim or Artie. I suppose that’s the case with all Presidents.

I have to agree with ccb that the scenes with Nina Gilbert fall flat. She is adequately convincing when she is hypnotized into thinking like a child however, the actress Sue Ann Langdon is not so convincing as a PhD candidate. Her idea of playing intelligence is to act all prim and proper. For a show produced in the 1960’s “Wild Wild West” had, for the most part, a very progressive opinion of women, there are several female doctors, scientists, and criminal ringleaders. I even have to give the producers credit for eschewing the cliché of the “smart but unattractive” woman. (Remember Dr Pringle? What a knockout!) So they don’t do very well with Miss Gilbert, nothing’s perfect, but it does set us up for a tag scene that’s a hoot from start to finish.

There are a few other memorable characters that stand out in my recollection. Roy Engel makes the first of his semi-regular appearances as President Grant, I prefer him to James Gregory’s more low-key portrayal of US Grant in “TNOT Inferno.” There’s Torres’ sinister housekeeper and creepy assistant Lopez (Allen Jaffe).

Before I forget I really have to give my compliments to the make-up department who certainly put in some overtime on this job, the work on Dehner is fantastic and the black and white cinematography compliment Torres appearance. The work on RM this week is relatively simple; a beard and change of hairstyle, add a cigar and you have President Grant. Ross would have plenty of time in the makeup chair for next week’s episode “TNT Dragon Screamed”. Overall, the special effects are quite good even the stunt of shooting the rocket under Jim comes off quite well although I find it hard to believe the missile contains a substance “ten times” more powerful than gunpowder, if that were the case the entire structure would have collapsed.

The relationship between Jim and Artie is warming up nicely, they definitely seem like equal partners unlike the Frieberger episodes where you would sometimes get the sense that Jim was the superior agent, giving orders to Artie. Speaking of Artie he’s got some great moments, the best is his rousing extemporaneous speech to the saloon and that great closing line delivered with such gusto: “Belly up to the bar gentlemen the drinks are on me!” We learn the Zen of Artie when he successfully resists Torres hypnotism and takes a needle to the bone without flinching (who really is the superior man Torres?). After swimming to safety from Torres’ gas trap he expertly carries out his duty as a Secret Service agent by acting as a decoy for the President.

The final confrontation between Jim and Torres is appropriately suspenseful and keeps you wondering just how Jim is going to stop this man who’s impervious to bullets. Torres demise is appropriately ironic; the “indestructible man” is overcome by water. In his final moments there is sympathy for Torres and a sense of loss. His final words after Jim offers his hand: “I would have liked to, at another time” are almost heartbreaking followed by Torres unblinking decent to the bottom of the river. Poor guy, the odds were always against him.

Of course, I have to mention the commercial break art which is pretty good: the carriage driver about to knife Jim, Jim surrounded, a menacing looking Torres peeping through a metal door, and the train, although it would have been great to have captured an image of the guys being pelted with cushions and knick-knacks by Nina.

Overall, very good, I award it three prosthetic noses out of four.

Mr. Phelps
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