Wild Wild West

Night of the Puppeteer, #6521

In the wake of the mysterious deaths of two Supreme Court Justices, Justice Chayne receives a miniature casket, similar to what the others received before being murdered. Chayne watches a puppet show being held for his grandson's birthday. When Mrs. Chayne wonders aloud who is responsible for the unexpected show, West grows suspicious and, spying a gun aimed at Chayne from behind the puppeteer's drape, pushes the justice aside while shooting at the puppeteer. West is drugged by a poison dart and falls unconscious.
West then finds himself on trial for the murder of the puppeteer. His jury: life-sized versions of the puppets used in the show. Their ringleader is the brilliant sculptor Zachariah Skull, who long ago escaped his own impending death sentence by jumping from a speeding train, only to find a sentence worse than death.

Of all the series' episodes, Night of the Puppeteer is the favorite of producer John Mantley, director Moore and art director Albert Heschong. When Mantley received the script he loved it, but CBS demanded that it be under-budget. Moore and Heschong brainstormed to come up with an interesting, but inexpensive concept. "The sets were built, lit and shot by my design," Moore said. "Ethel Winant came to me and said that, of all the shows she had seen, this was the first time she'd ever seen a director's concept of a script."
At the time, the episode ran in black and white, but everyone working on the show remembered the vivid colors against the black background. "It's hard to watch the show today and think it was shot in black and white, because the colors in the costumes and sets are still etched in my mind," Mantley said.

Zachariah Skull: Lloyd Bochner (star of the Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man)
Vivid: Imalda de Martin
Dr. Lake: Nelson Olmsted
Mrs. Chayne: Sara Taft
Sandwich Man: Len Rogel
Butler: Jack Tygett
Justice Chayne: John Hoyt
Caveman: Walter Painter
Waitress: Janis Hansen
Harlequin: Wayne Albritton
Directed by Irving J. Moore
Written by Henry Sharpe
* The above 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.
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