Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wonder Woman 1.1: Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Von Gunther

Airdate: 4/21/76

Steve Trevor is famed as Nazi spy when a weapons transfer goes awry; with Wonder Woman’s help he discovers that he’s the victim of sabotage, with his only hope for salvation - official orders clearing his name - somehow mysteriously disappeared. Behind it all appear to be Nazi agent Arthur Deal (Bradford Dillman) and imprisoned Nazi maven Baroness Paula Von Gunther (Christine Belford). Gunther breaks out of prison and steals Wonder Woman’s truth lasso to extract a full admission from Steve of being a spy, but her plans are dashed when his raven-haired rescuer, with some help from a young Sherlock Holmes aficionado, stops all baddies in their tracks.

Pilot scribe Stanley Ralph Ross is now series developer, and the plot-heaviness
of this week’s teleplay establishes one of the show’s early trademarks. The episode also continues the WWII setting, and its accompanying campiness (which Lynda Carter, according to the pilot’s DVD commentary, never liked and was glad to see gone in later seasons). This was also the first of two preliminary episodes, which aired in April 1976, before the series truly began the following season.

But overall great fun to be had here – a fun storyline benefits from tight pacing, pulpy musical score and comic-book captions, and supporting performances that straddle the line between camp and straight drama.

Supporting players Christine Belford and Bradford Dillman both later appear in Incredible Hulk epidodes: Belford in “Wildfire” and “Wax Museum,” Dillman (another villain) in “The Snare” (one of my favorites).

Show highlight: a very lengthy roll down a hill while WW and Gunther are brawling; show lowlight: the spinning Prince/WW transformation scene, which is still hokey, probably due to its slo-mo effect.

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