Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Wild Wild West, "The Night of the Murderous Spring"

During the Sixties, both the United Kingdom and the United States were swept up in a spy craze. Starting with shows such as Danger Man and The Avengers in Britain, the first James Bond movie Dr. No (1962) brought the spy craze to the United States. At around the same time the success of the TV shows Bonanza and The Virginian sparked a new cycle of Westerns on American television. It was then perhaps inevitable that someone would think to combine the two. That someone was Michael Garrison, who came up with the idea of a show that would be "James Bond in the Wild West." Of course, that show was The Wild Wild Wild West.

The Wild Wild West followed the adventures of Secret Service agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), who were assigned to the United States west of the Mississippi. West and Gordon were equipped with the latest in gadgets, from James West's sleeve gun to the knife hidden in his shoe.  Artemus Gordon was a master of disguise and even had his own disguise kit. What is more they regularly faced Bondian villains. For the most part West and Gordon's opponents only appeared once, never to return to the show again. There were two exceptions to this rule. One was Count Manzeppi (Victor Buono), who appeared in two episodes of the second season. The more notable exception was Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn), who returned to plague West and Gordon no less than ten times during the show's run. Dr. Loveless was to James West and Artemus Gordon what The Joker is to Batman or Blofeld is to James Bond. Quite simply, he was their archenemy.

Dr. Miguelito Loveless was created by creator Michael Garrison, producer Fred Freiberger, and writer John Kneubuhl and first appeared in the first season episode "The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth." It occurred to them that actor Michael Dunn would make a great villain on the show. Suffering from medical dwarfism, Mr. Dunn was an established actor who had appeared in the movie Ship of Fools (1965), for which he had been nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, as well as several TV shows.

Inspiration for Miguelito Loveless came from a play that John Kneubuhl had seen,  Here Come the Clowns by Phillip Barry. In the play there is a scene in which a dwarf complains to a rather devilish looking magician, "If there is a God, why did he make people like me?" The magician simply looks down at him and smiles, then says, "Would you deny him a sense of humour?" While it was never mentioned on the show, Dr. Loveless's backstory was that hat he was the son of a Mexican woman descended from Spanish dons and an American man who ultimately robbed Miguelito of his rightful inheritance. Robbed of what was rightfully his and diminutive in stature, Dr. Loveless was then angry at the whole world. While Dr. Loveless was filled with existential rage, at the same time he had a lighter side. He had a mischievous sense of humour that often manifested itself in his encounters with West and Gordon. He also had a taste for the finer things in life, particularly music. Many of his early appearances featured scenes of Dr. Loveless and his companion Antoinette (Phoebe Dorin)  singing. Phoebe Dorin was a close friend of Michael Dunn, and together they had a nightclub consisting of singing and light banter. While Dr. Loveless was small in size, he was a skilled combatant, in one episode taking on several men much bigger than himself and winning.

Dr. Loveless also had a brilliant intellect, one capable of developing technology far in advance of the Victorian Era. Of course, rather than using this technology to help humanity, the not-so-good doctor chose to use his technological achievements to take over part of the United States or the entire country. This is the case in "The Night of the Murderous Spring." In "The Night of the Murderous Spring," Dr. Loveless has developed a powerful, hallucinogenic powder that he plans to use to take over the United States. Given when "The Night of the Murderous Spring" was made, some might think that writer John Kneubuhl was inspired by such psychedelic drugs as LSD, but he wasn't. By his own admission, Mr. Kneubuhl was rather naive about drugs at the time, and simply thought of the episode's hallucinogenic powder as one of Dr. Loveless's many inventions.

"The Night of the Murderous Spring" was Miguelito Loveless's fourth appearance on The Wild Wild West and the penultimate episode of the first season. What sets it apart from some of Miguelito's other appearances (as well as other Wild Wild West episodes) is that Jim West is even more at Dr. Loveless's mercy than he ever was or would be. In "The Night of the Murderous Spring," it is fairly clear that Dr. Loveless could have killed James West any time he wanted. As to why he didn't, one can only assume that Dr. Loveless had found no other opponents who had challenged him as much as West and Gordon had. For Miguelito Loveless, it seems likely trying to take over the world was as much a game as it was anything else.

Of course, much of what also sets "The Night of the Murderous Spring" apart from other episodes of The Wild Wild West is its direction. "The Night of the Murderous Spring" features some of the best shots of any episode of the show, with scenes that look as if they could come from some thriller movie or a Victorian film noir. If the direction of "The Night of the Murderous Spring" is superior, it is perhaps because it was directed by Richard Donner. Richard Donner directed three episodes of The Wild Wild West and would go onto direct such movies as The Omen (1976), Superman (1978), Ladyhawke (1985), and Lethal Weapon (1987).

While "The Night of the Murderous Spring" had great direction, much of its success must be chalked up to Michael Dunn. He was an enormously talented actor, and he brought all of his talent to bear in playing Dr. Miguelito Loveless. What is more, he did his own stunts. While his mobility was limited to some degree because of his disability, he was athletic and a very skilled swimmer. In fact, it was during the shooting of "The Night of the Murderous Spring" that Michael Dunn's swimming skill came to good use. A scene shot at what was also used as the lagoon on Gilligan's Island involved the sinking of a boat containing Michael Dunn, Phoebe Dorin, and guest star Jenie Jackson. Unfortunately, Miss Dorin's costume got caught in the machinery used to sink the boat and she was in danger of drowning. Michael Dunn swiftly swam underwater to tear her free.

While Robert Conrad and Michael Dunn played opponents on screen, in reality the two men had great affection for each other. In fact, according to Phoebe Dorin in various interviews, Robert Conrad absolutely adored Michael Dunn. Quite simply, Mr. Conrad treated Mr. Dunn and anyone with him as if they were royalty. He had enormous admiration for Michael Dunn as both an actor and a person, to the point that Mr. Conrad would still talk about Mr. Dunn at length in interviews years after his death. Robert Conrad was not alone in his affection for Michael Dunn. Ross Martin also got along very well with both Michael Dunn and Phoebe Dorin. 

Dr. Miguelito Loveless appeared six more times on The Wild Wild West. Although the show was still getting respectable ratings, it was cancelled in 1969 as a scapegoat in the moral panic over television violence. Michael Dunn continued to appear frequently on television, in such shows as Bonanza and Night Gallery, as well as several TV movies and feature films. Sadly he died on August 30 1973 at the age of 38. An autopsy performed by a physician at St. George's Hospital in London at the time determined the cause of death to be pulmonary heart disease. While Mr. Dunn had a rich career, from appearing on stage in The Ballad of the Sad Café to his performance in Ship of Fools, it is safe to say many still remember him best as Dr. Miguelito Loveless on The Wild Wild West.

American television in the Sixties had no shortage of villains with grandiose plots, from the THRUSH agents faced by Solo and Khuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to Batman's rogue's gallery on Batman. Few were as brilliant, as outrageous, or as threatening as Dr. Miguelito Loveless. He was the one villain West and Gordon faced more than twice, and perhaps the villain who came closest to succeeding in his plans. Perhaps no other villain on The Wild Wild West could have conceived a scheme as grand as drugging the entire United States with a hallucinogen. And what made Dr. Loveless so convincing, no matter how outlandish his schemes, was the sheer talent of Michael Dunn. Perhaps no other actor could have ever played him.

Friday, March 19, 2021

The 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon

The 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon has arrived. This year's blogathon spans several decades worth of classic television, as well as several different genres.

For those of you who are participating in the blogathon, I ask that you link to this page. I will be updating this page with links to the various blog posts that are part of this blogathon throughout the weekend. If you want a graphic for your post, I have several on the announcement page here.

Anyhow, without further ado, here are the blog posts!

Realweegiemidget Reviews: Hammer House of Horror TV Series, "Visitor from the Grave" (1980)

Caftan Woman: Barney Miller, "Fog"

John V's Eclectic Avenue: Thriller's Uncanny "The Grim Reaper"

The Very Special Blog: Boy Meets World: B& B's B 'n' B

Another Old Movie Blog: TV's Decoy - "Fiesta at Midnight" episode, 1958

Films From Beyond the Time Barrier: The Outer Limits of Spying: O.B.I.T.

Taking Up Room: Be Kind, Rewind

A Shroud of Thoughts: The Wild Wild West, "The Night of the Murderous Spring"

Elisabeth Grace Foley: Stagecoach West, "The Remounts"

Watching Forever: When Murder, She Wrote brilliantly became a sequel to a 1949 film

Hamlette's Soliloquy: "The Haunted House" (The Andy Griffith Show)(1963)

Crítica Retrô:Alfred Hitchcock Presents Patricia Hitchcock in "Into Thin Air"

Silver Scenes: I Love Lucy - Lucy's Night in Town

Dubsism: Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 104: "The Rockford Files – Drought at Indianhead River"

Moon in Gemini: Mork & Mindy: "Mork Runs Away"

A Scunner Darkly: 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Blogathon – Dark Shadows – Episode 702 (1969, dir. Henry Kaplan)

18 Cinema Lane: Sally Watches…Kids Incorporated!

Smoke in the Library: The Adventures of Superman: "The Stolen Costume"

MovieRob: Amazing Stories, "The Mission"

MovieRob: China Beach, "China Beach (pilot)"

MovieRob: Playhouse 90, "Bomber's Moon"

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Late Great Yaphet Kotto

He played Kananga in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1972). He played Parker, the chief engineer of the Nostromo in Alien (1979). He was as Lieutenant Al Giardello on the classic television show Homicide: Life on the Street. Yaphet Kotto was the consummate actor. Throughout his career he played villains and heroes and everything in between. What is more, he did all of them well. He was as at home acting in a Shakespeare play as he was a genre movie. There are not many actors who can do nearly everything, but Yaphet Kotto was one of them. Sadly, he died on March 14 1921 at the age of 81.

Yaphet Kotto was born on November 15 1939 in New York City. His mother was an American nurse and United States Army officer. She was of Panamanian and West Indian descent. His father was a businessman from Cameroon who had migrated to the United States in the 1920s, as well as a descendent of Cameroonian royalty. His father was Jewish and his mother had converted to Judaism.  His mother and father divorced when he was a child, so that he was raised by his maternal grandparents in the Bronx. Young Mr. Kotto dropped out of school at age 16. It was after working various odd jobs that he decided to take up acting after seeing Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (1954).

He studied acting at the Actors Mobile Theatre Studio. He made his professional acting debut in Othello. He made his film debut in Nothing But a Man in 1964. He made his debut on Broadway in The Zulu and the Zayda. During the Sixties he appeared in the films The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), 5 Card Stud (1968), and The Liberation of L. B. Jones (1970). He appeared on television in the shows NBC Experiment in Television, Death Valley Days, Cowboy in Africa, Tarzan, The Big Valley, Bonanza, The High Chaparral, Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, Daniel Boone, The Name of the Game, and Gunsmoke. In 1968 he appeared on Broadway again in The Great White Hope.

In the Seventies Yaphet Kotto played two of his best known roles. He played Dr. Kananga, the villain in Live and Let Die, and Parker in Alien. He wrote, directed, and starred in The Limit (1972), in which he played a California highway patrol officer. On television he played Idi Amin in the TV movie Raid on Entebbe. He also appeared in the movies Man and Boy (1971), Bone (1972), Across 110th Street (1972), Truck Turner (1974), Report to the Commissioner (1975), Sharks' Treasure (1975), Friday Foster (1975), Drum (1976), The Monkey Hu$tle (1976), Blue Collar (1978), Brubaker (1980), and Othello (1980). He guest starred on the TV shows Night Gallery and Doctors' Hospital.

In the Eighties he appeared in the movies Fighting Back (1982), The Star Chamber (1983), Warning Sign (1985), Eye of the Tiger (1986), Prettykill (1987), Terminal Entry (1987), The Running Man (1987), Midnight Run (1988), The Jigsaw Murders (1989), A Whisper to a Scream (1989),  Ministry of Vengeance (1989), and Tripwire (1989). On television he starred on For Love and Honor. He guest starred on the TV series Fantasy Island; The A-Team; Hill Street Blues; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Murder, She Wrote; and Father Dowling Mysteries. He appeared in such TV movies as The Park is Mine, Badge of the Assassin, Harlem, Desperado, and Prime Target.

In the Nineties Mr. Kotto appeared as Lt. Al Giardello on Homicide: Life on the Street. He also guest starred as Lt. Giardello on Law & Order. He guest starred on the TV shows Civil Wars, The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, and Seaquest DSV. He appeared in such TV movies as Chrome Soldiers, The American Clock, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face, and Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan. He appeared in the movies Hangfire (1991), Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), Extreme Justice (1993), The Puppet Masters (1994), Dead Badge (1995), Out-of-Sync (1995), Two If by Sea (1996), and Almost Blue (1996).

In the Naughts Yaphet Kotto appeared the TV movie Stiletto Dance and guest starred on the TV show The Wire. He made his last appearance on screen in the movie Witless Protection (2008).

Yaphet Kotto was an incredible actor and one who was very prolific as well. What is more, he never gave a bad performance, giving impressive performances when the material itself wasn't that good. He was extraordinary as the strait-laced Lt. Pope in Across 100th Street, outshining even screen legend Anthony Quinn. As inmate Richard "Dickie" Coombes, he gave another impressive performance. Yaphet Kotto displayed his talent on television as well. He was very convincing as Idi Amin in Raid on Entebee. On Homicide: Life on the Street he gave consistently good performances as the intelligent and articulate Al "Gee" Giardello on Homicide: Life on the Street. Throughout his career Yaphet Kotto played everything from Bondian villains to lawmen to medical doctors. What is more, he played all of them well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Frank Lupo Passes On

Frank Lupo, who co-created The A-Team, Wiseguy, and other shows with Stephen J. Cannell, died on February 18 2021 at the age of 66. The cause was cardiac arrest.

Frank Lupo was born on January 11 1955 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School and majored in English at the New School in Manhattan. He moved to Los Angeles in the mid-Seventies and was hired by Universal. It was there that he met Stephen J. Cannell. In the late Seventies he wrote episodes of Sword of Justice, Battlestar Galactica, B.J. and the Bear, and Galactica 1980.

;In the early Eighties, he wrote episodes of Magnum P.I. and The Quest before writing several episodes of The Greatest American Hero, the first  series on which he worked with Stephen J. Cannell. He co-created the shows The A-Team, Riptide, Hunter, The Last Precinct, and Wiseguy with Mr. Cannell. He also created the series Werewolf. He wrote episodes of Stingray, Something is Out There, and Hardball.

In the Nineties he created the show Raven. He wrote episodes of the shows Walker, Texas Ranger; and Lawless. He wrote an episode of Painkiller Jane.

Mr. Lupo also served as a producer or executive producer on the shows Galactica 1980; The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo; The Greatest American Hero; The A-Team; Riptide; Hunter; Stingray; The Last Precinct; Werewolf; Something is Out There; Walker, Texas Ranger; and Fortune Hunter.

Frank Lupo was part of some well-remembered shows. The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team, and Wiseguy remain remembered to this day. And while some of the shows on which he worked might be considered guilty pleasures, he did work on some truly good TV series. Wiseguy, with a format consisting of serialized story arcs was well ahead of its time. It was also a character driven show at a time when many crime dramas were action-oriented. And while Frank Lupo was best known for his crime dramas, the short-lived sitcom The Last Precinct starring Adam West is a must-see. As a writer and producer, Frank Lupo created many hours of enjoyable television.

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Late Great Henry Darrow

Actor Henry Darrow was something of a pioneer. As Manolito "Mano" Montoya on The High Chaparral, he was both the first Puerto Rican star of an hour-long American series and one of the earliest Latinos to have a lead role on an American show. He would later become the first Latino to ever play Zorro. Throughout his career, Henry Darrow avoided playing stereotypes, instead playing a succession of often complex characters. Sadly, Henry Darrow died yeserday, March 14 2021, at the age of 87.

Henry Darrow was born Enrique Tomás Delgado Jiménez on September 15 1933 in New York City. His parents operated a restaurant in Bedford Village that was often visited by such movie stars as Humphrey Bogart and Tallulah Bankhead. When he was eight he played a woodcutter in a school play. It was then that he decided he wanted to be an actor. 

Henry Darrow was 13 years old when his family returned to their native Puerto Rico. He studied acting and political science at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1954 he won a scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse. Among his classmates was future Laugh-In star Ruth Buzzi. Mr. Darrow made his film debut in an uncredited role in Curse of the Undead in 1959. In the late Fifties he appeared in the movies Holiday for Lovers (1959), Revenge of the Virgins (1959), The 3rd Voice (1960), and Cage of Evil (1960). He made his television debut in an episode of Cimarron City in 1959. That same year he guest starred in an episode of Wagon Train.

In the early Sixties Henry Darrow guest starred on the shows The Dick Powell Show, Stoney Burke, The Outer Limits, Channing, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He appeared in the movies Sniper's Ridge (1961), Man-Trap (1961), Summer and Smoke (1961), and The Glass Cage. Originally credited as Henry Delgado, he adopted the stage name "Henry Darrow" in the mid-Sixties in order to get a wider variety of roles. He guest starred on the shows Iron Horse, The Wild Wild West, T.H.E. Cat, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Daniel Boone before he began playing the role of Manolito Montoya on The High Chaparral. Although the series never ranked in the top thirty in the United States, it proved to be popular and lasted four seasons. The High Chaparral proved to be phenomenally popular in Europe, particularly Sweden. Mano was easily the most popular character on the show, and Henry Darrow even became a teen heartthrob in the United States. Mr. Darrow also appeared in the movie The Dream of Hamish Mose (1969).

In the Seventies Henry Darrow had regular roles on both The Dick Van Dyke Show and Harry-O. He guest starred on the shows Primus, The Man and the City, Night Gallery, Bearcats!, The Mod Squad, The F.B.I., The New Doctors, Kung Fu, Insight, Chase, Kojak, The Invisible Man, McMillan & Wife, The Streets of San Francisco, Sara, Jigsaw John, Baretta, The Six Million Dollar Man, Gemini Man, Kingston: Confidential, Hawaii Five-O, Wonder Woman, Police Woman, The Bionic Woman, Vega$, and The Righteous Apples. He was a guest voice on the animated series The Lone Ranger. He appeared on the mini-series Centennial. He appeared in the movies Cancel My Reservation (1972), Badge 373 (1973), Where's Willie? (1978), and Walk Proud (1979).

In the Eighties Henry Darrow provided the voice of Zorro on the animated series The New Adventures of Zorro and later played the role of the elder Zorro on the comedy Zorro and Son. Mr. Darrow played the role of Don Alejandro de la Vega on a third Zorro project, the 1990-1993 series Zorro. He also had regular roles on the shows Me and Mom, and Santa Barbara. He guest starred on the shows Born to the Wind, Secrets of Midland Heights, B.J. and the Bear, The Incredible Hulk, American Playhouse, Quincy M.E., Cassie & Co., Benson, Dynasty, Hart to Hart, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Dallas, Jennifer Slept Here, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The Fall Guy, Airwolf, Cover Up, Magnum P.I., The Fisher Family, Knight Rider, T. J. Hooker, Fresno, Easy Street, Ohara, Simon & Simon, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The Golden Girls. He appeared in the movies Beyond the Universe (1981), St. Helens (1981), Birds of Paradise (1981), Losin' It (1983), Mission Kill (1985), The Hitcher (1986), W.A.R.: Women Against Rape (1987), In Dangerous Company (1988), L.A. Bounty (1989), and The Last of the Finest (1990).

In the early Nineties Henry Darrow continued to appear on both Santa Barbara and Zorro. Late in the decade he became a regular on The Bold and the Beautiful. He guest starred on Silk Stalkings, Time Trax, Nurses, Sisters, Empire, Star Trek: Voyager, Babylon 5, Night Man, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, and Family Law. He appeared in the movies Maverick (1994), Criminal Passion (1994), Tequila Body Shots (1999), and Enemy Action (1999).

In the Naughts Mr. Darrow continued to appear on The Bold and the Beautiful. He guest starred on Just Shoot Me and One Tree Hill. He appeared in the films Runaway Jury (2003), Angels with Angles (2005), and Primo (2008). His last feature film appearance was in Soda Springs (2012).

Henry Darrow was a co-founder of both  the Nosotros Organization and the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee.

I think there can be no doubt that Henry Darrow will always be remembered as Mano on The High Chaparral. He was a remarkable character, one who loved comfort and the pleasures of life, but at the same time was willing to risk his life for others. Mano's jokes and smiles always hid a much more serious side to the character. What is more, Henry Darrow did an excellent job of playing Mano, making him one of the best character to emerge on American television in the Sixties. While Mr. Darrow may be best remembered as Manolito, he played a wide array of characters. He was a drug kingpin in Badge 373, about as far from Mano as one could get. He played a deposed noble, Archduke Maurice, in the Wild Wild West episode "Night of the Tottering Tontine." In the Night Gallery episode "Cool Air" (based on the Lovecraft story of the same name), he played a physician trying to postpone his own death. Henry Darrow was a remarkable actor who had a gift for imbuing every character he played with a personality all his own.