Wild Gadgets

***** The following information was compiled from "The Wild Wild West: The Series" by Susan E. Kesler (Arnett Press), "Michael Garrison's Wild Wild West," an article by Robert Alan Crick in Epi-Log Journal #11, and other sources. It can be read in a harder-to-use format on the tnt.turner.com/action/west website
(if it's still there)

Creating fantastic gadgets and devices for each week's episode of The Wild Wild West usually began with the writers who would introduce the gadget idea at a story conference. For the first season of the series, story editors would take the writers' concepts and, working with an art director, create a workable prop. This process changed during the second season when story consultant Henry Sharp began to visualize the gadget before it was designed. Then the writers would build a story around the gadget.

James West's sleeve gun was a unique idea that hadn't been used before on any TV Western. It was basically made out of a traverse rod and a carrier was put in with nylon rollers. A frame was built into the gun grip and bolted into the mechanism. When the gun was pushed up the rollers, it was locked into place and hidden from view. The gun was released when the wearer forced his elbow against his body.

Another unique device was a metal spike that was designed to shoot out of West's derringer. This came in handy when escaping from bell towers, acid pits, and smoke screens. During the filming of these sequences, the production team would stick the spike in the wall first, then tighten up on it and yank it out. When the film was reversed, the spike would appear to shoot into the wall.

The monsterous octopus in The Night of the Kraken was made out of simple rubber and foam. The falcon cannon in The Night of the Falcon was made out of Styrofoam and carpet and was powered by hydraulics. It was rumored to be the largest prop created for the show, but we know that honor belongs to the traveling armory known as "The Wanderer." This private railroad car, brimming with hidden weaponry, was a star in its own right. The interiors were comprised of a specially constructed set at CBS's Studio Center and they included a coach car, a kitchen, a gun room, and a laboratory (their horses were in the seperate baggage car).

Inside the train, secret weapons came into play, such as two mounted pistols which could be fired by a hidden foot pedal. At the other end of the car a hidden panel concealed the duo's knife and gun collection from enemies. Even the billiard table had an ulterior purpose. It housed hidden rifles and rapiers as well as billiard balls that were actually bombs. On another table, behind a shelf of books, was a box that hid the frequently used telegraph, the main communication between the agents and the president. And if using the telegraph was a problem, West and Gordon had their choice of trained carrier pigeons (though animals can always be tricky on a tv schedule and the pigeons were rarily used after the first season). The telegraph could only be used when stopped, as it had to be clipped to the nearest telegraph line by wire.

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