(Network: American Broadcasting Company – Director: Vincent McEveety – Writers: John D.F. Black, William Moulton Marston – Stars: Cathy Lee Crosby, Ricardo Montalban, Kaz Garas, Andrew Prine – Airdate: November 15,1974)
According to IMDB: “A super-hero uses her powers to thwart an international spy ring.”
So, a while back my buddy (and occasional contributor) Boris K. lent me a trade-paperback collection of Wonder Woman comics from the 80s. (I’m about one-third of the way through reading it at the time I’m writing this. It was written by George Perez and, so far, is terrific.) Anyway, I started thinking about the old television show that starred Linda Carter. As I was surfing around, I saw an entry for a Wonder Woman movie in 1974, which felt too early to be associated with Carter. I was correct. It was an entirely different entity. This was a failed pilot for a potential show that originally aired as part of an anthology series entitled The Wide World of Mystery on November 15, 1974. This version starred Cathy Lee Crosby as the titular character.
I wrinkled my nose when I read that Crosby played the “Goddess of Truth.” The only project I ever really associated her with was That’s Incredible!, a sort of early reality/variety show that featured humans and animals doing stunts and other amazing feats. It was actually a really cool concept for the time, but the hosts were a bit, I dunno, saccharine.
As a rule, Wonder Woman isn’t necessarily a “sexy” character but she does have sex appeal. I had never felt that from Crosby. I’d also never seen her act, only host. I went in with tempered expectations…and I was pleasantly surprised.
This movie is a lot of fun. Is it ridiculous? Sure. But it’s enjoyable.
An international spy, “Abner Smith” (Ricardo Montalban), orchestrates the theft of a collection of books that contain secret government codes. He is holding them ransom for…gasp!…$15 million dollars. I had an Austin Powers moment when the recovery price was announced. Anyways, it’s the job of military administrative assistant “Diana Prince” (psst…that’s Wonder Woman’s secret identity) to recover the books and set the world straight again.
And Crosby, in a made-for-tv, pre-Marvel Movie world, is great in the role. She has terrific on-screen chemistry with Kaz Garas, who plays the love interest/military man “Steve Trevor.” When called for, she has a twinkle in her eye that is rather appealing. When it came to physicality, well, she was so-so. I mean, this only needed to be so good. It was a goddamn television movie after all. I did pop when she knocked out a baddie with the vaunted “judo chop” that Capt. Kirk often used in Star Trek. (On a related note, director Vincent McEveety directed some episodes of the original series back in the day, so maybe he picked up a few things from William Shatner when it came to fight choreography? And now that I think about it, Montalban was in the original Star Trek, too. I’m smelling a connection.)
Speaking of Ricardo Montalban, he is terrific in this as a wealthy, cunning terrorist. He is suave, well-spoken and an all-around cool motherfucker. His character feels like a James Bond villain. And, truth be told, this version of Wonder Woman feels far more like a Bond film than a superhero flick. The story takes the viewer from Paris to Los Angeles to an abandoned Old West Town. There is a secret underground lair, a nefarious plot to topple the goverment and more. Moreso, it was the vibe of the movie. Especially the interactions between Prince and Smith. It is that sort of adversarial tete-a-tete between hero and villain that is a hallmark of the 007 franchise. And at this point, the Bond film series was eight installments deep, with The Man With The Golden Gun coming out roughly a month later. The point being, there was a definite blueprint to follow.
There is also plenty of ridiculous comic book-y stuff here to satisfy DC diehards. At various points a vicious snake pops out of a hidden box in a hotel room to cap the Amazing Amazon, a burro is outfitted with tracking devices in its horseshoes only to be later lost in a veritable “stampede” of identical burros meant to confuse government agents monitoring its location—as well as plenty of other cornball junk that scratches the campy itch that only 70s television can. Oh, did I forget to mention the male/female duo of identical androgynous assassins? Yeah, them, too.
Like I said, the comparison to the Bond films is substantial. This is more a spy movie than a superhero picture. To be fair, in comic book storylines at the time the Princess Of Theymiscira was stripped of all her superpowers, so I think the show was trying to follow continuity. In fact, only in the final 15 minutes or so feature Crosby in the Wonder Woman outfit, which, man, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s less a two-piece swimsuit a la comic book fame, and more a 50s sci-fi B-movie alien outfit with a cinched tunic, wide lapels and tall boots. (In fact, I read that the uniform was repurposed for a weather girl character to wear in the 1980 television series The Six O’Clock Follies.) It didn’t quite get my pulse pounding in the same way that Linda Carter’s outfit did a year later. (Another fun fact, I also read that Carter had tried out for this film but was passed over for Crosby.)
Overall, I dug this movie a lot. At a mere 73 minutes, it zips along nicely with no bloat to the plot. It’s campy, fun and over the top. Crosby, Montalban, Garas and Andrew Prine are all note-perfect in the roles designated to them. And while the story wraps neatly by the end, there is enough of an opening for this to have continued as a series if that choice would have been made. The continuing cat and mouse between Crosby and Montalban would have been a fun ride.
I give this: Four Invisible Jets out of Five (4/5)
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