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Archenemies: How They Made Stories Better

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoilers may be present)

What often made great literature, great films, and great TV shows was when two characters became adversaries for each other. Whether their first encounter on screen or page led to a rivalry, or the two had been at odds in backstory, their shared intellect and willingness to do what it takes to foil the other made for great stories and conflict. Sometimes the rivalry was personal, chance encounters leading to ongoing vendettas that never seem to stop, or the rivalry was professional, conflict only rising because the two worked for different businesses or governments. Once in a while archenemies would mix both the personal and the professional, the chase and game becoming a battle of wills and wiles to see who would come out on top.

Now there are many popular examples, but here some of the forgotten and lesser known, but equally good arch rivals will be discussed.

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Jim West and Dr. Miguelito Loveless (The Wild, Wild West [1965-69]) (portrayed by Robert Conrad and Michael Dunn):

Possibly one of the most unique and original rivalries to ever spawn from 60’s Television was the constant battle of the minds between US Secret Service Agent Jim West and the maniacal genius Dr. Miguelito Loveless. When West foiled Loveless’ plot to detonate bombs throughout Washington DC when the government refused to return land in California promised his father by the King of Spain, the two forever became entangled in a continuing cat and mouse game to see who was smarter. What started out as Loveless merely wanting to get back what he believed was his spiraled into outlandish and ingenious methods of taking over the world and Jim West ever present to preserve freedom and democracy. As the series progressed the two developed a love-hate kind of relationship, a form of respect slowly building up between them. West would often comment after their encounters how he truly believed Loveless wanted to correct the mistakes of others, but would always be doomed to failure when he stopped caring about innocent people. Loveless in turn admitted he admired West’s spirit and determination in his belief in the governing process of the US and how the people strive for better. The majority of their encounters was Loveless’ harebrained schemes and West’s creative ways with Artemus Gordon in how to stop him, always making for fun and exciting scenes. After a while, Loveless set his sights purely on doing away with West, plans of world domination taking a backseat, but never-the-less exciting material.

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Steve McGarrett and Wo Fat (Hawaii Five-O [1968- 80]) (portrayed by Jack Lord and Khigh Dhiegh):

In the first TV series ever shot entirely on location in the beautiful state of Hawaii was the everlasting feud between police detective Steve McGarrett and international criminal/Communist agent Wo Fat. The two had encountered each other prior to the start of the series, and there was plenty of bad blood between them already. McGarrett would often have to foil Wo Fat’s plans in Cold War era espionage and the villain’s own personal schemes. Unlike other archenemies who eventually come to a begrudging respect, this wasn’t the case with McGarrett and Wo Fat. Fat’s willingness to kill anyone, including those working with him, to complete a mission made him a fugitive everywhere, including his own country, thus making him someone very dangerous and untrustworthy. The cat and mouse game gets more intense with each encounter as personal pride and ambition becoming the reasons these two encounter each other.

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Barnabas Collins and Angelique Bouchard (aka Miranda Duval) (Dark Shadows [1966-71]) (Portrayed by Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker):

Of the rare occasions men and women were enemies, Barnabas and Angelique were probably the best example. One time lovers whom Barnabas admitting he couldn’t string Angelique along and he loved another woman sent her over the edge into acts against the innocent just to harm him. In spite of the occasional team up of the two to save the Collins family, Angelique’s motives were really because she wanted the honor of destroying Barnabas herself and not wanting anyone else to rob her of that. Like most adversaries, the intelligence and with they both displayed made their encounters very interesting and made many an audience wonder what the outcome would be. Surprisingly, even with the extreme hatred between them, the two did develop a type of admiration for each other, their perseverance and determination inspired the other to think a little differently at times, though past wounds still ran very deep for both of them.

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Colonel Robert E. Hogan and Marya the White Russian (Hogan’s Heroes [1965-71]) (portrayed by Bob Crane and Nita Talbot):

As incredible as it sounds, these two were very much enemies, even though their governments had an alliance agreement. Marya was constantly entrapping Hogan in her own schemes, always putting his own activities for the Underground at risk. While she was indeed acting as a double agent for the Allies, her double-dealing Black Widow like personality had audiences forever wondering if she wouldn’t have sold out the Heroes to save herself or complete missions. The fact that her ideas always worked out in spite of her own role in the schemes was all that kept Hogan from reporting her very questionable methods to Army Intelligence. Marya’s infatuation with Hogan in the romantic sense brought ever more questions to her MO as why would she constantly try to help get him killed if she respected him. Surprisingly, this constant state of not being able to trust each other that eventually made them trust each other.

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Dr. Mabuse and Kommissar von Wenk (Dr. Mabuse: Der Spieler [Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler] [[published 1922]) (portrayed by Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Bernhard Goetzke):

These two men weren’t just enemies in law and order, but enemies of social function as well. Mabuse represented the chaos and anarchy that wanted to erupt from post WWI Germany and von Wenk represented the organized order that wanted to prevail amidst the uncertainty and chaos of the times. That Mabuse wanted to exploit the people’s shattered sense of self in the wake of everything they knew practically being destroyed showed a predatory personality that didn’t care about how he obtained anything just so long as he got it. Some might say he himself is a victim of the post-war era in that he must resort to criminal activity to survive, but because he seeks to corrupt the lower class to steal from the high class changes this. Kommissar von Wenk might be a part of the upper echelon that does little to help those who have less, but he does believe in the concept of real justice, and while his superiors and friends might use the crime spree to deter the lower class from making stands, he acts to prevent true anarchy that would victimize everyone.

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Rudolf Rassendyll and Rupert of Hentzau (The Prisoner of Zenda [published 1894 – filmed 1937 and 1952] & Rupert of Hentzau [published 1895/1898]) (portrayed by Ronald Coleman & Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Stewart Granger & James Mason respectively):

One of the classic Adventure Romances of all time produced one of the best arch-rivalries of all time. Rassendyll is the common everyman with class who soon finds himself in the middle of a plot to take over a country. Rupert of Hentzau is a smiling slime ball looking to both profit and gain control from the coupe of his king’s greedy and jealous half-brother. While having a commonality in breeding and manners, their difference in what is the right thing to do is what compounds in making them enemies. The parry of words and swords between the two makes for very nice entertainment and suspense that keeps the viewer interested in what would eventually happen between the two. When Hentzau escaped and returned to try to take over again, the feud between himself and Rassendyll became a little more intense, though the wit and parry remained the same.

Whether enemies by circumstance or enemies by choice, these duos and the multitude of others out there made the films, TV, and books they appeared in seem all the more better.

all images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

for more information

IMDB/Wikipedia – The Wild Wild West TV Series

IMDB/Wikipedia – Hawaii Five-O 1968 Series

IMDB/Wikipedia – Dark Shadows 1966 Series

IMDB/Wikipedia – Hogan’s Heroes TV Series

IMDB/Wikipedia – Dr. Mabuse The Gambler

IMDB/Wikipedia – The Prisoner of Zenda 1937 and 1952




Filed under: Film: Special Topics, TV: Special Topics

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