THE WILD WILD WEST:
I love the fact that classic television shows are appearing on DVD with more regularity and am delighted every time a personal favorite from my childhood, like THE WILD WILD WEST, gets released. THE WILD WILD WEST appeared on television at the height of the James Bond secret agent craze of the 1960s and this series capitalized on the phenomenon by mixing elements of the spy genre, with that other television favorite, namely the western. Of course, THE WILD WILD WEST didnít stop with just those two genres; occasionally, bits of science fiction and elements of comedy were also added to the mix for good measure.
Set in the American southwest during the post Civil War era, THE WILD WILD WEST follows the adventures of two Secret Service agents, whose headquarters is the 19th Century equivalent of a high tech train car. With a decisive nod to James Bond, our lead agent is James T. West (Robert Conrad), a former Union Army officer, who always finds himself in the middle of the fray, that is, when he isnít romancing a beautiful woman. Partnered with West, is Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), a former con man, entertainer and master of disguise, who devises many of the gadgets that our heroes employ to get themselves out of scrapes with the numerous villains that they face on western frontier. Of course, the most infamous of these villains is the diminutive megalomaniac, Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn), who made a total of ten appearances during the course if the series four year run.
THE WILD WILD WEST: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON ($50) comes to DVD in a seven-disc set that features all twenty-eight episodes that were aired in the series first year. The twenty-eight featured episodes are as follows: The Night Of The Inferno, The Night Of The Deadly Bed, The Night The Wizard Shook The Earth, The Night Of Sudden Death, Night Of The Casual Killer, The Night Of A Thousand Eyes, The Night Of The Glowing Corpse, The Night Of The Dancing Death, The Night Of The Double-Edged Knife, The Night That Terror Stalked The Town, The Night Of The Red-Eyed Madmen, The Night Of The Human Trigger, The Night Of The Torture Chamber, The Night Of The Howling Light, The Night Of The Fatal Trap, The Night Of The Steel Assassin, The Night The Dragon Screamed, The Night Of The Flaming Ghost, The Night Of The Grand Emir, The Night Of The Whirring Death, The Night Of The Puppeteer, The Night Of The Bars Of Hell, The Night Of The Two-Legged Buffalo, The Night Of The Druid's Blood, The Night Of The Freebooters, The Night Of The Burning Diamond, The Night Of The Murderous Spring and The Night Of The Sudden Plague.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made all twenty-eight episodes from THE WILD WILD WEST: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on DVD in the proper full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. The black and white episodes really look terrific on DVD, displaying a rather crisp image and a solid level of definition. Contrast and grayscale are very good for a television production, with the monochromatic cinematography producing deep blacks and clean whites. The film elements are in great shape for a forty plus year old series. A mild grain structure is noticeable from time to time, but is never objectionable. Digital compression artifacts are nicely camouflaged.
All of the episodes that constitute THE WILD WILD WEST: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, come with Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks that sound quite good for their vintage. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves everything fairly smooth sounding. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. Fidelity has some limitations, but the track has a little more oomph than expected. The musical scores and the infectious theme music always sound good. No other language tracks or subtitles are included.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode selection and set up features, as well as some very nice supplemental materials. Series star Robert Conrad is on hand to provide Audio Introductions to the episodes. Spread across the various discs are Audio Interviews with the following members of the production crew: John Kneubuhl (Writer and creator of Miguelito Loveless), Ethel Winant (Casting), Fred Freiberger (Producer), Tim Smyth (Special Effects) and Richard Markowitz (Music). The DVDs also features the Original Pilot Opening and Bumpers, a Pilot Promo, a Ross Martin Sketch of character disguise makeup, Intro Blooper, Robert Conrad and Ross Martin Interview promoting THE WILD WILD WEST reunion movie on the television show "Every Day", Network Promos, Theme Storing Sessions and an Everyready Commercial.
Not an easy series to pigeonhole to a particular genre, THE WILD WILD WEST is personal favorite amongst classic television series from the 1960s. Paramountís DVD release of THE WILD WILD WEST: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON looks and sounds great, in addition to offering some nice supplements. Lets hope that the remaining seasons make their appearances on DVD very soon. Very highly recommended.
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