The Night of the Dancing Death - Recap

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James West walks along a porch, pausing to check the guards posted there. He checks his watch. The coach he expects is just over six minutes away. At the steps to the road Jim speaks briefly with Ambassador Perkins, telling the official that his information might be in error. The princess’ enemies have just six minutes to make a move before she arrives at her destination and moves beyond their reach. The ambassador nods but reminds Jim how disastrous any incident would be, reflecting poorly on the United States.

A coach drawn by two pulls to a stop at the steps and Jim opens the door. Artemus Gordon disembarks first, and then a beautiful woman whom Artie introduces as Princess Gina Carlotta of Albania. Jim kisses her hand, then she moves away and introduces the final passenger, her maid in waiting Signorina Marianna. Jim kisses her hand as well, noticing something interesting: a burn scar in the shape of the letter “C.” Noting his interest the signorina explains the scar is the initial of a beloved one now in the past. The Princess proceeds inside, instructing her maid to go ahead to the railroad station with the luggage. Artie introduces Ambassador Perkins, a friend of the princess.

The coach turns around and stops briefly across the street. Artie questions the ambassador’s curiously vacant stare in the presence of an old friend, and the ambassador voices his concern: the person with them is not the princess at all, but an imposter! The woman pauses a moment and then admits that unexpected events can imperil an imposture. She turns to leave and suddenly there is a dull thud. The imposter staggers and begins to collapse – someone has thrown a knife into her! Jim and the guards race to the street and begin shooting but the coach pulls away; they cannot stop it.

Jim runs back to Artie to report that the coach is gone. At that moment the imposture, laid on a couch, slumps. She’s gone, too.

The Wanderer rolls along. Inside, Jim performs martial arts exercises; Artie asks his partner if he’s getting in shape for the firing squad, but no – Jim is trying to figure out how and when the princess disappeared. Artie tells Jim that he watched the lady constantly since New Orleans. Her ship made a stop for coal in Key West. Jim concludes she was removed there, or never boarded the vessel in Albania.

Artie hands Jim two new pear-shaped smoke grenades. He has added “pungent matter” to these devices that affects the tear ducts, incapacitating the victim. Jim comments that such devices could change warfare-–wheover throws first wins, and for the loser only tears.

Jim next wonders what to tell the Albanian ambassador, and Artie offers a facetious reply, “We’re the two boobs who lost your sister Princess Gina.”

The agents travel to the Albanian embassy. In the reception area a young secretary taps the keys of a new machine called a typewriter. She is using the device to create a menu for an upcoming social function. Jim and Artie mention their appointment and she sends them directly upstairs, but cautions them not to speak until the prince speaks. They must do nothing to disturb his concentration.

Upstairs, Jim and Artie enter a room where the prince, dressed in a leather vest and tights, spars with a man in half-plate armor and a helmet. The foemen circle a large hole in the floor; the armored man swings a large sword but the prince evades these blows. The prince he has no weapons but his hands – and his kung fu training, which Jim describes as the best he’s ever seen. Suddenly the prince feints, disarms his opponent with several punches, and knocks him through the floor to a net below. Gesturing to the hole, the prince describes it as “the fate of the vanquished.”

Jim and Artie introduce themselves; Prince Gio welcomes them and comments that he already knows their identities. He discusses his avocation for athletics, going so far as to suggest he might have been the world’s greatest athlete had he forgone his station. He also expresses a wish to have lived at the time when the glory of Greece was the greatest, so as to have collected laurel wreathes. He believes he could have been first citizen of Athens. Jim complements his speed and with some false modesty the prince apologizes for hurting Nicolas, claiming he was thinking ahead to the next day’s opponent, a seven hundred pound grizzly bear. Artie asks if the bear’s claws will be taped and the prince laughingly denies it, saying the bear must have a chance, after all.

Following this exchange they get to purpose of the agents’ visit. Prince Gio already knows of his sister’s disappearance and tells the men his government will send a note expressing its disgust with the government of the United States. Then he asks where the princess is, and Jim must admit he does not know. He follows that with a quick assertion that her protective detail took every precaution. The prince asks again where she is, and also what and who her protection was. After a beat Jim admits that he and Artie were her protection. Artie tells the prince that only those concerned knew the port of departure and the name of the ship. Yet criminals managed to reach that ship before it reached American waters. Artie suggests an information leak, outraging the prince with the implication that someone on his staff is a traitor. Artie hurriedly notes that his is merely the discipline of completeness – not accepting anything at face value. The prince then personally vouches for the integrity of his staff and asks if the leaks could be in the United States State Department. Artie tells the prince investigation has cleared the relevant state department employees.

Jim asks to check the embassy and speak to the staff. The prince, already angry, becomes genuinely offended, since he just vouched for the integrity of these people. Jim suggests their effort will amount to a double check but the irate Albanian declares the interview over. He demands the agents produce the princess by tomorrow or face serious consequences. Jim then says that all they knew was that someone would attempt to prevent her from reaching her destination, and suggests that if the agents knew her purpose in coming they might have an advantage. The price regards that as unwarranted snooping into the private matters of his government, again growing angry. With effort he controls his temper and reminds the agents that in their arrogance they have forgotten they are aliens on Albanian territory. He instructs his secretary to show them out.

On the way out the secretary notes the conclusion of business and comments that she has heard American men are most sympathetic. Jim flirts, replying the he has heard Albanian women are the most enchanting. He also notices a familiar “C” shaped scar. She then invites Jim to take her to dinner but he declines, citing the press of his duties. Lowering her voice, she makes the request again and adds that it is dangerous for her to keep taking at the embassy. Jim offers her a seven o’clock date and she tells him to collect her at the Continental Hotel, Room 12.

Jim gets to the Continental and Room 12 on time. At his knock the lady admits him. Moments later, two men approach the room from the outside; they wear long black coats and black hats. One unlatches the lid of a box and removes a long wire with a loop at the end, maneuvering this over the doorknob...

Inside, the lady talks to Jim, sharing a comment the prince made – that it is better to be lonely than to trust Americans. She, however, claims to trust Jim.

Outside, one of the men comments that it is poetic: Jim will touch a woman’s lips and find ecstasy, and then he will touch a doorknob and find death!

Inside Jim hears a sound and notes the slight jiggling as the doorknob moves. He suggests they go to dinner but the lady is reluctant. It is so quiet and peaceful in the room.

Outside the men nearly panic; Jim may open the door before they have prepared it!

Inside, the lady’s flirtation continues. When she extends her hand Jim notices the “C” shaped scar again and asks if that is the initial of a loved one now in the past? She says yes and wonders how he knew that, he replies that it was a clever guess. Again he asks if she’s ready and again she puts him off for another moment. Suspicions aroused, Jim asks how long they asked her to keep him there. Flustered, she asks how he knew that but Jim does not answer, instead asking again how long? Recovered, the lady now claims she has no idea what he means. Jim tells her that if she’s telling the truth she won’t mind opening the door. She proceeds to the door and almost opens it, but Jim manhandles her away from the door and tosses her ungently across the room. Realizing she doesn’t know the whole plan, he tells her that just like the phony princess, she’s expendable. She doesn’t believe him so he tosses an ottoman at the door, which explodes, hurling the body of one agent dead into the room. The other, stunned, staggers away. The dead thug bears the same mark on his hand – a “C” of scar tissue. Jim then tells the lady that to kill him they would kill her or anyone. She seems afraid, but cannot or will not reveal where the princess is. Jim believes she does know; she says that if she tells him, she’ll be killed. He promises to protect her but the idea that one man could prevail against the group and their evil simply amuses her. She realizes that for her failure they will find her and... Jim interrupts, saying that if he gets to them first she’ll be safe. Finally she tells him about a riding club on the old post road south of the city, and the “wearers of the C” who meet there. Jim also learns that the C stands for Camorra and that the Camorra is an organization of criminals.

Sometime later Jim reins up on a bluff overlooking the May View Riding Academy. No one is visible, so he rides down, ties off his horse and vaults the fence. From inside a barn Jim can hear chanting. As he approaches the chanting grows louder. Jim reaches a window and peers in as a masked celebrant calls forth “the first neophyte.” The inductee proceeds to the front of the gathering and there recites the oath: “I believe in the Camorra. The Camorra is good. All else is evil. My heart, my soul, my very breath belong to the Camorra!” When the neophyte concludes his oath, the celebrate grasps his hand as another man withdraws a brand from within a brazier. It forms the letter “C.” The neophyte does not cry out or react as the hot metal sears his allegiance into his flesh. The celebrant takes a mask from a table and pulls it over the inductee’s head, then calls for the second neophyte; another man gestures and a woman leaves the barn. Jim turns away from the window.

The woman retrieves a scroll from an outdoor shed; as she’s distracted, Jim grabs her and unmasks her. She is Marianna, the imposter’s maid in waiting! She tells him to let her go; that if she does not return with the scrolls... Jim interrupts, asking the princess’ location. She reminds him that he saw a knife thrown into the princess with his own eyes, but he tells her he is aware of the imposture, and he knows the criminals removed the real princess from the ship before her arrival in the United States. Marianna claims she knows nothing, and Jim asks if the princess is inside the barn. She continues to profess ignorance but then tells Jim she wants out of the Camorra. He gives her a “C” for Comorista and an “F” for lying, but does ask her to help him. He starts to escort her away and she follows – then grabs his gun from the holster and threatens him with it, calling loudly for the gang.

Jim backhands the gun from Marianna’s hand. Men pour from the barn and others hope the fence nearby. Jim overpowers a pair of men, then three more, and finally incapacitates ten men before the Comorista subdue him. Four of them frog march him into the barn where he breaks free when two of them let go. It takes a single gunshot from someone Jim has not yet seen to stop the struggle. Jim turns to see who fired that shot and discovers the leader of the group is Prince Gio himself!

The prince asks what Jim wants and Jim asks to join, but the prince denies that request. He does have another use in mind from the agent – practice target for the spear-throwing demonstration. Prince Gio orders his men to take Jim to the field, and sardonically hopes the best man wins. He tosses Jim’s gun to Marianna.

In the field, the criminals clearly do not intend Jim be that best man, for they have tied him spread-eagle fashion to four stakes. Marius returns to the barn and Marianna explains: riders first gallop past and try to outline Jim with spears. Those who nick him earn a foul and are disqualified. She places a bottle of wine containing a quick acting poison, should Jim tire of the exercise and wish to put a quick end to his suffering.

Jim asks a favor. He wants Marianna to be the first to ride by when the serious spear work begins. Sensing mockery, she bristles and assures him she will be happy to do this. Jim thinks she’ll lose her nerve and miss; she says she’ll put the spear through his heart! She dons a mask and mounts, collects a spear, and rides a distance back to build up charge momentum. She calls a challenge – one of the gang tries to stop her but she is too angry for that and rides past towards Jim.

Meanwhile, Jim shatters the wine bottle and uses the sharp edges to slice the ropes. When Marianna tosses the spear Jim evades it and jumps onto the horse behind her, discouraging pursuit with a deft lob of Artie’s new sort of smoke grenade; all the comoristi can do is cough and rub their eyes as Jim and his captive ride away.

Later, Marianna is on the Wanderer. Artie suggests that she must know the aims of a criminal society are bad, and she scornfully suggests that Artie does not understand the group. The agents reasonably point out that she’s caught and asks whether she’ll help them, but she will not betray Prince Gio. She even notes the prince is out of reach of the petty bureaucrats.

Jim tells Marianna he must destroy the Camorra. She replies that the group is organized as well-disciplined cells, ready to die for king and country. They will take from the ill-gotten riches of the United States those things needed to make their country strong and prosperous, perhaps even stronger than the United States!

A cat enters the car and Jim amuses himself demonstrating the animal’s excellent balance, commenting that Prince Gio is almost as agile as the cat. Artie hears a scraping and goes to check for trouble. With Artie gone, Marianna steps up her flirting, attempting to induce cooperation from Jim, suggesting he squanders his skills for a government pittance. She lays it on thick, adding that Prince Gio admires his skills. She doesn't fool Jim, who wonders aloud why criminals always assume they can buy a man simply because he works for the government. She tries flirtation next, intimating that other rewards might be possible, that the comoristi are not criminals but patriots! She suggests the letter “C” might stand for caress, and they kiss Artie returns, commenting about Jim’s “interesting” way to overcome an enemy. Artie reports a false alarm; just some horsemen riding along the crest of the nearby hill.

Artie suggests that a maid in waiting ought to know where her princess is, or when she was killed and where. Marianna is surprised! She asks if the agents think her people monsters; Artie has proved the princess remains alive. Jim asks Artie where one might hide someone from foreign agents and Artie realizes where the princess must be.

At the Albanian Embassy a diplomatic reception has begun. Prince Gio, resplendent in formal garb of office, descends the stairs. A majordomo announces arrivals as the prince accepts a glass of wine and makes small talk with various dignitaries. The majordomo heralds the arrival of a margrave, and then of the Honorable Signor Perkins and James West, Esquire. Marius approaches and warns Gio. Jim approaches the prince next and the prince reminds him again that he walks on Albanian soil, adding that his immaculately clad guards have orders to prevent unauthorized departures. Jim smiles and nonchalantly mentions that his own guards, outside the embassy grounds, have the same orders. Gio suggests that one brush with death might make Jim less foolhardy and impetuous. Jim merely smiles and Gio, growing angry, suggests he has come to search for the missing princess. Jim reminds him the entire world is concerned for the lady and Gio rather abruptly suggests the whole world’s feelings matter little compared to his. He tells Jim in no uncertain terms that he interferes in a private matter, and suggests he enjoy himself.

An older gentleman, bewhiskered and draped in fine clothing, approaches the majordomo and asks admittance. Artie has come to Jim's aid in one of his disguises! The majordomo is nonplussed because Artie lacks an invitation. He identifies himself as the Grand Elector of Saxony but the majordomo is firm: without an invitation he may not enter. Putting on a show of outrage, Artie tells the man everyone knows him and that he comes and goes throughout Europe as he pleases, honored and sought after everywhere! He is the longest in the long line of those who have elected Holy Roman Emperors, and demands admittance! The majordomo will not budge and Artie is ringent with disbelief, asking rhetorically he is to be rejected by the Albanians. Finally a woman approaches and suggests Artie might use her invitation, as her escort would prefer to simply sleep in the coach. Artie offers the invitation and the majordomo finally announces him in.

Artie begs the indulgence of the Baroness to chat briefly with an old friend. Jim tells his partner that every door stands guarded and Artie asks if he could do better with a distraction, then advises him to pick his door and wait – he’ll know when to move.

The Landgrave of the Pomeranians approaches Artie, who sees his opportunity, goading the man over a border war until he nearly explodes with rage. Prince Gio approaches to mediate the problem and Artie continues his tirade against the prince. Guards move to contain the disturbance and Jim takes advantage of their movement to pass through a concealed door. Mission accomplished, Artie calms down, blaming the wine for his outburst.

Jim moves down a crude hallway; the roughly plastered and in places crudely stucco coated wall contrasts with the relative wealth displayed elsewhere. A few pieces of furniture stand here and there, but it is a iron-bound wooden door that interests Jim. Entering it, he moves down the steps and past two suits of armor, bumping the outstretched mace. When he tries to put the weapon back in place something clicks and the wine rack slides aside. A cage stands revealed and inside it, a woman who identifies herself as the missing princess! Jim gives her Artie’s name in case something happens; she explains that the Prince imprisoned her because she brings orders from their father disbanding the Camorra. Gio intends to use the Camorra to take power, believing that if he returns with the organization’s ill-gotten riches and his sister, their father will forgive him anything. Jim begins to cut the bars with his tricky blade ring. Behind him, unseen, one of the suits of armor hefts a morningstar flail and behinds to approach.

Princess Gina screams, warning Jim just in time. Jim takes a kung fu position as the knight lunges and attacks. Jim feints away and then uses a candelabrum to reach the top of some wine barrels, from which position he kicks the knight and knocks him off his feet. Hopping down, he recovers the morningstar flail and prepares to finish the knight when Gio commands him to drop the weapon!

Gio sends Marius down the steps and tells Andreas, inside the armor, to go out to the yard for more practice. Marius wants to kill Jim, but Gio sharply tells him he had his chance and fails; Marius was one of the men who tried to rig a bomb to the doorknob at the Continental Hotel. Gio intends to kill Jim West personally!

Princess Gina attempts to prevent this but Gio orders Jim taken to the arena and tells Gina he won’t permit anyone to interfere with his plans. Operating the mace, he closes the wine rack and concealing her cell.

Upstairs the reception continues. Gio and Jim look down on it from the arena – the same room where Jim first met the prince. But this time, there is no net beneath the hole. Whoever falls through falls to the hard floor below, a fatal descent. Gio dismisses the guards and instructs them to latch the door from the outside.

Gio and Jim circle. Gio blocks several quick strikes from Jim, who somersaults backwards. Feints, punches, kicks and blocks demonstrate that these men are both excellent fighters; Gio throws Jim who spins in midair and lands on his feet. Gio tells Jim the floor is his destination and adds that before the kill he will enjoy beating the Secret Service agent to a pulp! Gio closes and Jim tries two quick punches, then uses the force of Gio’s block to spin himself around, brace against the wall, and back kick Gio. Off-balance, Gio plunges screaming through the pit and to the floor far below. He does not move.

Later the agents rest aboard the Wanderer. They will escort Marianna home; Princess Gina has taken control at the embassy and the Camorra will be disbanded. Marianna struggles to master the typewriter and has no time for frivolity. Artie attempts flirtation but she shoots him down quickly. Jim appears and makes a similar attempt, but Marianna realizes that she must master the new machine so she may earn a livelihood.

Artie sits with a book as Jim watches the lady type, and the Wanderer begins its trip to New Orleans.