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 The Night of the Freebooter
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couldron
SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2004 :  11:22:34  Show Profile
Déjà vu is what this episode is. We have a villain, Thorald Wolfe (Keenan Wynn) who wants to take over a country. Jim explains to us what a freebooter is with Wolfe being shown over the scenes of what he has done just like the scene in Inferno explaining Juan Manolo.

The plot and other elements are similar to Red-Eyed Madman. We have a group of military type people that Jim just rides up and joins. In this episode at least they don’t just accept him. Someone who has previously attacked him identifies Jim and he is jailed to face a firing squad. As in Fatal trap, there is a wanted poster of Jim. Although this is the first time we see the “Turtle”, it will not be the last. It will show up as the Juggernaut in the last season.

Bender is the leader’s henchman who was in Star Trek’s "The Trouble with Tribbles” as Koloth.
An anachronism occurs in this episode when Jim asks about the guns and a man answers fresh off the assembly line. Eli Whitney invented the assembly line in 1899. Before that the craftsmen would create each part of a product individually, and assemble them, making changes in the parts so that they would fit together - the so-called English System of manufacture.

There are so many nice scenes with Artie and Jim. Their friendship is evident and Jim is shown to be proud of Artie’s disguise and abilities to help them. Although he will not ever let Artie forget that he is “The Grand Old Lady of the Secret Service.” There are a lot of cute lines for instance when Jim says he didn’t like the hours anyway.
Despite this episode having the feeling of retread, I like it.

ccb
SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 03/17/2004 :  18:21:49  Show Profile
I'm with Mary on this one: Its title should have been "The Night of Déjà Vu." And I agree that she's traced its parentage precisely: "The Inferno," "The Red-Eyed Madmen," "The Fatal Trap"—with a dash of "Flaming Ghost" thrown in (another big gun: this time a prototypical tank, instead of a flame-thrower). And, yes, "The Juggernaut" will retread this tired plot again, right down to Act IV's commandeering of the villain's weapon, making lots of things go boom. We don't have to wait until Season Four, however, to see the Turtle again: Artemus proudly displays Al Heschong's miniature model of it to Presdient Grant in Act II of "The Colonel's Ghost." He calls it a "land-crawler," without so much as a nod to Thorwald Wolfe, who should have sued the Secret Service for trademark infringement.

All right, so we've seen it all before, and we'll see it all again. Has "Freebooters" anything in itself fresh to offer?

1. Characteristically wonderful byplay between West and Gordon, from teaser to tag, courtesy of writer Gene Coon.

2. Straight, if rather uninspired, performances by the two main heavies, played by Keenan Wynn and Geen Coon's pal, William Campbell. The latter won his two most famous roles—Trelayne ("The Squire of Gothos") and Koloth ("The Trouble with Tribbles")—in the original Star Trek thanks to then-producer Coon.

3. The Turtle is a nice big prop, even if you can see its front panels doctored with squibs, to simulate its receiving explosive shots from Wolfe's fancy rifle.

4. An enjoyable tag, back in the varnish car.

5. West's stylish flannel shirt in the teaser and Act I, first seen in Act I of the pilot and, unfortunately, never seen again.

Despite all its noise and bluster, I find a lot in this episode that's insipid. The scene with Richard Henry (Act I) is padded and pointless; ditto the colloquy between Wolfe and Bender (Act III). For a genius mastermind, Mr. Wolfe is pretty gullible not to check the references of his new Mexican colonel. After last week's battle of the brains and next week's invisible man, a take-over of Baja California is pretty ho-hum. (While you're at it, why not conquer the IHOP in Tijuana?) And he definitely needs to get a new stunt-double for his last-reel fight with West. The one he's hired doesn't look a thing like him.

I've saved until last my two big questions:

What do you all make of "the Grand Old Lady of the Secret Service"? Is this one of Ross Martin's finest hours or way too over the top, even for The Wild Wild West? I'm not really sure myself. At the very least, I think it's sheer outlandishness upsets the balance an episode that is generally played pretty straight.

Last question: Does anyone beside me not understand the climax in the teaser? The gunman cocks his rifle, which seems to set off the train's warning(?) whistle, which spurs West and Gordon into action. Am I missing something here? The train had a nineteenth-century audio-sensor? Who knew? Who cares?

—only because I know there are some real dogs coming down the track. At least with "The Freebooters" they still were giving it their all.
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couldron
SS novice field agent

1444 Posts

Posted - 03/18/2004 :  15:41:37  Show Profile
quote:
What do you all make of "the Grand Old Lady of the Secret Service"? Is this one of Ross Martin's finest hours or way too over the top, even for The Wild Wild West? I'm not really sure myself. At the very least, I think it's sheer outlandishness upsets the balance an episode that is generally played pretty straight.


Interesting question ccb. I thought that for the most part it fit what was happening. Artie even gives a resonable reason for why "she" is there. The reason was that "she" is promoting "her" cantina. At one point Artie looks directly at the camera with an arched eyebrow and perhaps that was over the top. Defintely meant (imho)as a wink to the audience. My question was why the gang didn't recognise the wife they had just tried to kill?

quote:
Last question: Does anyone beside me not understand the climax in the teaser? The gunman cocks his rifle, which seems to set off the train's warning(?) whistle, which spurs West and Gordon into action. Am I missing something here? The train had a nineteenth-century audio-sensor? Who knew? Who cares?




Gosh I didn't know there was a problem
I just assumed that one of the train crew saw the gunman and signaled. A signal that had been prearranged as a warning????
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orrin cobb
SS novice field agent

USA
963 Posts

Posted - 03/18/2004 :  17:51:52  Show Profile  Visit orrin cobb's Homepage
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Last question: Does anyone beside me not understand the climax in the teaser? The gunman cocks his rifle, which seems to set off the train's warning(?) whistle, which spurs West and Gordon into action. Am I missing something here? The train had a nineteenth-century audio-sensor? Who knew? Who cares?


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It seems like couldron has the answer. Probably the engineer spotted something going on and let out the emergency whistle signal, not the first time he's helped out (TNOT Inferno)...
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Elaine
SS 1st assignment - desk job

356 Posts

Posted - 03/19/2004 :  13:08:43  Show Profile
I remember this episode from my childhood. Apparently the Turtle made a lasting impression on me. Whenever I would think of WWW over the years, I would get a kind of visual collage of Jim, Artie, Loveless, and a number of devices from various eps, including the Turtle or it's variations.

Let is not be said the we can't learn something from watching www. I didn't know what a freebooter was until I looked it up. Likewise, I didn't know that filibuster had a meaning other than the one usually associated with it's use in politics. (Freebooter: one who pillages and plunders. Filibuster: an adventurer who engages in private military action in a foreign country.)

About that train whistle alarm in the teaser: I think we're all with you, ccb. You can pick whatever explanation you like - it's not clear. Like many things in WWW, someone (Gene? director Dein?)put it in for effect. They probably thought the impact of the loud repeating sound would add to the excitement of the climax.

As to your question about "The Grand Old Lady", RM left alot to be desired as a drag queen. He was, at least, semi-believable as an old woman. Besides, I don't think any of Wolf's men were looking at Artie all that closely anyway. (The disquise I can't stand, is the Indian woman in TNOT Green Terror. I usually have to look away from the screen. It's just too embarrassing. Why anyone would believe that the Indians don't notice Artie in disquise is well, unbelievable. And don't forget his big booted feet sticking out!) However "over the top" The Grand Old Lady may have been, I can't help but like it, but then I fully admit that I am blinded by love of Artemus.

This episode does sneak a little feminist idealogy into things (for a change. Thanks Gene.) During act I, Mrs. Leon says, "Sometimes a woman can do a man's work better than a man." Jim replies, "Not this time." Ha! He'll see.
In act IV, not only does Mrs. Leon come to the rescue, but even Artemus becomes "The Grand Old Lady" in order to do his job. I think it's a nice touch.

I'm a fan of William Campbell. I thought his characterization of Bender was good, given that he didn't have much to do. The gloves were a nice touch, inferring that he was sort of meticulous but sadistic. While hearing Wolf describe his plan, Bender seemed to almost get aroused.

And don't forget that no matter how mundane an ep might appear, a girl can always enjoy it by appreciating the finer points of Mr. West.
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ccb
SS Quizmaster Emeritus

3908 Posts

Posted - 03/19/2004 :  17:17:29  Show Profile
Elaine: I'm a fan of William Campbell. I thought his characterization of Bender was good, given that he didn't have much to do. The gloves were a nice touch, inferring that he was sort of meticulous but sadistic. While hearing Wolf describe his plan, Bender seemed to almost get aroused.

I agree with you, Elaine: Campbell is a fine heavy. The business with gloves will be reprised by H. M. Wynant in "The Night of the Sudden Plague," three episodes down the road. And you're right about the suggestion of arousal in Act III. He shifts in his chair and slightly licks his lips.
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AdorableBlue
SS novice field agent

948 Posts

Posted - 03/20/2004 :  01:45:11  Show Profile  Visit AdorableBlue's Homepage
quote:
[And don't forget that no matter how mundane an ep might appear, a girl can always enjoy it by appreciating the finer points of Mr. West.


AdorableBlue
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JimPhelps
SS 1st assignment - desk job

USA
417 Posts

Posted - 03/23/2004 :  12:08:36  Show Profile
TNOT Freebooters
A season one episode that feels as if it’s from season three, no science-fiction, (although Wolfe’s proto-tank would be considered such but it is more practically based) not even an outrageous villain really; Wolfe was kicked out of the military for [gasp!] taking bribes. In its place however is a wonderful relationship between Jim and Artie that echoes the later years. Ross Martin also has a chance to flex his acting muscles with two disguises; the latter is his most outlandish in the entire series. Remarkable Ross is able to get away with it and the Act IV showdown is not rendered silly nor do we lose the sense of danger, by the appearance of “The Grand Old Lady of The Secret Service”. I love all of the other shows in 1960’s Spydom but quite frankly none of them could have gotten away with one of their lead characters in drag. Even a comedian like Bill Cosby wouldn’t have been able to do it. As an Artie fan I love it, especially since last week he had to sit back and let Jim take center stage. Coon must have been a big fan of irony, during the first act there’s much patronizing talk from Jim and Artie to Rita about this being “man’s work”, in the end women play a role in defeating Wolfe (a very manly foe) and one of our heroes dons woman’s garb.

Thank goodness for psychic train engineers or at least ones with great hearing. I can understand the engineer being on watch for a flash of metal, or movement in the bushes, but the click from pulling the hammer back on the rifle is barely discernable from ten feet away much less the yards that separate the sniper from Rita. I guess the best Secret Service agents get the best train engineers. Regardless, the novelty of an exploding bullet in the 19th Century provides an exciting beginning to the adventure.

William Campbell plays Wolfe’s main assistant, Sgt Bender, low-key; this paramilitary group doesn’t seem to require uniforms. I also noticed the business with the gloves, hard to know whether it was a personal choice or a direction since (as has been mentioned) the same character trait reappears in “TNOT Sudden Plague” however, with all due respect to H.M. Wynant, I believe it more from the Bender character, it’s underplayed unobtrusively. Mr. Campbell is a celebrity among fans of classic Star Trek, where he gave two much more flamboyant performances: Trelane (a kind of prototype “Q”) in “The Squire of Gothos” and the smarmy Klingon commander in the sentimental favorite “The Trouble with Tribbles

The process of infiltrating Wolfe’s organization seems a simple one. Jim merely rides up to the front gate and asks to join. Well it’s not that easy, true, he is tested with his life, but after he passes, everyone from Wolfe on down seems to accept Jim as Robert Crandell, (another alias with RC initials) based on the “wanted” poster. However, it’s not so easy, things seem to take a disastrous turn at the end of Act II, when Jim’s cover is blown, but the guys quickly adapt. They almost seem to be expecting it; Jim has a fuse secreted in his vest and Artie passes him the explosive and a magnifying glass. Artie maintains his disguise, Wolfe appears to accept him as a Mexican Colonel with very little suspicion, (as Jim says in the cell with Leon: “You know Artie he’s got winning ways.”) but, he plans to double-cross him when he’s achieved his goals.

Keenan Wynn plays the usual “tough guy” role he excelled in, gifted with a deep voice and a natural air of authority. He parodied this type of character brilliantly in “Dr. Strangelove” as “Bat” Guano who was worried about “pre-versions”. To prove the actor had range, check out his very sensitive and heartbreaking performance as Mr. Green in Robert Altman’s “Nashville

I say this reminds me of the third season mostly because of the villain Wolfe. During that season it seemed as if there were a myriad of criminal ringleaders from Freemantle in TNOT Bubbling Death to Bruaker’s militia in TNOT Legion of Death. However we are not yet in the third season. This episode is a mixed bag of TNOT Inferno, TNOT Flaming Ghost, and TNOT Red-Eyed Madman. The flashback with Wolfe’s face superimposed over the action is reminiscent of the pilot episode, so are the raids Wolfe’s group carries out. The paramilitary group reminds me of TNOT Red-Eyed Madman and Wolfe definitely has fascist leanings, he is more interested in organizing an army of cutthroats and bandits (a la John Brown) under a type of military discipline. Wolfe’s goal of annexing Baja California is more “realistic” than last week’s outrageous scheme to steal brains, less outrageous even than the remaining stories of this season where we still have an invisible man with super-speed, a chemical which induces psychotic behavior, and a germ which temporarily paralyzes but does not kill. Story wise this episode is the most restrained of the bunch. In his little character defining speech with Bender while the two share a drink he speaks of making an organization similar to the French Foreign Legion who were notorious for enlisting anybody and whipping them into line…or else. These are traits and desires that seem to turn up in villains of the third season.

Artie’s guise as the matron was not designed for up close inspection; the makeup artists use no latex or extensive special makeup, just a wig and typical feminine makeup like rouge, lipstick, et cetera. No doubt Artie figured the attention of the men would be on the pretty young women and free liquor. This drag disguise works better than the silly “squaw” from the second season precisely because the character is not meant to undergo any close scrutiny, whereas suspension of disbelief in the later episode is stretched to the breaking point. In any event Ross plays it for all the laughs he can get and he gets plenty of them from me. Personally this is one of the classic bits from the entire series.

Introducing a weapon like “the turtle” is a just begging our guys to take over it in the fourth act. What’s unexpected about the takeover however is Wolfe’s new model rifle which can even pierce the shell of the prototype. There’s a nice subtle moment during the introduction to the “turtle” when Artie glances at Jim and communicates a slight apprehension. Earlier Artie looks amused after Wolfe asks Jim to shoot the weather vane, Jim replies: "Which eye?”

The commercial break art includes the main guest star in the story board which is always a plus. Jim shows up three times: break one, three, and the closing, he shows up twice by himself for the end of Act I and Act IV and he is pictured with guest Andre Philippe at the end of Act III. The tag is nice; it’s inevitable that the discussion is focused on Artie’s performance. How can it be ignored? I give this two and a half prosthetic noses out of four. Enjoy the soup.



Mr. Phelps
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