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 The Night of the Bars of Hell
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couldron
SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 01/14/2004 :  14:50:20  Show Profile
This episode has (maybe) been reviewed before. I would nominate as an episode that has popped up in threads the most. http://www.wildwildwest.org/forum/topic.asp?ARCHIVE=true&TOPIC_ID=103&SearchTerms=electric,chair
http://www.wildwildwest.org/forum/topic.asp?ARCHIVE=true&TOPIC_ID=150&SearchTerms=lillian,russel

I must agree with ccb that it does not have much of a plot and is full of humor. As I watched today, I heard my husband roaring with laughter. The first time was when Artie announced his song. “Never Make Friends with the Devil Brother his Pitchfork will get you in the end”. I wonder when the pitchfork first was associated with the devil. We have some wonderful people in this episode. There is Arthur O’Connell who is the Warden Theophilus Ragan he died in 1981. The first time I remember this actor was in “Follow That Dream”. I thought it was a funny movie. He does a fine job of playing an evil, greedy warden. Indus Arthur (Jennifer McCoy) was a professional harpist who died in 1984 from skin cancer. She is delightful as an awful actress. She annoys Jim with her request and he throws her out of his room “I was better off with cattle buyers” Ouch! I do like the way she is in the background as Artie talks to the electrician. What jokes “They will make a real killing” “It has a shocking future” Artie is also charmed by her. I love how he moves in on her and she backs away until she tells him she wants him to kill someone. Well, not really just hide him for awhile. Jenie Jackson is Kitten. Although she plays Kitten in Murderous Spring, I do not believe she is the same character. This Kitten is boisterous, bossy and not at all like Loveless’s Kitten. She died in 1976. Elisha Cook Jr . (Gideon McCoy) He debuted on stage at age 14 and worked in vaudeville. He is probably best known for Magnum.

In my tapes, the beginning is of Jim putting the explosives in his badge. There is a quick cut to him riding into town. Was there anymore? Ccb is correct in that this episode sees a warmth between Artie and Jim. “What took you so long.” “It’s not easy to get up at four”. There are so many great lines in this episode. O.K. it’s not much of a plot but I don’t care and I like the padding. I like the egg that wasn’t Henrietta’s. I like how Jim gets the note and burns it.

I don’t like the sawdust pouring out of the holes. It looks like someone is doing it. Yes I know someone was doing it but I don’t want it to look that way. Besides Lillian Russel being out of time, so is the electric chair. The first victim of the electric chair was William Kemmler executed 1890 in Cayuga County, NY. New York had recently replaced hanging with electrocution as its means of execution, and Kemmler appealed his sentence as cruel and unusual punishment. Speaking of which, I thought it odd that the Warden used electricity for his bomb but kerosene to light everything else. In addition, his safe has no numbers on it. This is one of those episode where Conrad’s hair changes. I couldn't find the thread where the stunt through the wall is mentioned I found it impressive. Oh I almost forgot the whistle at the end toot toot.




AdorableBlue
SS novice field agent

948 Posts

Posted - 01/14/2004 :  16:40:16  Show Profile  Visit AdorableBlue's Homepage
Blue's favorite eps! Plot or no plot. And James West is boyishly adorable here (drooooooooool)

AdorableBlue
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Elaine
SS 1st assignment - desk job

356 Posts

Posted - 01/15/2004 :  16:20:53  Show Profile
I can see that we are going to be in agreement on this one. It's enjoyable. Everyone has good lines. I think Mary and ccb are right about Gene Coon's influence. I'm a life long Star TRek fan and the best part for me involve the relationships between the main characters, especially when there is witty repartee. Witty repartee is an AG specialty, but even Jim gives as good as he gets here!

I think the casting of the "electrocutioner" (Milton Parsons) was perfect. What a visual cliche!

As for Artie's characters - of course I love each one. I love to watch him do each one. After watching him as salesman Threadneedle, I definitley could see RM as an alternative to Robert Preston in The Music Man.

And Jim girls: You have the perfect opportunity to compare that perfect physical specimen to what usually passed as "hunky" in those days - the unfortunate Mr. Quintana. Big and not unattractive in an Elvis sort of way, he never the less lacks the sculpted everything of the man in (and half out of) blue. Personally, I'm always struck by the contrast of the slim hips with the thick wrists and large hands. (I will stop now. Someone hand Blue the smelling salts.)

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K Mills
SS novice field agent

849 Posts

Posted - 01/17/2004 :  16:49:14  Show Profile
This episode has so much to like. The pitchfork song, the stunt through the wall, the bullwhip scene, the hanging oh my god what a hiney shot, the chicken in a pot, the boxing, so much, so much! And our heroine really isn't. This is probably my all time favorite.
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AdorableBlue
SS novice field agent

948 Posts

Posted - 01/17/2004 :  22:03:17  Show Profile  Visit AdorableBlue's Homepage
quote:
The pitchfork song, the stunt through the wall, the bullwhip scene, the hanging oh my god what a hiney shot,
My, my, how could Blue ever forget that famous butt shot!

AdorableBlue
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JimPhelps
SS 1st assignment - desk job

USA
417 Posts

Posted - 02/06/2004 :  14:05:00  Show Profile
Has CH come out with the DVD for this episode? I hope so becuase I don't have this one on tape and I'll need to watch it to give an honest review. I haven't seen this one in perhaps a dozen years!

Mr. Phelps
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ccb
SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 02/08/2004 :  19:17:10  Show Profile
Elaine requested of me a review of this episode. After following Mary's thoughtfully provided links, I guess I already had! To repeat myself:

For me, the plot of the is episode is wafer-thin; what "story" there is could be told in ten minutes. It's the atmosphere of danger, the wit, and the high style with which it is executed that makes all the difference. Does anyone besides me think that Gene Coon—who produced this and five other episodes before being hired away by Star Trek—injected a lot more humor and warmth between West and Artemus than we saw for most of the first season? In fact, if you'll notice, after the pilot (produced by Garrison), it's only with the Coon episodes that Jim resumes referring to his partner as "Artie." Come to think of it: Only when Coon leaped aboard the Starship Enterprise did the comedy among its principal characters begin to surface.

West: Oh, there's a girl.
Artemus: Of course.
West: Her name is Jennfier McCoy. I don't know how, but I think she may be involved. Keep an eye on her.
Artemus: Only an eye? When I have so much more to offer?
West: Happy sermons, Preacher.
Artemus (sternly): You ought to listen to one of my sermons.
West: It wouldn't help.
Artemus: It wouldn't hurt.

Later:
Artemus: For you, Jennifer, anything. Who would you like for me to kill?
Jennifer: How did you know?
Artemus: What? (Pause.) I beg your pardon?
Jennifer: How did you know?
Artemus: (Her meaning is dawning on him.) Kill who?
Jennifer: Him. (Points to Scroggs, the executioner.)
Artemus: (Staring at his victim.) Well, I'll——I'll admit he doesn't look like much, but isn't that going just a little too far?

Ragan (after West beats Quincannon to a pulp): You are formidable.
West: I drink a lot of milk.

This episode contains almost as many wonderful lines as the movie Casablanca!

It's at just about this point in the series, I felt, that the two agents found their real partnership, and their friendship. As RC and RM began loosening up with each other, I'd bet that Coon's rewriting of scripts under Garrison's oversight had a lot to do with that.

To all that, I'll add a few more thoughts and the usual Smilies:

1. This was Richard Donner's first directorial outing with the series—the first of only three, unfortunately—and he does a dynamite job with staging, framing, camera placement, and evoking lovely performances. In Act I, for example, take a close look at how beautifully he frames Conrad, in a long-distance shot, exactly centered in the hot horsehoe that the actor playing Jack Chancery is aiming from the blacksmith's forge. Act II has one of the great surprise action shots of the entire series: One inmate in the prison's "Gentlemen's Club" (which now we only recognize as such) throws a bottle of whisky to his colleague, who takes a swig when—beat—Conrad crashes through the wall, onto a table where two others are playing poker. All this is done without break or cut, with split-second timing, and it's just a marvelous. In the Craig Reid interview elsewhere on this site, Donner remembered little about this episode except that shot, in which "[Conrad] landed too far [away from his supports] . . . and got carried out." Maybe so—but only after the camera stopped filming. RC just kept going before (I guess) collapsing. Even the simple shots are beautifully framed: like Warden Ragan (Arthur O'Connell) on the right of screen, with the head of chief guard Cross (Paul Genge) cocked to the left, ferret-lke, and his rifle pitched diagonally. In Act I, Jennifer McCoy's bad acting (front, stage right, West in backround) is later echoed, in Act II, by Gideon McCoy's bad acting ((front, stage right, West in backround). Tag: When the train starts to roll off into the night, the interior seems actually to pitch and wobble, the way a real train-car would. Lovely touches, rarely replicated in other episodes.

Donner appears to have been the first director to get Conrad to relax on camera. Compared with much of the first season's product, notice how much looser are his delivery, expressions, and carriage, whie delivering Gene Coon's witty lines.

2. The episode is full of other surprises but doesn't cheat. In the teaser, we see West in the lab car with something draped around his neck. Only in Act II (just before the wall-busting) do we learn what it is: a waist-whip with a tip that explodes when cracked. Later in the teaser, in the high-angle shots, we see and hear the little dog on the street—whose petting will later save West's life. Markowitz's fresh score for this episode may not have been his most beautiful, but (a) he did give us more delightful cues based on "Artemus's Theme," and (b) the occasional percussive sounds of a pipe being struck mimics the sound of prisoners' hammers on a chain-gang. A lot of production people, on an incredibly tight timeline, were paying attention to all these subtle details—and they pay off handsomely.

3. The humor and menace in this episode are perfectly balanced: everything from Artie's absolutely calm countdown to the bomb, while fumbling with pliers to snap the wires with less than a second (Act IV) to West's death by asphyxiation (Acts I and II). The latter always seemed to me among the most frightening of West's death-traps: It was utterly realistic, and someone else had to save him.

As I said before, I'll say again: This one is lean on plot but lush in execution (pun intended). Would they all had been so stylish and witty.

KMills drools: the hanging oh my god what a hiney shot: I think I know the one you mean: The camera in the rafters, looking down on West before he drop-kicks the guards (Act II). Right?

Mr. Phelps asks: Has CH come out with the DVD for this episode? Yes. But since the distributor is Columbia House, they may or may not sell it to you. It all depends on their mood the day you call them.
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JimPhelps
SS 1st assignment - desk job

USA
417 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2004 :  09:43:25  Show Profile
quote:
Originally posted by ccb
[
For Does anyone besides me think that Gene Coon—who produced this and five other episodes before being hired away by Star Trek—injected a lot more humor and warmth between West and Artemus than we saw for most of the first season? In fact, if you'll notice, after the pilot (produced by Garrison), it's only with the Coon episodes that Jim resumes referring to his partner as "Artie." Come to think of it: Only when Coon leaped aboard the Starship Enterprise did the comedy among its principal characters begin to surface.

Mr. Phelps asks: Has CH come out with the DVD for this episode? Yes. But since the distributor is Columbia House, they may or may not sell it to you. It all depends on their mood the day you call them.


Well I'm supposed to be on their WWW list, I get other DVD's from them semi-monthly. I will have to call and make a fuss.

About Gene Coon (the "forgotten Gene" some Star Trek fans call him) I really would have loved to have had him on for at least a full season. All of his episodes are crackerjack! And the relationship between the guys is perfect. Mr Coon is also responsible for such Star Trek concepts like "The Prime Directive" he also gave us the Klingons. And where would Star Trek be without Klingons?

Mr. Phelps
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JimPhelps
SS 1st assignment - desk job

USA
417 Posts

Posted - 03/11/2004 :  08:00:27  Show Profile
TNOT Bars Of Hell
With this one WWW finally gets into its groove, all the elements seemed to have gelled by this point. Perhaps because he had the chance to watch about four different producers before he took over, Gene Coon seems to have had an instinct as to what it was that made WWW work, specifically the relationship between Jim and Artie. To make Coon’s first episode even better we have the pleasure of having future big-time Hollywood director Richard Donner in the director’s chair. Donner is adept at making the most out of paper thin plots; see Superman and the Lethal Weapon series, all enjoyable and fast moving with stories that can be explained in seconds.

For the first time I think in this episode we see Jim and Artie working as equals and in their familiar roles as yin and yang. Jim is on the train for the first scene of the teaser, and it’s nice to see the Wanderer back, she has been gone for the past few episodes. It’s funny, the Wanderer can seem like such a background gimmick but it really contributes to the entire atmosphere of the show, when she’s not there I miss her. Back to our present story, Jim is in his usual role taking the direct approach, although he is “undercover” in a sense, unlike Artie he doesn’t use any make up just an alias and a special badge. When Jim rides into town that evening Artie has already established himself in is role as “preacher man”, this is a pattern that repeats itself thought the series and it utilizes the character of Artie much better than having RM sit around the train set waiting for something to happen which is what we get in some of the earlier episodes. However, things seem to go smoothly, Artie surreptitiously passes a message on to Jim and he’s off to his hotel but eyes are watching everywhere and there is a sinister air in town.

In the long teaser we are also introduced to Jennifer McCoy, who is slightly annoying to Jim but he’ll come to appreciate her persistence and we are aware always that eyes are on Jim from the shadows, even the hotel clerk is in on it, seems as if the entire town is out to get Jim. Once again very well done, the scenes have a claustrophobic sense to them; Artie who is undercover is the only person he can trust. The dark teaser builds to a climax when Jim narrowly escapes perforation by a nasty machine gun like device hidden beneath his hotel mattress.

After the somber opening we have a bit of comic relief in the form of Jennifer McCoy. The late Indus Arthur (who was know as a professional harpist!) is fine in this light role as a young woman just trying to get what’s owned to her from her crook uncle. Her first scene with Jim in Act I is hilarious with Jim chiming in after watching the hammy Jennifer go on about “Is there no justice?” “No drama critic?” Jim replies a witty remark which cuts to the chase of what Jennifer is doing there.

As I said before Jim and Artie are on equal ground in this episode more so than any previous one. Their clandestine meeting in the street is the beginning of a familiar scene in the series Jim and a disguised Artie going over their case comparing notes and clues. At this point we know that someone is after the “prison inspector” but we get our first clue as to what is really going on when Artie recognizes a condemned man walking the streets. Perhaps the condemned men aren’t condemned at all? Their conversation is more relaxed and familiar and Artie gets a great line in this scene when Jim tells him about Jennifer and asks to keep an eye on her: “Just an eye? When I have so much more to offer.”

For the end of Act I we have Jim in perhaps one of the most realistic death traps of the series. No fancy daggers or explosions just a dangerous gas leak that threatens to asphyxiate our hero while he is most vulnerable. In a strange inversion of morality it is Jennifer’s overpowering desire to collect her money that indirectly rescues Jim, if she were not so interested in what the “prison inspector” could do for her she would never have been at Jim’s door and caught a whiff of the gas.

We have already seen a man giving orders to the hotel clerk and this individual is responsible for the previous attempts made on Jim’s life in the hotel room and on the street. Jim realizes that the only way he’ll get to the bottom of this situation is by going into the prison itself since it seems to be the focal point of activity.

The “mystery” that the warden is behind the evil doings is not really much. From the moment we meet him he seems rotten down to his crooked teeth, Warden Ragan “nice guy” act wears thin on Jim as he doesn’t seem to be buying any of it down to the painting prisoner in the yard. His suspicions are confirmed when after a quick meeting with Gideon McCoy Jim notices several incongruities about the “condemned man” McCoy. It’s a cinch the warden has never had to deal with any outside visitors. A suntan on a prisoner? That’s a dead giveaway something isn’t kosher. After Jim lets it known he’s not fooled a fight breaks out between him and the guards. The action cleverly changes to a gambling parlor we have seen earlier, ccb is right on about how well the entire scene is shot and choreographed. First we see the parlor than a man tosses the whiskey bottle to McCoy and Jim busts through the wall. All in one take it really looks great and probably had to be done right the first time because resetting the entire set would have been a huge pain in the rear.

While Jim is being detained in the prison Artie and Jennifer join forces to stop the new executioner. Gideon McCoy is going to be the first prisoner electrocuted; I think the producers were off by about 20 years with the electric chair but the idea works great nonetheless. Milton Parsons is great as the sad sack executioner a type of role the actor excelled in playing morbid types like morticians and executioners.

Artie of course is the one who shows up at the prison as the “executioner”, another fun performance as a mumbling kind of crabby old guy. Jim is really in an inescapable position strapped into the electric chair and gagged and the subtle look of relief on his face when he recognizes Artie is another nice touch. Artie doesn’t use any fancy tricks to rescue Jim just threatens the warden with a live wire. They are locked up but escape with ease to confront Ragan who is going to leave the prison and blow it to kingdom come. Jim and Artie are recaptured and again escape causing Ragan to utter a frustrated “Oh no, not again.” The nasty warden who cares only about himself is forced to reveal his explosive device and there are a few tense moments as Artie expertly defuses the bomb. The duo’s cautious exit from the prison while keeping the warden covered reminds me of the exit of the heroes in the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Notorious” the confused guards ask the warden if he needs help but he must deny it because his life is on the line. The warden is finally able to express his frustration when he snaps at Jennifer McCoy “Oh shaddup!”

The tag is cute, Jim hopes he can get a few names from Artie’s black book but he forgets that his cover had him mingling with the likes of drunks and gamblers.

The commercial break art is good and for the most part features our heroes. There’s Jim deep in sleep and unaware of the deadly gas, Artie hand in hand with Jennifer on their way to put the executioner out of action, Jim in the boxing ring, and the Wanderer rolling away into the night accompanied with a nice Americana tune.

So, overall, this is the future of the series, things are going along nicely. I give it three prosthetic noses out of four.

(I will try to keep up in the following weeks. I have been very busy at work)


Mr. Phelps
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