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THE WONDER WOMAN Series Start !


 

"In this dark Summer of 1942, the onslaught of the Third Reich continues under the leadership of this indecent and corrupt man. His over-trained and blindly obedient army continues to ravish what is left of Free Europe. While Il Douce grasps for his place, this wicked Axis tries to dominate the world. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill gather the Allies in the defense of the Free World. The third Axis power plunders across the Pacific. Mankind is being threatened by these despicable villains. The only hope for Freedom and Democracy is..."


(Originally aired November 7, 1975, on ABC-TV)



In Germany, Nazi Officer Herr Von Blasko meets with Captain Drangel to discuss secret plans to bomb a target in the Continental United States. Drangel, an ace pilot, is ordered to fly the new XV-12 bomber to a site in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. His target is a prototype Bomb Sight the Allies have developed, which would give Allied bombers the advantage of accurate, high-altitude sighting. Von Blasko's servant, Nickolas, enters to serve refreshments as his master details his plan to the pilot.




Soon after Drangel's departure from Germany, word of his mission reaches General Blankenship's office of military intelligence at the War Department. A source close to Von Blasko has provided the Captain's flight course, and it is decided that Major Steven Trevor, an American War Hero and member of Blankenship's group, will fly an intercept mission solo. Marcia, Trevor's secretary and confidant, is a Nazi spy and is privy to the details of the pilot's mission. Trevor and Drangel meet in the skies over the Bermuda ("Devil's") Triangle, and a fierce gun battle ensues. Though the pilots are evenly matched, the battle is brief. The planes collide and explode as the pilots' parachutes unfold. As the two descend at close quarters, Drangel is first to his gun. Trevor takes two bullets, and a stray wind carries Drangel to a spot in shark-infested waters.




Some time later on a nearby island, two young women are frollicking near the beach. They spot something strange ahead in the sands, and an investigation leads to the discovery of Trevor, unconcious beneath his parachute. Neither Diana nor Rena has seen a man before, and Trevor is in no shape to explain his appearance or his injuries. Diana lifts Trevor and hastens to the island's hospital.




Soon afterwards, the royal physician treating Trevor meets with the island's sovereign, Queen Hyppolite, to discuss this strange visitation. It is revealed that this island, Paradise Island, is a civilization of women known as Amazons. Hidden in the mists of the Triangle, their island has remained "undiscovered" for more than one thousand years. The Queen decides that the unconcious Trevor is a potential threat to the secret of their existence, and that he is also a threat to the harmony of female spirit that has benefitted their small nation. Diana, daughter of the Queen, enters the Royal Chambers and interrupts the meeting. The doctor is excused, and Diana requests permission to oversee the care of the foreigner. The Queen is swayed by Diana's "scientific" interests in the man, and grants permission.




The princess is nearby when Trevor is questioned under influence of Amazonian herbs. He gives his name and allegiance to the United States. When questioned about his mission, he relates the story of the bomber intercept, as well as a brief explanation of the Nazi's attack on the Free World. The medics leave Trevor to rest, but Diana remains behind to watch him. Meanwhile in Germany, a wire from Nazi Intelligence confirms that Drangel was lost somewhere in the Triangle. Von Blasko decides to fly the important mission himself, in the "improved" XV-13. Back on Paradise Island, Diana arrives for an audience with her mother. The Queen rescinds her permission, later explaining that it is because she believes Trevor is a threat to Diana's ties to her home. She also explains that Paradise Island grants a virtue of immortality to the Amazons, a gift that might be forfeit by any woman who left its' shores. The Queen tells Diana that she has decided Trevor will be returned to his country; a tournament will be held to determine the most qualified applicant to make the journey with him. Diana is upset when the Queen forbids her to participate in the contest, and departs for the Summer Palace.




The day of the tournament arrives, and the Amazons compete masked in games of athletic skill and power. Two Amazons tie for first, and the test of "Bullets and Bracelets" is announced to break the tie. The first woman successfully deflects five bullets from her opponent's gun with her Amazonian bracelets. The second woman is injured by a ricochet when fired upon. The tall blond winner of the tournament steps forward to accept the tokens of her endeavor: a golden belt of power that preserves her cunning and strength in the outside world, and a golden lasso with the power to compel people to tell the truth. Upon accepting her mission, the woman removes her mask, and the blonde wig that completed her disguise. Diana is the winner of the tournament.



As Trevor is loaded aboard an Invisible Plane, the Queen reluctantly bids farewell to her daughter. Diana gladly accepts the red, white and blue uniform her mother produces, as well as a new identity her mother suggests: Wonder Woman. Hours later, Trevor awakens en route to D.C. in the Invisible Plane, but believes he is only dreaming. Shortly after landing in secret, Wonder Woman dashes into a Washington hospital with the unconcious Trevor in her arms. Her appearance causes a stir, but she is successful in admitting the War Hero believed dead by the American public. Soon after she has left the hospital, word of Trevor's hospitalization reaches Blankenship, who tells Marcia the good news. As the General steps out, Marcia closes the doors and shades the window to make a private call. She speaks with another Nazi agent in New York about Trevor's troublesome reappearance, and finalizes plans for the theft of the Nordon Bombsight Plans from the Major's safe.



Out on the street, WW is the center of attention as she finds her way through D.C. in costume. After a misunderstanding with an ambitious sales lady, she stumbles upon an armed bank heist. She steps between the robbers and the crowd, deflecting several bullets. The police arrive after she has subdued the men. WW walks out of the crime scene and is approached by Ashley Norman, a vaudeville agent. He offers her star billing on stage, deflecting bullets from various assailants. He gives her his card along with some time to think over his production. Later, at the hospital, Blankenship and Marcia go to visit the still-unconcious Trevor. Diana, disguised as a nurse, overhears the two discussing the bombing threat. Trevor awakens after the General and Marcia have left, and recognizes Diana from his earlier "dream" of her. She gently urges him to sleep and resolves to adapt to "man's world": she takes the job with Norman.



That evening, Wonder Woman appears on a specially prepared stage, to deflect bullets for the entertainment of a full house. Mr. Norman urges members of the audience to volunteer, and pick one of several fire-arms provided to fire at Wonder Woman. Marcia is present in the audience, seated next to an old lady with a large carpet bag. After two men mount the stage to volunteer, the old lady rises and heads for the stage behind them. Wonder Woman deflects a rifle bullet from the first man, then two shots from a handgun wielded by the second. The old lady requests that she use her own gun, as allowed in Norman's advertisement. The crowd goes silent as she produces and assembles a machine gun, and Norman protests on his star's behalf. Wonder Woman gives the "go-ahead," and the woman fires the entire clip. In a flurry of motion, Wonder Woman deflects the bullets into the steel wall behind her. As the crowd roars it's approval, Diana notes Marcia's association with the last volunteer.



In Germany, Von Blasko speaks with his servant Nickolas prior to his departure on mission. As his superior takes off in the XV-13, Nickolas releases a carrier pigeon bearing news of the departure. Nickolas is the Nazi informant who has supplied the War Department's Intelligence network. In the States, Trevor is awake and on the phone with Blankenship. As Marcia listens, Trevor suggests the the Nordon Bomb Sight is Von Blasko's target. When Blankenship concurs, Trevor offers to leave the hospital and meet Von Blasko in the air. Blankenship is opposed to the idea, but Trevor cuts him off with a "bad connection" ruse. At Norman's office, Diana waits for her half of the performance's profits. She spots an article in the local paper that reports Major Trevor's conciousness and recuperation at the hospital. Diana tells Norman that his promotional tour is out of the question; she has something important to do. Norman tries to slip out with the money, and resorts to a gun to stop Wonder Woman. She flips him atop a table and leaves with her money. Norman reveals his allegiance to the Nazi's when he then calls Marcia, and reports his failure to capture Wonder Woman. He is instructed to await further details of the common mission on behalf on the Nazi's.



Shortly afterward, Trevor has himself released from the hospital, and contacts Marcia at his office. He shares the details of his plan to fly again; his misplaced trust in Marcia is his downfall when she arranges a roadblock to waylay him en route to the airfield. Trevor is overpowered and taken (unconcious again) to Marcia's apartment. At the hospital, "Nurse Diana" discovers that Trevor has been released, and leaves to find the still-injured hero. That evening at Marcia's, Trevor is given truth-serum and questioned by his devious secretary. As Norman and another Nazi look on, Marcia convinces Trevor to give her the combination of the safe containing the Sight plans. Marcia orders the men to watch Trevor until she returns with the plans. If she fails to rejoin her comrades before the midnight deadline to meet a German U-Boat, Trevor is to be killed.



Later at the War Department, Wonder Woman interrupts Marcia's theft of the bombsight plans. Her suspicions regarding Trevor's secretary are confirmed, but time is rapidly running out. Marcia attacks, and her best efforts fall short. She is bound by Wonder Woman's lasso, and is compelled to relate the specifics of her mission. Alerted to the time of the bombing and ensuing rendezvous with the U-Boat, Wonder Woman acquires Marcia's home number and mimics her voice to order a one-hour delay on the rendezvous time. Diana has one hour to stop Von Blasko's airborne assault and rescue Trevor from captivity.






Comments: This is the first and likely the best Wonder Woman "episode" to air. Stanley Ralph Ross provides Diana's origin in a series of arresting scenes that are usually humourous and occasionally moving. The various subplots unfurl in comic clarity, carefully timed to build up a reputation for the fantastic "first" heroine of the United States. And given the period of televised history in question, Ross helped establish a new kind of TV hero: an intelligent and caring woman who knew how to kick butt. (No possible insult is intended.)

Several minor oversights in the story's execution create unanswered questions in the minds of viewers. (Two of these are obvious: "How did the Amazons devise the B&B test when the first gun to arrive on Paradise Island was probably Trevor's?" "Why didn't Nickolas report the bombing target along with the specifics of the flight plans?") The plot "glitches" do little to affect the tale's outcome. The cast of the movie is rich with comic pedigree, a situation that lightens the routine elements of drama present in the story. Standouts include Leachman, who chews up the scenery with Mel Brooks-esque irreverence, and Stevens, whose energy and charisma lend her character a sense of affable ignorance. Buttons and Gibson prove similarly effective; they both turn their supporting roles into fidgety comic vehicles. Even steel-eyed Braedon, later to be a daytime TV regular, chuckles and mugs during his dogfight with Trevor. Lynda's debut here is a triumph. Her portrayal of Wonder Woman is a study in restraint, a calming presence of reason amid the farce and spectacle of plot and players.

Diana spends most of the film in costume, giving Wonder Woman sizeable screen time. The special effects here are simple but effective. The sound effects used to illustrate Wonder Woman's actions in later episodes are absent here, but the lack of electronic sonics is hardly detrimental. Her hand-to-hand fight with Marcia is one of the best combat scenes filmed, not to mention the most subversively slapstick routine to air in the five years the series ran. Overall, this movie repays careful viewing with an effective, memorably humorous take on Wonder Woman and her mystical origins. The careful detail and off-kilter amusements set production quality a high standard. Very few episodes of the series to come were able to meet that standard, and none were able to surpass it.


Trivia: The core cast of this debut film changes with the first episode "special;" Randolph and Leachman never reprise their roles here. Gibson returns to the set in 1977 for "Screaming Javelin", as does bit player Anne Ramsey (the cabbie) in a similar role (a van driver) in "Mind Stealers From Outer Space". As noted above, Wonder Woman receives her lasso and belt at this time. Her costume is said to be of the Queen's design; the skirt is shown to be removeable, "should it prove cumbersome." WW is given the ability to mimic voices in this episode. Strangely, she is able to force answers with the magic lasso without actually holding it. (Later episodes show her administering a firm tug to the rope to force compliance.) At least one of the B&B scenes uses "stop action" techniques to splice a section of frames together. Speaking of bullets, this is the only show to feature Diana deflecting projectiles from a machine gun. The Invisible Plane is introduced here and given it's own "first & last": the plane is used offensively to board another aircraft.

The Queen provides two ground rules in regard to WW's abilities in the outside world. These include limitations on Diana's strength without her belt of power, and the possible loss of her immortality while away from Paradise Island. The latter wasn't really addressed in later episodes, though it would have made an interesting storyline. The former limitation placed on Diana turned into the infamous "Girdle Grabs" of the series' ABC run. (That is, the scenes where a bad guy would yank off WW's belt of power, and she would be overcome.) For those readers who missed the specifics of the Amazonian tournament, here's a list of events depicted: hurdles, archery, javelin, "stone-throwing," weight lift, high jump, long jump with barbells, arm wrestling, and bullets & bracelets. A question for WW fans who are over sixty: Were WWII-era Americans ever bloodthirsty enough to take potshots at a woman for entertainment?