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 The Night of the Grand Emir
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SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 11/17/2003 :  15:20:31  Show Profile
This review is slightly out of order do to the recent threads. I have delayed in doing the review in hopes that Mr. Phelps would review Dragon Screamed before we did another episode. Nevertheless, here goes the review for The Grand Emir. I will save for another topic about Emirs in general. He is grand indeed as Artie says he would be hard to miss. The episode opens in a nightclub? I have been pondering what kind of establishment this is. Perhaps it is a forerunner of the playboy clubs. It would not be somewhere to take the wife not with the can-can dance. We are introduced to Ecstasy La Joie (Yvonne Craig who later would portray Bat Girl) who is the bad girl who Jim and Artie call a fraud of course she calls Jim a rotter. According to the Webster Dictionary, this noun means a thoroughly objectionable person. Anachronism Alert developed 1894. Miss La Joie is the most talented of the bad girls she performs three types of dancing. She drugs Jim with a scratch from her ring. I like Ecstasy but I think they tried to make her to cutesy with some of her responses for example wait until you get his bill or everybody has their off day yuck. That scene is where the Dr. (James Lanphier) is interrogating Jim. This scene is bothersome to me. It does not flow like conversation. It makes me think that someone was having trouble with their lines. You can see that RC does not have his arm in the sleeve of the straight jacket. Would it not have been easy to use padding?

I turn now to the villain. In this episode, we have a bait and switch that gives a nice surprise. We first believe that Dr. Bey is the bad guy. When his henchmen Christopher Cable (Richard Jeackel) kills him, it is a shock. The switched villain is perfectly diabolical. He reveals himself to Jim and Artie for the purpose of inviting Jim into his group of assassins. When we first see him at the club with Jim and Artie, we learn the writer for the society pages T. Wiggett Jones (Don Francks) and that the guys do not like him. This villain is the leader of a group of assassins. The scene where this group bets how fast it will take them to get Jim develops the feeling of a close-knit group well versed in their activities. Jones is so full of himself he does not notice the disgust that Jim shows at the recent assassinations instead he takes Jim’s remarks as a compliment. He surprises Jim in his ability to fight and did anyone doubt that he would end up being gassed? Another thought, Jones tells Jim that his group only admits the finest families and then he asks Jim to join the group.

Artie is wonderful in his disguise and probably would have gotten the Emir (Robert Middleton) out if the Emir had not thwarted his efforts. I do like his piano playing in the tag. Now for that tag, La Joie is challenged by Jim to name a person she has assassinated for as far as he knows the last one was ten years ago. Artie says it was closer to twelve. She claims that it was earlier in 1860. Jim tells her she would have been nine that means she was born in 1851. The series is set in Grant’s term of office that was 1869-77. Twelve years added to 1860 would be 1872. That means the episode was set sometime between 1872 and 1877. Because of that halting dialogue, at the beginning my rating is.

SS 1st assignment - desk job

356 Posts

Posted - 11/17/2003 :  17:33:14  Show Profile
This episode starts out very nicely for me because Jim and Artie are in tuxes (and that is one of my favorite things to see. Artie’s bow tie is getting more flamboyant but we are not yet being treated to the tie that truly reflects his personality. I’ll let you know.)

As far as the usual WWW writers’ stretching of historical references, I’ll leave those to Mary (there are just too many of them in this ep). It is true that the ruler of the Ottoman Empire in 1876 was called Abdul Hamid II (close enough to our Emir, meaning Prince, Emid), but the Suez Canal was already open for business in November 1869, so Jones’ little plan to charge the Suez Canal Co. for the land around the isthmus is questionable given the time line. Oh well…. The plot is a good excuse to dress everyone up in Middle Eastern garb and those tuxes. It gives RM a chance to put on those flowing robes for a performance that he humorously perfected in his appearance in the Sanford & Son episode, California Crude. And Houdini must have learned the straightjacket escape from Jim (Houdini wasn’t born until 1874).

As Mary mentioned, there is lots of dancing in this episode. (Yvonne Craig began her career as a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.) Even Jim gets to dance.
She recalls the scene. “It’s a dancing sequence, ballroom dancing, which I don’t do, and [Bobby didn’t] ballroom dance either, and I said, ‘Oh, thank God, we’re in luck because I can lead – I just can’t follow.’ So he said, ‘Okay’…so I led and the director said, ‘That’s fine [but] could you do it a little faster?’ and so we said, ‘Sure.’ So we did the scene again and we waltzed out of the scene slightly faster and the director said, ‘Could you waltz even faster than that?’ And we said, ‘Okay’ and we did it again. I’m still leading, Bobby’s still following. Finally the director said, ‘Okay, but I’d like that one more time, maybe a little bit faster’ and Bobby turned to him and said, ‘Listen, you try it in three-inch lifts!’ I thought Bobby Conrad did just fine.”

( By the way, I have some small familiarity with Middle Eastern dance. Finger cymbals would have been a more approriate accompaniment for a belly dancer, but not much as a weapon, so once again expediency wins out.)

Craig also had this to say about guest villain Don Francks (T. Wiggett Jones), “I love him dearly, and I hadn’t seen him [in years]. Midway through the filming…I was looking at him…and he had set in his eyetooth a diamond and I thought he had put [it] there because the character was foppish and I said, ‘Oh, my God, you have a diamond in your tooth!’ and then he said, ‘Yes, only don’t say it so loudly.’ “ Talk about ahead of his time. I tried to spot it during my viewing of the ep and I did see some glinting, but I could never actually spot the diamond.

I like Jones’ cage device. It seems to suit his personality. And when he dies in it, he dies with appropriate aplomb.

I also liked the line when Ecstasy lets Jim out of the cage. She says, “Hurry!”. Hurry, and get out of here or hurry, and kiss me? And then there’s the Vulcan neck pinch again.

Finally, we wind up as many of the first season episodes do – Jim has the girl and Artie is, in this case, on piano duty. He shakes his head, but takes it with his usual grace.

I enjoyed this episode but I'm still bad at the ratings. Can't really decide between 3 or 4 smileys. (Too much dancing maybe, for my taste.) Maybe 3 and 1/2?
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SS novice field agent

1393 Posts

Posted - 11/17/2003 :  20:37:10  Show Profile  Visit Redhead1617's Homepage
Well, there seems to be agreement that La Joie dances too much and that she's too "cutesy" but the writers leading us on to thinking Bey is the bad guy to revealing that he isn't but Cable is was pretty good, it caught me off guard I also thuroughly enjoyed Cable not recognizing Artie (until the Emir blows it) despite being on the lookout for him. The ending almost classifies as an 'aww poor Artie' scene in my book, as Elaine has said
we wind up as many of the first season episodes do – Jim has the girl and Artie is, in this case, on piano duty. He shakes his head, but takes it with his usual grace.

My favorite part of the episode is when Artie gets knocked out and Jim's reviving him. Wonderful little dialogue going on there between the two of them. I also like immediately afterwards when Cable wakes up and downs a last drink and Artie & Jim comment on it.

~Redhead 'Red'
Dean of Launguages & Literature

*sigh...where's MY Ross Martin?
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SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2003 :  09:37:59  Show Profile
For me, this episode is a mixed bag. The atmosphere is classy Victorian, like most of the shows Mantley produced. The performances—especially by Don Francks, Richard Jaeckel, and James Lanphier—are good. Some of the stunts are impressive, particularly the fall that Conrad takes in the teaser, after his attaché case explodes. There are nice suprises: the non-battle between West and Clay (in Act III: all we see is the aftremath, as West simply drops his assailant like a sack of flour), the fact that a fop like Jones can give West some good belts (Act IV), and Cable's grisly, off-screen murder of Dr. Bey (Act I). Director Irving Moore seemed playful in staging this one: note the misleading pause as Ecstacy jiggles her tambourine before the Emir, before we get the actual freeze to commercial, with a naïvely expectatnt expression on Robert Middleton's face. You can often identify an episode directed by Moore, because he could rarely resist the camera's zooming in for some full or medium close-up before the commercial break. It became an annoying cliché. At the end of Act II of "The Grand Emir," however, he reigned himself in: Moore and the producers decided to cut exactly one beat after Martin's line delivery. Without any ominous music to tip you off, the frame freezes when you don't expect it. A nice touch.

This episode disappoints me, however, because it offers up an intriguing, though not very original idea—the Assassins' Club—but fails to build much of a story around it. And what story we have is as padded as the Emir's costume and, frankly, cheats a bit. Yvonne Craig was surely hired not only for her looks but also because she was a professional dancer; but is she so great a dancer that we needed not one, but four dances (one can-can, one flamenco, two waltzes)? I think not. I think that's story padding, which adds nothing to character. Act III has not one but two interviews between West and T., which could easily have been compressed into one, had there been more story to tell. The cheats: Beyond her obvious charms, why on earth was a foul-up like Ecstacy ever allowed to join a Club so élite as the Assassins'? (Well, maybe I've answered my own question.) Are we ever told how West knows where to go, to prevent the Emir's decapitation? Bey really wanted the Emir dead; so the death-by-garter business in the teaser makes sense. But the Club apparently doesn't want him dead, but as a living ransom; that's why Cable kills Bey (I guess). But if that's so, then why is T. willing to allow Ecstacy not one but two assaults on the Emir at the dinner? And is anyone but me annoyed by the fact that, at episode's end, the death of T. is simply assumed to be the collapse of the Club? What about all those assassins outside, from the finest families, waiting to whack both West and Artemus? Other, similar episodes at least suggest a mopping-up operation ("The Dragon Screamed," "The Skulls") or hint that a band of killers has reason to be demoralized ("The Red-Eyed Madmen"). Other than a nice dissolve from one caged cockatoo (Jones) to another (a real bird), the end of the story is a bit of a cheat.

Out of five, for the Good, though not Grand, Emir.
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SS 1st assignment - desk job

417 Posts

Posted - 11/26/2003 :  10:40:03  Show Profile
TNOT Grand Emir

A fair episode with a nice classy look to it, but a plot you don’t want to follow too closely unless you’d like to become very confused. It’s interesting also to look at this episode as almost an example of the kind of schizophrenic attitude the produces seemed to have towards the Artie character; in TNT Dragon Screamed he seems more like a full partner with Jim, this week he’s back to second banana status: he’s knocked out twice and barely in the first or third acts. However, let’s begin at the beginning.

This episode has our heroes assigned to the familiar Secret Service role of protecting a VIP. I’ve read a couple of books by former Secret Service agents and although they consider it a great honor to protect the President and Vice-President they are not so enthusiastic about protecting some visiting VIP’s, particularly those with a lot of political baggage (I read a fairly negative account of working protection duty for Imelda Marcos). Emir El Emid is a perfect example of this kind of VIP, an absolute monarch (let’s face it, a dictator) with no regards for his safety much less those who are there to protect him. He never once thanks Jim or Artie for saving his life, quite the contrary he seems annoyed by their presence. So right off the bat we have an unsympathetic character, and it’s expected Jim or Artie take a bullet for him. Nobody tries to shoot the Emir but Jim manages to deflect Ecstasy’s “garter bomb” in the teaser much to the chagrin of Dr. Muhammad Bey.

Dr. Bey (James Lanphier) is the red herring of the episode since he seems to be the main antagonist but things will soon change. After Jim has been straight jacketed and left to “think” about whether or not he will talk Dr Bey is gruesomely murdered by Christopher Cable (played with malicious glee by Richard Jaeckel). Before I forget I have to mention that this is a West episode with several M: I crossovers, I counted at least four: James Lanphier ("Operation Rogosh"), Richard Jaeckel ("Run For The Money"), Don Francks ("A Game of Chess", "The Numbers Game"), and the Emir himself Robert Middleton ("Underground"). Getting back to the story, Cable kills Bey in order to prevent the Emir’s assassination and the dialogue after Bey’s murder indicates that both he and Ecstasy are members of the “Assassins Club”. At this point it seems that both have infiltrated Bey’s organization however in Act IV Ecstasy is sorry for Bey’s death because he saved her life. So the question is: Why is Ecstasy trying to kill the Emir? Out of loyalty to Bey? Is the attempt in the teaser meant to fail? To humor Dr. Bey? It’s hard to know because the script is unclear.

However, Jim does a Houdini, squirms out of the straightjacket, and (I guess?) prevents Ecstasy from decapitating the Emir. Act II is where we get the most of Artie; he successfully escapes being drugged but is helpless to prevent the Emir from being kidnapped as he is overwhelmed by Christopher and his men. The scene with Jim reviving him is great, “Hey what are you trying to do drown me?” Most of the act consists of Jim and Artie trying to put together the clues and locate the Emir. The arrogant T Wiggit Jones deliberately leaves a trail to his real agenda and Jim and Artie of course decide to follow him. I love the way Act II ends, and the look of pride on Arties face when he demonstrates the usefulness of his tracking device on Jones’ carriage. It ends on a great shot of the two agents frozen after Artie delivers the line: “Long enough for us to get our horses and keep Mr. T Wigget Jones in sight on his night ride, wherever it takes him.”

As promising as the end of Act II seems the story does bog down and become confusing again. As ccb mentioned there are two meetings between Jim and T which could have easily been condensed into one, the dancing slows everything down and does feel like padding. Artie doesn’t have much to do during this time except observe the proceedings through a telescope. The meetings between T and Jim explain the Emir is being held for ransom and is not a target for the club. However, the Suez Canal gaffe kind of throws a monkey wrench into T’s plans. I don’t look at WWW for historical accuracy, if the writers stay generally within the time frame of post Civil War America I’m happy, but this mistake is kind of hard to overlook since it undermines the entire plot.

The end of Act III puts Jim in another “inescapable” position, the glass cage. Thanks to his considerable charm however, Jim has won over Ecstasy and she frees him from the trap. Artie does get another chance to shine, as “Hosar bin Hokar” RM proves again that there are no small parts only small actors. He’s very funny and unrecognizable, I love the way he even refuses to make eye contact while in his guise, “This is a matter of State.” Too bad the spoiled Emir ruins everything, so Artie is knocked out and the next time we see him is in the tag. Meanwhile there’s a short but terrific fight between Jim and T as he proves unexpectedly tough but once Jim is angry T doesn’t stand a chance, his death at the hands of his own device is well deserved.

The tag is cute as both Jim and Artie humor Ecstasy on the number of “assassinations” she’s supposed to have committed. She finally drops the act and she and Jim dance the night away while Artie plays the piano. I like the closing shot for Act IV, focusing on Artie.

I’ve mentioned most of the commercial break art but I might as well give my usual rundown. Once again it’s above average: the Emir totally complacent for the end of the first act, nice shot of our heroic duo for Act II, Jim in the cage for III, and as I just mentioned Artie playing the piano to finish things off.

Overall, a good looking episode with a nice Victorian atmosphere but the script could have used some more editing and clarification. I give it two prosthetic noses out of four.

Also of note: this is another episode that is literally “the night of” since all the events take place over the course of a single evening, also this is another train-less episode, I guess “The Wanderer” is in for repairs.

Mr. Phelps
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