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 The Night of the Whirring Death
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couldron
SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 12/17/2003 :  09:36:36  Show Profile
Whirring Death is as close as we get to a Christmas episode. Jeremiah Ratch (Norman Fell) does a good job of out scrooging Scrooge. His love of money is great but his desire for respect is more. We have Priscilla (Pamela Austin) as a naïve woman selling toys. Naïve is hardly enough of a word to describe her. The exchange between her and Jim over kissing is captivating. She reminds me of the character Clara in the Light in the Piazza . Maybe she was kicked in the head too. That would explain her innocents. This is the third appearance of Loveless and the last of Voltaire. As Artie says, he talks but really does not have great dialogue. I wished he had remained quiet. As I wish that Artie had not sung.(duck) Although, the quiet humming he does to Bessie (Barbara Nichols) is sweat and should have lasted longer. I hate the dumb clown. I just did not believe that Jim was in that clown. It is not clear to me if Artie gave Jim the stuff he used to burn himself out of that clown or if Jim had it already. Jim’s fight at John Crane’s (Val Avcry) house is one of the best of the series. I loved the yanking of the rug. The set was used in another Loveless episode Raven where Jim was knocked into the chair and it turned around into another room. Loveless does not seem to have a lot to do either. We do not see enough of him. Priscilla telling Loveless of her meeting with Jim is well done. First, he tells Priscilla to be quiet. His eyes tell us he is annoyed, thinking and concerned. Latter, he brings the conversation back to Jim but now he has resolved his problem by telling Priscilla that Jim is evil.
I do not care for this episode. I think JimPhelps or ccb will be able to pin point better why.
out of five.

Redhead1617
SS novice field agent

USA
1393 Posts

Posted - 12/17/2003 :  10:49:37  Show Profile  Visit Redhead1617's Homepage
Perhaps you answered your own question as to why you don't like this one so much when you commented that there should have been more Loveless, Priscillia's unbelievable innocence, the clown thing. The plot could have been way tighter and it wasn't believable to you, which certainly lowers your interests. But as you say, perhaps ccb & Mr. Phelps would care to add more?

Plot holes: as Mary said, we could have seen some more of Loveless, yeah okay Loveless is trying to get California again, but we could put any other one episode only villian in here and it would not have drastically changed anything. Also, when Jim rough handles Priscilla he & we both thought she was in on it in full knowledge and leads nowhere really, if that was cut out of the script it wouldn't have drastically changed anything, the scene doesn't contribute anything. I have got to wonder which is more fulfilling if we leave this scene as it is or if we changed Priscilla to not be as innocent and to be actually in on it (even though many could argue that the latter is like beating a dead horse plot-wise) but I'm tempted to say that the latter might have been more fulfilling. It's an episode with a plot that I would be likely to write (after being rather critical sounding here, Red blushes slightly and pauses to think about what she said and how to take her own writing to the next level )

I must agree that Norman Fell did a wonderful job, and personally I like his Scrooge character even better than the original Scrooge.

The fight scene was a good one and I always was a fan of yanking the rug

I find Priscillia for the most part sooo annoying with the whole innocence thing!!! But I love that exchange between Jim & Artie when Jim's about to put a move on Priscilla
quote:
"Since when've you been interrested in toys" "Toys no, Dolls yes"
The part where Jim is talking to her about kissing did get a small smile out of me and a chuckle mainly for the position Jim got himself into at that point. A scene with Priscilla I did like was the one Mary mentioned when she was telling Loveless about West

I really, really dislike Voltaire talking whenever I include Voltaire in my writing I never ever have him talk

oh yeah, something else I like is when Jim gets knocked out & he keeps waking up in bed, but poor Artie gets knocked by Voltaire and stays in the cold wet alley ...awwww!!! Poor Artie!!!!! RM's facial expressions are pretty good when he gets socked and then when the constiple or whoever finds him and he tells Jim Voltaire & Loveless are in on this.

When I saw the episode the first few times I wasn't too fond of it, but after giving it a rest for a while and coming back to it, I'd up it to





~Redhead 'Red'
Dean of Launguages & Literature

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

948 Posts

Posted - 12/17/2003 :  16:37:40  Show Profile  Visit AdorableBlue's Homepage
quote:
oh yeah, something else I like is when Jim gets knocked out & he keeps waking up in bed, but poor Artie gets knocked by Voltaire and stays in the cold wet alley ...awwww!!!
Hehehhe....but he got all those gals in the room, Red. If only you were in there, too.....

AdorableBlue
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Redhead1617
SS novice field agent

USA
1393 Posts

Posted - 12/17/2003 :  17:29:35  Show Profile  Visit Redhead1617's Homepage
*Red giggles like crazy * Can you believe I forgot about that part? But yeah you're right, I certainly would like to be in there

(two more days until my half a month w/o watching WWW is over!!!! YES!!! Evil finals are allllmost done!!)

~Redhead 'Red'
Dean of Launguages & Literature

*sigh...where's MY Ross Martin?
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Elaine
SS 1st assignment - desk job

356 Posts

Posted - 12/17/2003 :  20:21:11  Show Profile
I happen to like how this episode starts out. Artie is dashing in his ruffled shirt and floppy tie… and that cape! Jim is charming to Priscilla and generous to the boys. And I just adore the grin on the good doctor’s face as he puffs that cigar at the end of the teaser.

Unfortunately, our boys do not seem to be up to speed in the wits department in this ep. Right after Jim says “I’m sure.” when Ratch asks him if he can adequately protect him, Jim completely ignores the about to explode toy. Instead of taking charge of the crime scene (What blew up? Where’s the money? How is Ratch? Etc.) Artie is about to go off with the unconscious Jim until Loveless runs off with the bag and Artie snaps out of it and goes after him. And you can just see the punch in the nose that he gets from Voltaire coming. Jim is just not suspicious enough of the train and so he gets blown unconscious again. Arte is perhaps understandably distracted by a roomful of lovely ladies and wine, but he should have paid more attention to the gramophone and snow globe (two presents to Bessie from a conveniently anonymous admirer). Tsk, tsk, tsk.

As for Priscilla, does, the cliché “dumb blonde” mean anything? This is not merely, as some have suggested, innocence or naiveté. This is a case of “the lights are on, but nobody is home” (watch Antoinette roll her eyes in the scene in the toyshop). However, Priscilla’s hormones are in the right place. Her shuddering sigh when Jim leaves her bedroom after the kiss says it all. Frankly, I think Priscilla and Voltaire make a sweet couple.

Coming back to dear Artie, his performance as the opera singer always makes me smile. As always, Ross Martin is a pleasure to watch. And speaking of watching, there are some beautiful close-ups of Robert Conrad’s face in this ep. Talk about a close shave. I know women who don’t have skin that smooth!

And one last little chuckle from the “they slipped this past the ‘60’s censors” department: Bessie’s main business may have been a gambling hall, but the upstairs was most likely reserved for other activities (remember the lovely, lounging ladies). When she and Artie discover the hogtied Crane in the back room, he asks her, “How’s tricks”?

So, there are some good things and some not so good things, but overall, I'd say, due to the presence of the charming Michael Dunn, the simply beautiful RC and the delightful RM, this in itself gives the ep

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K Mills
SS novice field agent

849 Posts

Posted - 12/18/2003 :  06:39:38  Show Profile
But, not bad overall.
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JimPhelps
SS 1st assignment - desk job

USA
417 Posts

Posted - 12/19/2003 :  12:10:10  Show Profile
TNOT Whirring Death

Throw out the lifeline
Throw out the lifeline
Someone is drifting away…

That always gets stuck in my head every time I re-watch this one. As cauldron mentioned this is the closest we ever get to a Christmas episode in “West”, how fortuitous we come across this episode at this time of year. Also, since this episode is Christmas-y it’s a nice touch that we have Dr. Loveless in the plot, an anti-Santa Clause who resembles one of his elves. This is also the first time the location of the episode is shown on screen with the words: “SAN FRANSISCO, 1874”.

Like some other Mantley produced episodes (“TNOT Grand Emir” is a good example) this is an episode full of atmosphere but lacking a tight plot. Many questions came to mind as I was screening this one. First, it’s nice (although out of character) that Loveless doesn’t kill his two victims Crane and Ratch, but how exactly were their deaths prevented? The bombs seem real, it practically destroys Ratch’s office, but how and when are Ratch and Crane kidnapped? In the confusion after the bombs explode? Perhaps, but it’s not clear. The money is not singed, and neither is Jim. Although, both of Jim’s scenes where he returns to consciousness in Priscilla’s are comic, and Jim is genuinely surprised and a bit amused at Priscilla’s innocence in the ways of men and women. Then of course there’s the irony of Loveless describing Jim as a positively “evil” man, he’s really describing himself.

This is the first Loveless adventure where Artie is a true equal, no more sitting on the sidelines as in “TNT Terror Stalked the Town”, and “TNT Wizard Shook the Earth.” Perhaps because of his larger role in this episode Artie’s disguise as “Caruso Del Artemo” is comic but played a bit straighter than some of the broader disguises which were used in only one scene like “MacGuffy” in last week’s episode, an inebriated Mexican peon in “TNOT Deadly Bed”, or the Irish delivery man in “TNOT Glowing Corpse.” As “Caruso”, RM needs to maintain a character over a certain length of time, long enough to win Bessie’s confidence (and romantic interest) and conduct his investigation while still undercover. Of course RM rises to the challenge, proving that he can maintain his creations in more than one scene, his skill in being able to do this would be utilized more in the upcoming season and in some episodes (as in “TNOT Infernal Machine”) he is in disguise from beginning to end.

Artie’s development is a plus in this episode, it too bad that the plot seems so confused when you really try to examine it. Loveless is apparently trying to bankrupt the state by preventing the $5 million loans to the government. Loveless also plans to assassinate the Governor. However, this forces me to ask a few more questions: How will these actions help Loveless in taking over California? Will he negotiate for power once he has collected the $15 million? Will he control from behind the scenes by controlling the money, similar to Emma Valentine’s scheme? What is there to be gained by killing the Governor? If the Governor is killed the Lt. Governor will take his place. Surely the state will only be more hostile to Loveless. In the previous episodes Loveless had much more convincing schemes. In the beginning Loveless planned to use his explosive to extort “his” half of California. In his second appearance Loveless created a duplicate Jim and wants to infiltrate the Secret Service. Here he’s reduced to shooting darts at the Governor and bankrupting the state. Thankfully, the producers decided to expand Loveless ambition by his next appearance in “TNOT Murderous Spring” from that episode on Loveless would set his sights on a larger prize…the world.

Another plus is Jim’s great fight with Crane’s henchmen. The rug trick is comical and innovative. It’s funny how Jim just won’t take no for an answer, Crane’s people are so used to brushing off unwelcome guests that they seem stunned at first by Jim’s very physical reaction. It’s a super fight underscored by that great fight music from the first season, it’s still running through my mind since last night. In watching these classic shows like the original Star Trek I often surprise myself by how taken away I am by the music, the full sound from an orchestra seems to get me more involved, like a direct emotional link that really sells the action it’s accompanying. There are many recent series that use lot music like The X Files or Star Trek: TNG but their use is much more low key and is missing that “full” sound.

The commercial break art is visually pleasing. There’s the “false alarm” for Act I with the windup soldiers marching into Priscilla’s bedroom, Jim being held down by Voltaire’s giant foot while Loveless peers at him through a 1920’s style radio microphone in Act II, Act III has the clown with Jim inside (from what I could tell by the action I think Artie is able to slip the acid to Jim before Loveless stops him), and Jim and Pricilla on the carousel to end it all, notice that Bessie puts her arms around Artie and kisses him just as the action freezes. This is another Wanderer-less episode.

So overall this one is okay, Dr. Loveless definitely raises the rating by at least one full nose since Michael Dunn is consistently entertaining and complex as the doctor, however we will be seeing the best of Loveless in his next appearance and season two is the best year for Loveless overall. So even though the story is uneven and unclear at times in the spirit of the season I’ll be generous: two and a half prosthetic noses out of four


Mr. Phelps
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Redhead1617
SS novice field agent

USA
1393 Posts

Posted - 12/19/2003 :  16:24:31  Show Profile  Visit Redhead1617's Homepage
quote:
Dr. Loveless in the plot, an anti-Santa Clause who resembles one of his elves.


LOL *Red has to catch her breath after that line!!!*

Good one Mr. Phelps!!

~Redhead 'Red'
Dean of Launguages & Literature

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

3908 Posts

Posted - 12/21/2003 :  13:21:50  Show Profile
: Fair West, middling Loveless, though not a complete dud.

Here's what I think may have happened: Within weeks of completion and broadcast of "The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth," the producers must have realized that James West had found his arch-nemesis, his genuine "Professor Moriarity," and immediately wanted more Loveless scripts. Then-associate producer Richard Landau had an idea for one, which Loveless's creator, John Kneubuhl, helped flesh out and streamline. That one got moved into production quickly: "The Night That Terror Stalked the Town." Kneubuhl must not have been imnmediately available to write another Loveless script, so the producers pitched Kneubuhl/Freiberger/Garrison's characters (Loveless, Voltaire, Antoinette) to two other verteran writers, Jackson Gillis and Leigh Chapman. Those two worked out pieces of a storyline for which Gillis received final script billing. Given all the seasonal references, Mantley's production crew probably hoped they could get this episode in the can in tome for a Christmas, 1965, broadcast, but missed that date by a month-and-a-half.

If this hypothesis holds, the problems with "Whirring Death" were two: (1) Loveless's own creator, the only writer who really knew what made that character tick—John Kneubuhl—didn't write this episode. (2) Gillis (and Chapman) took only the most obvious aspects of the character—his childishness, his inventiveness, his consuming desire to reclaim California—and tried to build a story around that. As so many of you have already pointed out, however, there really wasn't much story to it at all. Realizing that—as I'd bet the producers did—they did two things that they hoped would distract us from that. First, they hired a first-rate director, Mark Rydell—who soon thereafter would follow Richard Donner into motion-picture direction (The Cowboys, On Golden Pond)—who, along with the always first-rate production designer Al Heschong, staged and shot this minimalist episode with a great deal of style and polish. Second, they populated the guest cast with a bevy of the most familiar, popular chacater actors of that day: Jesse White, Norman Fell, Barbara Nichols (almost always annoying, but for some reason she had retained popularity from a movie she'd made with Glenn Ford, Dear Heart), Pam Austin, Richard Reeves and so forth. (Notice how long it takes the end titles to make its way through the guest cast: all those actors' agents were demanding a separate title card for each client!) That's what gives this mostly humorous episode its sketch-comedy character: all those funny character actors came in, did enough of their shtick to chug a mostly nothing plot down the track, took their bow, then exited. The producers hoped we wouldn't notice all the plot holes—fantastic explosions in which no one gets hurt (and no money is every destroyed), a title that makes no sense ("whirring," maybe—but no deaths), a Dr. Loveless who, for the first and only time in the series, intitates no action but only reacts to others' (the theft of roguish bequests). Heck, they were just trrying to grind out another show on series television. They had no idea that baby-boomers and Gen Xers would be analyzing the things forty years later!

So—why doesn't this episode bomb? Well, the character actors have enough comic talent to keep us watching an essentially comic story. Even with a crummy script, Ross Martin and Michael Dunn were still able to find inventive things to do with their characters (the hammy opera star; Loveless's unexepected, frightening rage at Voltaire when the poor guy tries to climb aboard the carousel). The art and set decoration, by Heschong and Ray Molyneaux, are terrific. And Rydel was one of West's more inventive directors: See, for instance, the spooky opening to Act IV, with the weirdly-lit, innocent/sinister toys turning their heads to Mort Stevens's Sugar-Plum-Fairy mysterioso music. And despite all that air in her head, Priscilla, as played by Austin, comes off as perhaps the most charming, sweetest innocent that ever graced the series (or so says at least one male viewer). She's more than one of those interchangeable, magnolia-drenched babes that in later years would end up in the agents' varnish car. Priscilla is not only beutiful; she is genuinely kind, if unbelievably naïve—an "Angel of Charity" after all, not a mere golddigger. I've always wondered if Leigh Chapman was particularly responsible for the germ of that character, for Chapman later gave us some of West's most interesting women: Lucrece, "The Poisonous Posey," Emma "The Vicious Valentine," and Cloris, who befriended "The Amnesiac."

By the way, about last year this time—in the spirit of the season—I devoted an entire Weekend Quiz to this episode. It's so far back in the archives that I couldn't figure out how to reclaim it, though, if someone else is interested, they should be able to. It contains, among others things, the reason why Voltaire had to speak in this episode, the real-life madam on whom Bessie Bowen was based, and those real-life toy soldiers that you could purchase in America's toy stores around 1965. For all its faults, I still wish "The Whirring Death" had been filmed in color, so that West, like other shows of that era, could have had its seasonal Christmas show to rerun every year throughout the show's broadcast. Especially when Loveless episodes became so rare, that would have been a joy.
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couldron
SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 12/21/2003 :  15:26:05  Show Profile



quote:
By the way, about last year this time—in the spirit of the season—I devoted an entire Weekend Quiz to this episode.

Well worth revisiting.

http://www.wildwildwest.org/forum/topic.asp?ARCHIVE=true&TOPIC_ID=361&SearchTerms=Whirring,Death
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JimPhelps
SS 1st assignment - desk job

USA
417 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2003 :  07:46:49  Show Profile
Some very interesting observations on this episode ccb. Mark Rydell’s direction is definitely a plus. He directed most of I Spy’s Hong Kong and Tokyo based episodes during their first season and made very good use of the exotic locations on a limited TV budget.

Mr. Phelps
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