Cathy Lee Crosby stars in WONDER WOMAN, directed by Vincent McEveety for ABC.

Wonder Woman (1974, Vincent McEveety)

Wonder Woman doesn’t work out, but it should. And lead Cathy Lee Crosby is so serious about her performance and the role, even when it’s underwritten, it’s hard not to be sympathetic. John D.F. Black’s simultaneously awful and inventive teleplay recasts Wonder Woman as a spy, only one who works as a secretary. Her boss knows she’s a superpowered James Bond, but he lets her be his secretary. Possibly because he’s incompetent, but affable, which also describes Kaz Garas’s performance in the role.

When Wonder Woman has Crosby globe-trotting in pursuit of criminal mastermind Ricardo Montalban and his gang of moronic but successfully evil henchmen, it’s at its best. Crosby gets a lot to do. Director McEveety is more than competent when it comes to directing a television movie–he does have exceptional problems during the action sequences–and there’s just something kind of cool about the first part of the movie. Crosby’s just doing James Bond and outsmarting the bad guys. Once Black has to come up with a bunch of intrigue and then McEveety has to try to direct it, that point is when Wonder Woman starts slipping.

It’s also when Crosby shows up in the questionable Wonder Woman costume. It seems functional–she has gadgets and so on–but it’s really silly. They probably should’ve just skipped it.

Crosby gives a strong performance. In the action-packed finale, which usually has Montalban affably aping for the camera, it takes the promise of Crosby showing up and having something to do to keep any interest going. Wonder Woman doesn’t have the budget for Black’s plot ambitions and McEveety doesn’t even try. Instead, he does get some good moments out of Montalban. Campy, sure, but still good. And there’s something appealing about Andrew Prine’s scheming sidekick. He and Crosby have great banter; he goes for double entendres and so forth and she shuts him down every time. Their timing is perfect. It’s like someone else wrote it, since the way Black writes for Crosby and Garas’s scenes is terrible.

There’s a lot of goofiness to it as well. Not to mention the awful handling of the Paradise Island stuff (and a really bad turn from Charlene Holt in an important role). Gene Ruggiero’s editing is weak, Artie Butler’s music is weak (except when it’s Crosby’s soulful introspective moments, then it’s weak but amusing). Wonder Woman barely gets by, but it does. Crosby’s so game for it, her enthusiasm pulls it through.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Vincent McEveety; teleplay by John D.F. Black, based on characters created by William M. Marston; director of photography, Joseph F. Biroc; edited by Gene Ruggiero; music by Artie Butler; produced by John G. Stephens; aired by the American Broadcasting System.

Starring Cathy Lee Crosby (Wonder Woman), Kaz Garas (Steve Trevor), Andrew Prine (George Calvin), Ricardo Montalban (Abner Smith), Anitra Ford (Ahnjayla), Richard X. Slattery (Colonel Henkins) and Charlene Holt (Hippolyte).


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