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SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 12/02/2003 :  18:50:29  Show Profile

With a slight delay, we have this week Flaming Ghost. We start off with a stage coach ride where we meet Will Gover (Harry Bartell) Carma Vasquez (Lynn Loring), an artist, and Barbara Bosley (Karen Sharpe), a successful seamstress. Jim is in top flirting form. He is sifting through some papers a touch that I like. Gover tells of strange things that are happening in the hills. Carma stops him by saying that it makes her nervous. A fireball stops the stage and the bandit Luis Vasquez (Robert Ellenetein) removes the women. Jim breaks the bandit Manual’s arm. However, he is prevented from helping the women by fire. The fire seemingly traps Jim as we go to the title break.
We are told that a fireball has killed Gover. This is done off screen. He must have been incinerated because he disappears fast.

In the first act, we learn that Jim and Artie’s mission is to find stolen kerosene and copper. We also find out why the seamstress was needed. The villain is presented as The John Brown hence the Flaming Ghost. Why do they believe that it was The John Brown is unexplained? This villain has problems. His gang is not exactly thrilled with his plans. Luis constantly is questioning him. Luis is concerned over the lost of men without any gain. John Brown rules by superstition but is warned by Carma that he must produce or her father will kill him. John Brown other than pretending to be dead is a run of the mill crook. Jim and Artie are trying to find some clue about what is going on without much luck. They dismiss, at first, a man who tells them of fiery happenings. An ensuing fight with Vasquez and his men convince them of the truth of what the man has seen. The fight is not much of a one and considering how these men are portrayed as very dangerous disappointing. At Least, Artie isn’t knocked out just dazed. Convinced that something is happening north of town they go to the Indian burial ground. Seeing fire, they follow it finding Barbara who has tricked John Brown into letting her go. Although it is obviously a man who falls, it is impressive. Barbara’s character is a good one. She is talented, smart and obviously attracted to Artie as we learn in the second act.

It surprises me that they got the scene of Artie helping with the dress past the censors of the day. It took Artie forever to zip it up too. Jim and Artie learn of Carma’s involvement. Jim goes after Carma and Artie goes after the copper. Artie’s dialogue "I’ll try not to" is dropped. The dialogue between Jim and Artie seems forced and unnatural. THANKS TO RC, it comes off better than it should. We have an enactment of the opening cartoon as Carma tries to stab Jim. She tries to poison him by way of her pet snakes. I hate snakes. We have rattlers around here but I have never seen one out of a cage. I can hardly stand to watch this part. Jim follows her to John Brown. Robert Conrad makes the best shadows and here are the best shadows of the series as he scales the walls.

Act three Jim wakes to a rallying call. I particularly like the sounds of the fire. John Brown is still having trouble with his men. He must do something to keep them in line. Artie goes to the girls cabin. This is a break in the story line. How did investigating copper lead him there? Artie shows up at Ferry’s Landing as the peddler McGuffy. Unfortunately for him, Carma recognizes him. Artie is put into the cell next to Jim. It is a great reunion as Jim is amused with Artie’s show. Their escape is remarkable and one of the most physically challenging of the series. I love the running together of Jim and Artie. I think RC had a hard time keeping up.

Act four we see the gun in action. Although JW is impressed, it does not seem impressive. It was just a little ball of fire that burns a twig more smoke would have helped. The talk Jim has with John Brown is interesting. It follows the same pattern as the latter episode as Legion of Death. Jim asks Brown if he ever heard of Balaclava as latter he would ask Deke if he has heard of the Calvary. Jim escapes. Notice the box he hides behind. He would have been in plain view of Luis. My husband pointed this out to me. He told me he was hiding from the camera. John Brown is burned up. But wasn’t that the purpose of Barbara to sew fire resistant cloths?

The episode has problems but are easy to overlook and just enjoy. After all Artie got the girl, and Jim was left alone.

SS novice field agent

1393 Posts

Posted - 12/02/2003 :  19:57:51  Show Profile  Visit Redhead1617's Homepage
not particularily one of my favorites, unfortunately for spoiled lil' me, b&w usually draws out repressed ADD in me, but I must say this for the episode, up until I saw it freshman year in college I never heard of John Brown & Harper's Ferry, and up until last Spring, I never knew that John Brown actually did exist & the story behind Harper's Ferry. Once we learned about that in class I told my prof all about this ep

Artie as McGuffys a hoot!! Short-lived, but possibly my favorite scene in this ep

I'm with you Mary, I hate snakes!!! Especially rattlers!!! If I ever saw a real one outside of a zoo I'd probably throw up & pass out (then get bitten by the hideous thing )

for this ep & a for the snakes!! (ewwww!!!!!!!)

~Redhead 'Red'
Dean of Launguages & Literature

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

849 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2003 :  06:01:59  Show Profile
You know disregarding some obvious plot holes this episodes had some moments I really liked, Jim actually working, Artie and the zipper, those two had nice chemistry, the snakes were a nice touch. I like snakes, my husband freaks out. They're very useful critters to have in a barn. Jim's horse looked very buff in this episode. I'll give it
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SS 1st assignment - desk job

261 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2003 :  06:42:12  Show Profile
It surprises me that they got the scene of Artie helping with the dress past the censors of the day. It took Artie forever to zip it up too.

I don't believe zippers were even invented yet in the 1870s, but I think the dress in question had a zipper, nonetheless. It always looks to me as though RM pretends to do up a couple of buttons, then moves the zipper up, pretends a couple more buttons, moves the zipper... No wonder it takes so long!

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SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2003 :  09:56:17  Show Profile
Good Catch Leslie
The zipper was patented on August 29, 1893 by Whitcomb Judson, a Chicago mechanical engineer.

One big problem - it didn't work. Not only did it not work, but no one wanted it, either. Judson displayed it at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair to a potential audience of 20 million people.

How many did he sell? Twenty. Not enough to retire on. All to the U. S. Postal Service to close their mailbags.
This site had more information that I found interesting but it would not let me copy so if your interested here it is
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SS 1st assignment - desk job

356 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2003 :  17:42:11  Show Profile
This episode doesn't start out very Artie-friendly. First, he has to ride shotgun (while Jim gets to ride inside with the ladies). Then he gets knocked out in the first round during the ensuing fight. Not much later, in the stable, he manages to at least get a punch in before once again getting knocked out. Ouch!

However, things take a turn in his favor after they rescue Barbara Bosley. She's definitely making eyes at Artie, who does take his time doing up her dress. Karen Sharpe (Barbara) was given a horrible wig - her hair looks more like a hat. It makes her look older - no wonder Jim called her Mrs. She's actually very pretty with lovely skin.

And I love P. McGuffy, "peddler at large". He always makes me laugh. And I love the smile on Jim's face when they bring him into the jail cell. Jim knows just who it is and seems as amused by the character as I am.

I didn't find actor John Doucette to be very imposing as John Brown - just over-stuffed (especially in his fire suit). It should be noted that the John Brown of this WWW story was simply out to make a name for himself. He wanted to be more famous (make that infamous) than his uncle. His namesake was prosecuted for treason and convicted for his part in attacking a government facility (the weapons depot at Harpers Ferry) even though he might have been motivated by his abolitionist ideology. The John Brown in this ep had no ideology, which I felt was a mistake by the writers. As a villian, he was flat and uninteresting to me.

And how could they just let Carma go? (The fashion police could at least have arrested her for her lack of a hairstyle and the criminal application of her eyeliner). What about her attempted murder of Jim? How about bad drawing in the first degree? Her portrait of James didn't do him justice!

I didn't love this ep and I don't hate it. It does have its moments, so I give it - right there in the middle.
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SS 1st assignment - desk job

417 Posts

Posted - 12/12/2003 :  12:44:01  Show Profile
TNOT Flaming Ghost

This is an episode with a lot of interesting ideas but they’re not utilized to their fullest potential. Although I must say that this episode introduced me to John Brown and sent me to the library (this was before the internet) to research the topic of John Brown and his exploits. Recently I ran across this link from PBS ( full of information on the historical Brown. Reading through it, especially the account of Brown execution, deepened the episode for me although I don’t know if the writers or producers knew this much about Brown. Most likely they didn’t and simply recognized Brown as a historical figure they could use to spice up this particular story.

Brown’s execution was closed to the public in order to prevent an escape attempt. The only civilian who wrote about Brown hanging was a writer for “Harper’s Weekly”, David Strother. Unfortunatly, while on this assignment Strother had been let go by the magazine; fortunately for us he did not know this and continued to file stories on Brown until the execution. The reporter’s account of Brown’s execution was finally published by “American Heritage” magazine in the mid 1950’s.

After learning about John Brown’s execution and re-watching the episode I found it more reasonable to believe that the characters accepted the possibility that Brown may still be alive. Even the way Barbara delivers the line at the end of the first Act “He’s not dead.” as if perhaps confirming rumors of the abolitionists’ escape from death. Speaking of Barbara, one of the reasons I like this episode is that it’s the first time a major character is smitten with Artie. In previous episodes like “TNOT Glowing Corpse” we see Artie with a lovely date in the tag and in “TNOT Torture Chamber” he ends up with a beautiful date, but she’s got cold hands. Here there is no doubt Barbara prefers Artie from the start, from helping her with the dress to escorting her off the train Barbara is only interested in Artemus. It’s a nice touch.

Of course, actor John Doucette does not resemble the historical Brown in any way; the actual was a lanky man, clean shaven. Doucette’s Brown is tall but stocky, and with a full beard, best described by Artie when he calls him “powerfully built”. Jim of course nails it with the age observation; Brown was born in 1800 and would have been in his mid-70’s by the time of “West”, that age was considered almost ancient at the time when a normal life span was probably 50-60 years. He may not resemble John Brown but Doucette is powerful and intimidating, coupled with his “futuristic” cannon and fire proof suits, it’s not to difficult to believe him commanding this rag tag group. Barbara is right on when she says Brown’s men look as if they would “cut your throat for a nickel.”

For me one of the weaknesses of this story is that we really never get to see the cannon in full force. Sure, it takes out a stagecoach in the teaser and we see the aftermath at the end of Act I when the guys finally arrive at the burned out area which was aglow the night before, however I can’t help thinking that the cannon would have been more intimidating if we were shown the destruction of a town or fort as in the teaser to “TNOT Falcon.” In Act IV when Brown demonstrates the range of the cannon, it proves accurate but I’m not sure it has the ability to obliterate a unit of the U.S. Calvary.

Even though the series is evolving into the form we recognize there are still some growing pains. Women still receive preferential treatment in the eyes of Jim and Artie. Although her father is held for the Mexican authorities and her artwork is confiscated Carma gets off the hook relatively easy. Unlike Barbara she was a willing participant in Brown’s organization, not only does she try to stab Jim (in a nod to the opening theme animation) she leaves him at the mercy of nasty rattlesnakes. Let’s not forget Artie almost becomes a victim as well, but he cleverly turns the tables on the thugs who’ve come looking for Jim’s body. She also exposes Artie in a humorous turn when she recognizes, of all things, his ear. However, in the end there is no romance for Jim and Carma just a final kiss. Nevertheless, it’s a more believable ending to that relationship than say Jennifer Wingate in “TNO A Thousand Eyes”, she shot Jim a point blank range and she still gets off scott free. In the color years female characters were hauled off to jail regardless of their looks, and a sudden “conversion” to the ways of good and justice is treated cynically at best by Jim and Artie.

Artie’s disguise is first rate. It’s hilarious seeing upright Calvinist teetotaler John Brown deal with a drunken whiskey smuggler. My favorite part is when RM laughs right into John Doucette’s face; the actor closes his eyes as “R.P. McGuffy’s” whiskey breath hits him full on. It’s a very funny moment.

The Commercial art is okay but not outstanding. If you come in during the middle it’s hard to tell that’s a close-up of the fire proof mask for the end of Act I in the upper right hand corner, there’s the break for Act II which ends focused on a figure on top of Brown’s compound, I like Act III’s break with the barrel of the rifle pointed at Jim being kept in the picture to the right of Brown, and of course the Wanderer pulling away for Act IV. I like the music played for the end of Act IV, this isn’t the first time it’s used but I just happen to like it so I mention it. Oddly enough, when the end credits begin to roll the focus is exclusively on the lower left hand cell then the camera pulls back for a wide shot of the entire storyboard.

So, this is an okay show. Interesting if it piques your curiosity on the real Brown, as it did with me, but I would have liked more of a sense of danger. I give it 2 prosthetic noses out of 4.

Mr. Phelps
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SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 12/13/2003 :  20:14:40  Show Profile
Sweeping up after all other experts, I find myself in agreement with much of what's been said. Without earlier drafts of the script to compare with what we finally saw onscreen, there's no way to be sure; but I'd guess that Robert Hammer (who gets top billing for this episode's teleplay) probably came up with the germ of an idea (either the return of John Brown or the incendiary cannon), which then-story editor Preston Wood fleshed out (with a similar outlaw band that populated his "Thousand Eyes"). As Mr. P. says, there's a lot of interesting ideas buzzing around here: a supposed ghost; the cannon (the first real "elephant" we've seen since the destructive train in "The Deadly Bed"); two beautiful women, one for each of our heroes; miscellaneous perils. But I agree that they don't really mesh into a compelling story.

Aggravations: Although, as the plot develops, we're again handed another gang of mercenary insurgents against the U.S., the teaser that draws the agents into the whole affair is "the theft of copper and kerosene." Does this, I ask you, sound like an investigation worthy of the Secret Service's finest?

It's pretty lucky for our side that poor Will Glover is the only passenger that dies in the initial attack, that Gordon's head took only conk and not a bullet, and that West didn't end up well-dressed toast.

The wrong Indian arrow (Sioux?), fired into Barbara Bosley in (Blackfoot?) territory is a red herring that leads nowhere.

There's considerable tension in the confrontations (Acts I and III) between Brown and Vasquez (both played by fine character actors John Doucette and Robert Ellenstein). But there's a problem with any episode whose tension is greater among the villains themselves, not between West and the main heavy.

Carma may not be much of an artist, but she's an even worse plagiarist: Her pencil-sketch of West was first seen in "Terror Stalked the Town," among Loveless's trial-runs at duplicating his nemesis's face.

And there's the lame first-season tendency to let henchwomen like Carma get off scott-free. The worst offende was Jennifer Wingate, from the other episode that Preston Wood is credited with scripting.

Nice touches: Much of the music, with its Mexican themes and dark chords, is nicely drawn from Robert Drasnin's score for "The Deadly Bed." Those rattlesnakes in Act II make a nice menace, even if—given the way the scene is cut together—I don't for a minute believe that Conrad is in real danger. Season One also made West's break-ins and break-outs physically tough: scaling the wall into Brown's fortress (Act II); using muscles and wire to burn away prison bars (Act III). By Season Three it became all too easy, with elevator pulleys and magnesium explosives. The cannon is not a bad prop, even though they don't show it off enough. While McGuffey is fun, personally I prefer Ross Martin's line delivery in the scene in Carma's house—s*ckering his would-be killers with the truth about the rattlesnakes, "the fair and decent thing." Marvelous.

The nicest touch in the this show, I think, is Miss Bosley's and Mr. Gordon's romance. As played by Karen Sharpe, Barbara is intelligent, stylish, resourceful, witty, and very sexy (that endless dressing scene in Act II!). For the first and one of the precious few times in the series, here's a woman who's truly a match for Artemus, and that's a pleasure to see.

Not bad, but hardly vintage. Out of five,

A P.S. for Elaine: I respectfully disagree that Brown's violence as an end in itself is not an adequate rationale. By West's standards, yes, that's pretty lame. Since 1966, however, when this episode was first aired, I fear we've witnessed too many real-life horrors perpetrated by madmen who believe just that.
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