The Wild Wild West's The Night of the Death Masks Episode: Milton Selzer Guest Stars
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The Wild Wild West's The Night of the Death Masks Episode: Milton Selzer Guest Stars

The Wild Wild West's The Night of the Death Masks debuted on Friday night, January 26, 1968. Secret Service agents James T. West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) wind up in Paradox, Nevada, where escaped convict Emmet Stark (Milton Selzer) has engineered an elaborate plan of revenge. Patty McCormack, Douglas Henderson, Judy McConnell, Louis Quinn and Bobbie Jordan also appear.

The Wild Wild West (1965-69) was one wild fantasy TV western. The 1968 episode "The Night of the Death Masks" guest stars Milton Selzer as Emmet Stark, a vicious convict who shoots his way out of prison and concocts an elaborate revenge scheme targeting Jim West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin). 

The Wild Wild West's The Night of the Death Masks: Cast & Credits

Ken Pettus wrote the teleplay for "The Night of the Death Masks," with Mike Moder directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are: 

  • James T. West (Robert Conrad)
  • Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin)
  • Emmet Stark (Milton Selzer)
  • Betsy Stark (Patty McCormack)
  • Colonel James Richmond (Douglas Henderson)
  • Mr. Goff (Louis Quinn)
  • Dr. Prior (Bill Quinn)
  • Fleur Fogarty (Bobbie Jordan)
  • Amanda (Judy McConnell)
  • Station Master (Sam Edwards)
  • Velia (Kristi Kimble)
  • Stage Driver (Holly Bane a.k.a. Mike Ragan)
  • Soldier (Chuck Courtney)
  • Soldier (Dick Cangey)
  • Soldier (Jerry Laveroni)

Milton Selzer (1918-2006) - CBS-TV

The Night of the Death Masks: Episode Synopsis

Three soldiers arrive at a way station where they begin harassing a young woman, insisting that they drink with her. Jim West intervenes, disposing of the trio in a violent brawl. West and the woman then board the stage, with the latter going back inside, informing West that she has to powder her nose. Wooden flaps suddenly come down, sealing West inside as a knockout gas bomb detonates. 

West finds himself in the town of Paradox, Nevada, where he encounters a bizarre series of events. Noises emanate from the saloon, yet no one is there. Phantom adversaries shoot at him from buildings, but when West returns fire and checks the bodies, they are nothing but mannequins. He also encounters a young woman named Betsy, who has apparently lost her way.

Meanwhile, Artemus Gordon is in Virginia City, romancing Fleur Fogarty, telling the woman that he sells porcelain door knobs for a living. Gordon's Secret Service superior Colonel Richmond finds him at a restaurant, informing the agent that Emmet Stark has escaped from prison and plans to make good on his vow of revenge against West and Gordon.

With Jim West overdue, Artemus Gordon attempts to pick up his trail. He meets three people at a way station where he too is gassed and deposited in the deserted town of Paradox. Gordon emerges from the stage in makeup designed to make him look older and unrecognizable. Gordon and West soon find themselves shooting at each other, unaware of each other's true identity.

The Night of the Death Masks: Air Date & Network Competition

"The Night of the Death Masks" aired over CBS on Friday night, January 26, 1968, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was Off to See the Wizard (ABC) and Tarzan starring Ron Ely (NBC). 

The Night of the Death Masks: Analysis & Review

One thing you could always say about The Wild Wild West – it was never dull. In this segment Old West U.S. Secret Service agents Jim West and Artemus Gordon go up against the criminal mastermind Emmet Stark, who had shot up a bank in Kansas City and was sent to prison. Stark has now shot his way out of the pokey and is hell-bent on revenge, luring both West and Gordon to the previously nonexistent town of Paradox, Nevada. 

Milton Selzer (1918-2006) garners the role of Emmet Stark, though he only appears at the tail end of the episode. Ably filling in during the remaining air time is a contingent of fine supporting players, led by three beautiful actresses – Patty McCormack, Judy McConnell and Kristi Kimble – who are decked out in handsome costumes of the era. 

Wild Wild West fans won't be disappointed, as "The Night of the Death Masks" features plenty of intrigue and action, along with the show's trademark humor and spooky music. The intrigue belongs to the setting of Paradox, a town apparently created by Emmet Stark for the sole purpose of carrying out his revenge against agents West and Gordon, who had interrupted his little bank job in Kansas City. It's a creepy place, filled with phantom music and phantom gunmen, one of whom plugs West in the leg during a shootout. 

The action is plentiful, including three separate brawls involving West or West and Gordon. The Wild Wild West creator Michael Garrison apparently was partial to fights and stuntmen, as the series generally featured some of the greatest brawls ever to be staged for television. The first fight scene at the way station is a real doozy as West defends the honor of a young lady, beating up three troublesome soldier boys amidst broken tables and chairs. Well, as it turns out the soldiers and the woman are all a part of Emmet Stark's plan for revenge. 

The episode's climax comes at the end, with West and Gordon engaging in a running gun battle in the streets of Paradox. When West discovers Arte's A.G. emblazoned revolver, which the latter had disposed of after running out of ammunition, he's on to Stark's plan. Stark and two of his associates later confront West and Gordon, revealing their identities after removing their death masks. Stark orders his two assassins to kill the agents, but the always resourceful West and Gordon get the drop on the men, later bundling up Stark and his daughter Betsy in the stage and delivering them to the authorities.

Agents West and Gordon, both of whom are now sporting leg wounds, are back on their special railroad car. Here Arte opens a gift from Fleur Fogarty, the female he had to abandon in Virginia City. She has enclosed something from their restaurant date – spoiled escargot. 

"The Night of the Death Masks" hails from The Wild Wild West's third season and is episode #76 of 104 in the series. I caught this particular segment on MeTV – one of America's top TV oldies channels. 

Top Image

  • Ross Martin and Robert Conrad of The Wild Wild West - CBS-TV

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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Comments (2)

Nicely done.

One of my favorite TV series of bygone days.