Wild Wild West (1999) (part 4 of 11)
Cut to outside, where it’s time to hammer home how smart and technologically savvy Gordon is supposed to be. As Jim prepares to leave on his horse, Gordon pulls up alongside him in a motorized penny-farthing.
Because Gordon is so smart or something, his invention’s name is filled with big words: the “Bi-Valve, Interior-Combustion, Twice-Exhausted, Bi-Axial, Nitro-Cycle” (brought to you by Kawasaki). Unimpressed, Jim tries to get a head start to catch the train, but Gordon manages to catch up and pass Jim effortlessly on his Nitro-Cycle. This is punctuated by Gordon’s catchphrase, “Avanti!” Ooh, look, he knows Italian! He’s so cultured and smart!
Incidentally, the Cowardly Lion must’ve trained Jim’s horse too, because as Gordon zooms past Jim, the smoke bellowing from the Nitro-Cycle’s exhaust scares the horse shitless. And then the smoke from the cycle cross-fades into steam from a moving locomotive (accompanied by the forgettable theme music). We quickly learn Gordon made it to the Wanderer first, because Jim is riding his horse alongside the moving train, yelling through the window at Gordon to stop the train. Gordon responds by mockingly offering Jim a seat inside. Wow, these two get along so well. The president was so right to pair them up for this critical mission.
Eventually, Jim leaps off his horse and onto the train’s caboose and—I’m not making this up, I swear—a spring-loaded platform right beneath Jim’s feet launches him into the air. And then a hole opens up in the roof of the car, and Jim falls through it into the very seat Gordon was offering moments earlier. Okay, this makes no sense. How could anyone calibrate a spring to launch a person this precisely into a chair, even if he did know the exact speed the train would be travelling (which, by the way, he couldn’t possibly know)? Regardless, Gordon quips, “How nice of you to drop in.” Har de har har.
Jim is understandably pissed, so he stands up and tries to coax Gordon into a fight. He mocks Gordon for doing “needlepoint”, but Gordon corrects him to say he’s finishing up an invention he calls the “Impermeable”: basically, it’s a chain-mail bulletproof vest that looks as sturdy as paperclips strung together. Which will most certainly not be put to good use later.
Naturally, Jim wants to test it out. He points his gun at Gordon, because it’s been a good ten minutes since he fired his gun for no reason. Gordon stops him, but the sight of Jim’s gun enrages Gordon enough to rant about how “primitive” guns are. He says that when things degrade into physical violence, he always feels as though he’s failed in some way. Jim announces that Gordon is a failure, and then punches him in the jaw.
Gordon is pissed, and starts to do what any sane individual would do in this situation: He waves his arms and makes pseudo-karate yells, which sound like he’s trying to take a shit while standing up.
During his apparent epileptic fit, Gordon lifts his leg and kicks a button that says “DO NOT PUSH”. Oops. Well, oops for Jim, because… okay, I cannot adequately express how retarded this is. A hammer swings down from the ceiling, hitting Jim directly in the face. This knocks him backward onto a pool table, where he gets automatically tied down with belt straps. The table then flips upside down, leaving Jim hanging on the underside of the train.
Gordon, pleased with the train’s ability to move the plot along so conveniently, sits down in his chair as Jim starts fiddling around under the train. By pure coincidence, Jim finds a switch underneath the train and throws it, causing the chair Gordon is sitting in to flip upside down, and he, too, ends up under the train. Okay. Does this make sense to anybody? Including the filmmakers?
Defeated by Jim’s amazing ability to throw random switches, Gordon proposes a truce between them, just like the president wanted. For no reason, Jim and Gordon are flipped back up inside the car, and it’s here we meet the Wanderer’s conductor, a guy named Coleman. He’s played by M. Emmet Walsh, who to me will always be Tim Taylor’s father-in-law.
Coleman growls at the President’s “best men” for messing with his train, and threatens to douse them with the contents of a frying pan he’s holding. Gordon looks terrified, because it’s his “truffle reduction sauce”. Wow, Gordon is a gourmet, as well as cultured and smart? Who would have thought? Coleman demands to know their destination. Jim says New Orleans, but Gordon suggests they let Professor Morton decide. Who?
Oh, it’s the scientist who was killed by Mr. Ear Trumpet at the start of the film. It turns out Gordon has the scientist’s head. It’s the “item” he requested in the round box. I had no idea U.S. Marshals could request body parts from the government as “items”. And you mean to tell me Mr. Ear Trumpet left the body just lying there instead of, you know, disposing of it? Idiocy looks to be a common theme in this film.
Gordon identifies the head as that of Professor Thaddeus Morton, and Jim merely says, “That’s a man’s head.” Gordon produces the giant metal collar found around Prof. Morton’s neck. Supposedly, it’s magnetic, despite the fact that it’s not attracting anything metallic nearby. Jim reiterates, “That’s a man’s head.”
Gordon then puts the head inside a movie projector-type contraption. He explains that when a man dies, the last image he sees is imprinted upon his retinas. It’s an old myth, but in this movie at least, it’s entirely true. Essentially, Gordon is using the poor prof’s skull as a projector, and he’ll probably use it later on to show off some of his snazzy PowerPoint presentations. Jim is so impressed by this, he can still only utter, “That’s a man’s head,” only more slowly this time, so the audience can laugh at how hilarious this statement is when it’s repeated three times.
The image projected from the prof’s eyes looks weird, until Gordon remembers that eye lenses cause images to form on the retinas upside down. No problem there: he uses a convenient (there’s that word again!) crank to turn the head upside down.
Jim watches this in “comical” horror and pauses for a moment before he says (you guessed it), “That… is a maaaan’s… heeeaaaad.” You know, Jim, I did not realize that until you pointed it out for the fourth time. Thank you so much. Now I must kill you.
Finally, we see the actual image that’s projected: McGrath pulling the giant circular spider-logo saw out of the ground. I guess we should be thankful that Prof. Morton’s final image wasn’t a deer pissing on his skull.
The image is too fuzzy to see clearly, but Jim finds the professor’s glasses and puts them on the prof’s eyes, and that makes the image clearer. I’m not exactly sure how that works. He was wearing glasses at the time he was killed, so why would a blurry image be burned into his retinas? By the way, is this a man’s head? I’m still unsure.
With the glasses on, Jim and Gordon can read an invitation hanging ever so precariously out of McGrath’s pocket, almost like he was using it as a corsage. Long invitation made short: costume party in New Orleans. So, they have to go to New Orleans. Which is where Jim wanted to go in the first place. So what was the point of this scene, again?
Cut to a train station, where the Wanderer has arrived, and Gordon is choosing costumes for the party. Apparently, he brought his whole wardrobe on the train. It’s been a while since we’ve had a big racial joke, so Gordon suggests Jim can go as his manservant. Naturally, Jim does his best (read: hideous) impression of a black minstrel before telling Gordon to screw off.
As a second suggestion, Gordon presents a costume with a belt buckle that hides a tiny pistol, along with a single bullet. Gordon shows off the bullet, which is obviously too big to fit inside that tiny gun’s barrel. Jim dismisses the obvious plot point device here, and says he’s going as himself to the party, where he’ll find and kill McGrath. So much for just catching him, eh, Jim? Presuming that was ever on the agenda.
Gordon reminds Jim of the presence of white, former slave owners at this party, who won’t take kindly to the presence of a black man dressed up as a cowboy. He says that, instead, Jim should go as a riverboat captain (um… what?), and Gordon himself will go as a saloon girl. Jim, probably in an effort to reclaim some dignity, states what the audience already knows: Gordon makes a lousy saloon girl. Gordon argues otherwise, and this is where we come to one of the film’s lowest points.
The argument quickly veers into whether Gordon’s fake breasts were realistic enough. Peeved, Gordon pulls out the fake breasts and demands Jim touch them.
As they argue back and forth, Coleman the conductor just happens to walk by and overhear this:
Jim: I’m not touching those things.
Gordon: What, are you afraid you’re wrong? Touch my breasts. Just one, touch one.
Jim: Okay. You happy, Gordon? I’m touching your breast.
And yes, Coleman thinks what you think he thinks. But it’s not over yet. It seems Jim has touched Gordon’s beloved breast too much, and as a result shifted the buckwheat inside. To remedy this, Jim takes the breast, empties the buckwheat into a sink, fills it with water, and… ugh. Look, here’s what happens next:
Jim: Uh? Now that’s what a breast is s’posed to feel like.
Gordon: Very nice.
Jim: Now touch yourself.
Gordon: Oh, my god, I’m hard.
Please, someone kill me now.
Gordon is so impressed by Jim’s knowledge of breasts that he decides to jot down a note. Naturally, this involves more pointless gadgetry: Gordon stretches out his arms, and extends a pen and notebook from underneath his sleeves. Jim, sensing danger in this sinister move, whips out his gun and points it at Gordon. This leads to more inane foreshadowing where Jim suggests putting a gun on that contraption, and then he finally leaves for the party.
Oddly, Jim takes Gordon’s breast with him when he leaves. Guess he needs to pull his gun out before pulling his gun out, know what I’m saying?