TV Thursday: The Wild Wild West (1965-1969)

I was born a little after the adventures of Jim West and Artemus Gordon first hit the airwaves but thanks to my Grandparents I knew quite a bit about the show and certain episodes before I actually started watching them in reruns on a local television station in my youth.

The show had elements of what we commonly call Steampunk now but it also had bits of James Bond, horror, and comedy in the mix as well. Secret Service agent James West was played by Robert Conrad, he was the charismatic gunslinger of the duo while Artemus Gordon, played by the fantastic Ross Martin, was the tech genius and a master of disguise. Artemus is without a doubt my favorite character of the series. I like James West too but I tend to favor the proclaimed Thespians.

The two Secret Service agents traveled the United States protecting Ulysses S. Grant and the general populace in their private train, thanks to Wikipedia I now know that in the pilot episode they used Sierra Railroad No. 3 but when the show was picked up they switched to a train named the Inyo, which itself was used in a ton of movies. Inyo was featured in High, Wide, and Handsome (1938), Union Pacific (1939), The Marx Brothers’ Go West (1940), Meet Me in St. Louis, (1944), Red River (1948), Disney’s The Great Locomotive Chase (1956) and McLintock!

The villains of the show were just as varied as the elements of the show but without a doubt the greatest of West and Gordon’s enemies was the “megalomaniac dwarf” known as Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless, played with absolute perfection by Michael Dunn.

Check out this awesome scene between Loveless and West:

The Wild Wild West ran from September 1965 until April 1969 with two made for television movies in 1979 and 1980. Though I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing them myself, it seems that in those television movies we learn that Dr. Loveless has passed on from ulcers due to not being able to complete his plans because of West and Gordon, he has a son however, played by Paul Williams, that takes up his father’s work. I really need to see these two movies!

There was of course a big budget reimagining Wild Wild West film in 1999, starring Will Smith as James West, Kevin Kline as Aretmus Gordon, and Kenneth Brannagh as Dr. Loveless, loosely based on the TV series. Now to be honest I like this reimagining, particularly because it takes the Steampunk aspects and just runs with it, but its not as good as the the original that it was based on. It feels to me like there was a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor that would probably have helped the narrative of the film, perhaps someday we will get a director’s cut?

VicSage

Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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8 thoughts on “TV Thursday: The Wild Wild West (1965-1969)

  1. I wasn’t a fan of the newer movie with Will Smith only because I actually remembered the old series and while he had the swagger of Robert Conrad, Kevin Kline did not do the Artemus Gordon role justice!
    Thanks for reminding me of a such an old favorite of mine! I also followed Conrad in Ba Ba Black Sheep another great series!

  2. If I remember the first of the TV movies, its starts with both out of the Secret Service. Arty is an actor in a traveling troupe. West is living in a ranch in Mexico surrounded by beautiful women. When asked, West refuses to reunite with Gordon because he is so mad at him. He doesn’t remember why he is mad, just that he is mad.

    I think the head of the Secret Service is played by the actor who was in dragent and also was Col Potter in MASH.

    I remember nothing else from it.

  3. Atari Adventure Square says:

    A great show I had totally forgotten but when I saw the first season out on DVD, it all came back – the gadgets, the odd villains, the exciting mixture of western and spy action.
    Still love the show and its inventive animated credits and inserts.

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