The Wild, Wild West, 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, Season one, on DVD
Before there was James Bond, there was James West. Well, not literally, but chronologically. Well, maybe not chronologically in real time, but in setting.
James West was to the old west what James Bond was to the cold war. Okay? But Bond came first, thanks to Ian Fleming, while West was a creation of the 1960’s, a TV hero in the manner of 007, but with his own style.
Many of the story lines in this 40th anniversary edition of WWW could almost have been taken from Bond, however. They feature bizarre and larger than life plots, lots of gadgets (though with 1800’s technology) and lovely ladies.
For what more could anyone ask?
How about a sidekick? Bond may have had M and/or Q, but James West (Robert Conrad) had Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), who was kind of a cross between Q and another 00 agent, in his case a master of disguise and dialects. Together they carve a swath of truth and justice across the old west in a lighthearted adventure series that’s as enjoyable today as it was when it first premiered.
And while Bond had his Aston Martin, West had a lovely personal trail to take him from adventure to adventure. The man had a taste for the finer things, and a habit of courting danger, and that’s why we watch.
The stories are broad and enjoyable, reminding us somewhat of The Avengers with John Steed and Mrs. Peel, a British series that had the same kind of larger than life and highly imaginative plots. Yet Wild Wild West, perhaps as much because of its setting and its situations, comes across as quintessentially American, just as Avengers was quintessentially British for the same reaons, and that’s fine with us in both cases.
Conrad was very good as West, and Martin developed a following of his own for his engaging portrayal of the ever loyal sidekick. Together they formed a classic buddy team in the vein of Hope and Crosby and even Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (from the Man From U.N.C.L.E., another classic from that period).
This boxed set includes seven discs across which are spread all 28 of the first season’s episodes, beautifully transferred in full frame video. All episodes are in black and white, which is better than having them colorized, and the picture is sharp and contrasty.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and it’s okay. Paramount hasn’t given it a 5.1 remix like they did with the original Star Trek series (with remarkable results, we may add), but while we’d love to have heard that we can easily live with this good mono.
A sidenote: all of the episodes are titled “the Night of…..” and they feature an introduction by Robert Conrad. Each disc also includes extras, from bloopers and interviews to promo material, commentaries and the like.
We can’t wait for the rest of the seasons to appear!
The Wild Wild West, the complete first season, 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, from Paramount Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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