Sunday, July 29, 2012

Notable Guest-Stars: Lurene Tuttle and Sheila Bromley

Before I get to the topic of the post, a quick announcement: Yes! We’re getting both parts of season 7 this year! Despite my efforts to learn when part 1 would be released, apparently that news has been out for two months, so everyone else probably is aware of it by now. Part 1 releases on August 21st. But what has been announced more recently is that Part 2 will quickly follow on October 23rd!

It looks like Wal-Mart has the best price for Volume 1, unless they won’t be offering free shipping from site to store once it’s released. I’m waiting to see. If they won’t, I’ll probably pay a couple more dollars to get it from Amazon and have their free shipping.

The prices of these things really makes me cringe, especially when they’re only half-season sets. Half a season should not cost so much. (The official price is fifty dollars for fifteen episodes?! Nooo way. Wal-Mart’s price of around $33 is good, but still, that’s what I expect to pay for a whole season.) And the prices hold steady for years. I’ve discovered that while trying to get hold of various pieces of 4, 5, and 6. But since my local station is skipping the great majority of season 7, I’ll just have to grit my teeth and pay the costs. It’ll be worth it, to finally own season 7. I love almost every episode in the first half. And the second half has some gems too.

And now, the main topic.

Lurene Tuttle and Sheila Bromley are two amazing women who guest-starred repeatedly on Perry through the years. I’m grouping them together because, I’ll confess, I’ve been guilty of mixing them up. They’re both perfect at playing sad motherly figures, with very sad, worried eyes to match. They also usually have similar shades of hair.

Both were with the series almost from the beginning, with Lurene’s first appearance being The Substitute Face in season 1 and Sheila’s being The Borrowed Brunette of season 2. They continued appearing on the series with regularity. They don’t both feature into every season, but between them they were in eleven episodes, and each season features one of them at least once. Lurene remained the longest, with her final guest-spot being in The Avenging Angel in season 9.

Their characters are generally cut from the same cloth. Sometimes they’ve played defendants, sometimes the mothers or other relatives, and in Sheila’s case, both in the same episode (The Nervous Neighbor)! Their characters are generally very kind and very burdened people.

I have favorite episodes featuring them both. Lurene’s favorite of mine is season 6’s The Shoplifter’s Shoe. It has the curious distinction of being one of the few book-inspired episodes that ranks among my very favorites ever. Most of them do not, as in them the characters usually tend to act out in ways that were either more common to the books or used but largely abandoned in the series to make way for character development.

Lurene’s Aunt Sarah is probably also her quirkiest Perry character. Devoted to her missing brother George, and afraid that he has stolen a client’s diamonds to pay his gambling debts, she pretends to start shoplifting so she might be blamed for the diamonds instead of George. She also tries to protect her niece Virginia when they think Virginia killed George’s crooked business partner, by allowing herself to be tried for the crime. The latter is a common Perry twist, but Aunt Sarah somehow makes everything seem new. She is a very sharp, intelligent woman, but she puts on an act of being absent-minded and even amnesiac to further her protective plans.

The Shoplifter’s Shoe is quite a parade of famous or soon-to-be famous people. Lurene is joined by Margaret O’Brien as Virginia and Leonard Nimoy as Pete Chennery, the murderer. And Lurene herself was a very prolific actress from radio, the stage, and movies.

This episode also intrigues me because it feels a lot like an episode from the season 2 era. The focus is again on the Core Five, which was becoming a rarity by season 6. Tragg and Brice are the featured police; Andy is nowhere to be found.

I wonder when it was filmed relative to the rest of the season. It aired as episode 13. I wonder why they didn’t consider it strong enough to be part of the coveted first eight, which they claimed were what they felt were their strongest episodes for the season.

Perhaps it hadn’t been filmed yet. I don’t quite understand how they determined their strongest episodes if some weren’t filmed yet, but I know filming seemed to be going on right while the season was underway. That’s made quite clear by them being in the middle of The Crying Cherub when William Talman was abruptly suspended in March. The episode aired a couple of weeks later, I think. Maybe the scripts were all written and some just weren’t filmed?

My favorite of Sheila’s episodes is season 7’s The Nervous Neighbor. I spotlighted it already, so I’ll just mention that Sheila’s character is the real amnesiac Alice Bradley (real as opposed to Aunt Sarah’s faking). Alice is quite a unique character too, at least as far as backstory goes. She sustained a horrific head injury during a fight with her husband over her son Charles. Then, in a state the doctor described as “medically unconscious”, she struck and killed the man and ran out of the house, taking the car with her. With the doctor’s diagnosis, Hamilton declines to prosecute her further. Later, she has to helplessly watch as Charles is accused of murdering the wretch who tried to make it look like Charles was embezzling from the family company.

As for least favorites, well, Lurene’s The Avenging Angel wins that dubious prize. It’s generally hailed as one of the worst of the series, and I admit, I have to agree. I liked it alright at first, but when the plot of the boy idol kept dragging on and on I started to get very impatient and bewildered. I don’t think the murder even happens until around thirty-five minutes into it, and then there’s hardly any time spent in court. It’s a very tedious episode, although the insight into the music industry is interesting.

I’m not quite sure which of Sheila’s episodes would be my least favorite, by contrast. I like all of hers to varying degrees, but I suppose I must vote for The Mystified Miner. While a good episode, basically, it is one of those book-inspired ones from season 5, and the one in which I feel Perry performs his most jaw-dropping of his antics, crossing from “legal tightrope walking” to outright illegal behavior. Odd, that Hamilton never seemed to know about Perry’s taking the defendant’s car and deliberately getting that gaggle of teenage kids to change the tire so multiple fingerprints would be everywhere. Although maybe it’s just as well he didn’t know.

But even in the episodes I like least, the cast comes through, working with what they’ve got. Lurene and Sheila are both wonderful in their parts. I enjoy seeing them turn up, in those episodes as well as all their others.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Case of the Nine Dolls

I stretched my artistic wings this week to once again attempt passable artwork of live-action people. Previously I failed in an attempt to draw Della and Hamilton together, but this time I managed to draw Amory Fallon and Lieutenant Drumm not too badly. At least, I found it good enough to finish the sketch and post it.

Most of my notations are below the picture, but one I’ll make here is hands. They are one of the most frustrating things to draw in any picture, no matter the art style. And yet it seems like I’m always drawing them. Occasionally I will hide them, as some other people do, but most of the time I seem to be a glutton for punishment.

And I discovered that I’ve been spelling Chamberlin’s name wrong. I kind of like it better with the second “A”, but since that’s incorrect I’ll be changing his tag and trying to spell it right in future usages both here and in my stories.

I got hold of The Case of the Nine Dolls and finally watched it again at long last. I remember how intrigued I was by it in the past, especially when Perry went to Switzerland! Scenes outside of California are rare, and usually it’s Paul featured in them when it happens. The scene at the toyshop is what I remembered most vividly, although I mistakenly got it in my head that it showed Perry walking down the street.

The plot involves one of Perry’s youngest clients ever, little Peggy Smith, who wants him to find out who she really is and who keeps sending her these dolls from Switzerland. He was planning to go on a fishing trip in Scotland, but he rearranges his plans after being touched by her sweetness and her plight.

While trying to unravel the confusion and the cover-ups, Perry stumbles into what is no doubt the most chilling scene in the entire series. I feel it’s only rivaled by Button’s endangerment in The Missing Button, and even then, I think this one is somehow much more eerie.

After investigating the toyshop where the dolls are purchased and sent to Peggy, and meeting several vacationing Americans who seem oddly interested in the matter, Perry returns to his hotel room and finds that someone has left a broken doll and a note. The note reads, “This can happen to little girls, too.”

I remember always being stunned by that scene. Threats against children are particularly horrifying and sickening, and it seems especially unusual to see one in such an old series.

Alarmed, Perry of course cancels his original ideas to go on to Scotland from Switzerland. He returns home, securing a seat on the same flight as the strange people from the toy store. He chats it up with one of them, Linda. She is aloof and professes no knowledge of any of what’s been happening.

Meanwhile, Paul has been digging and has found a possible connection to Peggy in the Jeffers family. I was rather amused to see that name pop up; Richard Anderson’s character on The Wild Wild West is named Jeffers, and I’m writing a story about him.

The Perry character is a gruff and grouchy old man, a wealthy oil baron. And it so happens that Linda and the others Perry met are related to him. Linda tells him about talking to Perry on the flight home and he is not pleased. When Perry shows up at the house wanting to talk to him, Linda leaves the room. Perry tries to explain about Peggy possibly being Jeffers’ granddaughter, but Jeffers is certain Perry is trying to perpetrate some fraud and orders him out.

When told about the encounter, Peggy is disappointed but accepts it bravely and says he’s probably not a nice man anyway. Perry tries to reassure her that Jeffers is likely very nice. Linda comes in then and asks Perry to stay away from Jeffers. Peggy is brought out of the library in an attempt to soften her heart, but Linda is very oddly repulsed and orders Peggy to keep away from her. She flees the office, leaving everyone stunned. Peggy finally, quietly asks to go back to the boarding school where she’s been living.

Gah, that poor girl. It’s heartbreaking, the way her family treats her. The little girl playing her does an incredible job. Peggy is so sweet and kind and polite. It’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting her.

It doesn’t take long for Jeffers to have a change of heart. He invites Perry back to the house and asks him to bring Peggy. They have a sweet meeting and Jeffers accepts Peggy as his granddaughter.

Things quickly go wrong again, however. Jeffers is killed and Linda is blamed. It comes out that Jeffers was going to change his will and leave everything to Peggy. Everyone in the previous will now has reason to have wanted him dead, but it was Linda whose name Jeffers called out right before he died. And it was Linda, it seems, who was seen running upstairs immediately afterwards.

At the jail before the hearing, Linda finally reveals to Perry why she can’t stand being around Peggy. It seems that Peggy is the daughter of Linda’s best friend and Linda’s fiancé, who ran off together and eloped. Every time Linda sees Peggy, she’s reminded of their betrayal. She hates herself for her feelings, and knows it isn’t Peggy’s fault, but she just can’t bear to so much as look at Peggy.

Chamberlin is the prosecutor for the case. As is usual with him, he handles it with dignity, grace, and maturity. While mostly serious, he does show a bit of a sense of humor, smiling in amusement when one of the witnesses says her husband told her they need a brandy because “it isn’t every day you lose nine million dollars.”

I wonder if this episode was filmed before Chamberlin’s other episodes. It’s harder to see that lighter piece of hair, which I had assumed was a piece that was turning gray. (Although in grayscale it’s hard to tell what the colors are supposed to be.)

The episode is very intense and unique and Peggy is adorable. But seriously, what a crew! I can’t help wondering what on earth happens to her after the episode’s end. It seems she’ll be able to live in the Jeffers mansion, or at least, that’s the implication. But who will be living there with her?

There’s the husband and wife who knew about Peggy’s existence before but were willing to cut her off completely so they could have the money (even though they were fairly well off already). That seems to have been the case with the husband and wife servants, too. And the wife (played by the wonderful Jeanette Nolen, here with a Scottish accent) is the murderer.

And then there’s Linda, who still seems unable to tolerate being around Peggy. At the episode’s end she’s determined to move out of the house. She’s finally won over enough by Peggy’s purity and innocence to bend down and embrace her, which is certainly a vast improvement. But was she won over enough to decide to stay with her? That’s left up to the imagination. The episode ends with the embrace.

When I was younger, I thought the embrace meant definitely that she was going to stay. Seeing it now, I’m just not sure. It’s really ambiguous.

I have to say, I really wish Jeffers hadn’t been killed. It was heartbreaking. He was so happy to finally realize he had a granddaughter, and he was the only one who really wanted Peggy, and then he was murdered. He definitely goes on the short list of good people who were killed off on the series.

Perry and Della both have some adorable interaction with Peggy. Near the beginning of the episode, Della assures Peggy that she’ll come see her at the boarding school. And throughout the episode, it’s Della who brings Peggy to Perry’s office and other locations. I like to think that Della kept up her friendship with Peggy following the episode’s end. I’m sure she would have.

Overall, I still love the episode. But I’m stalled from accepting it into my top tier of favorites due to wondering about Peggy’s fate post-episode and wishing Jeffers hadn’t been the murder victim.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Silent Six-inspired musings

The Denying Detective is done! I am so pleased. I think it turned out well. Perhaps a bit shorter than I had originally intended, but everything I wanted to have in it seems to have made it in.

And apparently I’ve been champing at the bit to start The Malevolent Mugging even more than I thought. Two chapters have appeared in as many days. I’m also doing a Wild Wild West story (which happens to involve Richard Anderson’s character from that show), so I plan to continue alternating chapters for the most part. We’ll see how that works out.

Yesterday I saw The Silent Six again, courtesy of my local station. It’s a very different episode in several ways, one being the very early murder. It happens within the first couple of minutes. But even moreso than that is the inspiration from a real-life crime and the refusal of most of those present to do anything to help the girl being beaten. That’s both haunting and repulsive.

And the eventual revelation in court of what actually happened that night, oh goodness. Joe Oliver sounds like he was a rotten person in a lot of ways, but at least he had no intention of sitting by and doing nothing while Susan Wolfe was being attacked. And then to think he was mistaken for the attacker and killed accidentally because of that is really quite heartbreaking. The murderer’s breakdown in court was very powerful, where he says that at least he cared enough to come try to help, making the ones who did nothing guiltier than he.

I wonder what would happen to him. It doesn’t seem like he should get the maximum punishment at all, when he was coming to try to help Susan and shot Joe Oliver by accident, honestly believing he was attacking her.

Due to the shocking truth, I found The Silent Six a very depressing episode. I was not too enthused when it aired as part of the New Year’s Eve marathon, but it was one of the ones I deliberately picked up from it. (I did not record all of the marathon.) Watching it for the second time recently, I liked it a lot better, particularly for the Steve content. And I was actually looking forward to seeing it a third time yesterday, largely because of said content.

The Silent Six could almost be classed as a Steve episode. He is certainly in the spotlight a lot. And the short-tempered policeman suspected of killing Joe is a close friend of Steve’s. So The Silent Six, in the tradition of The Prudent Prosecutor and The Hateful Hero, has the suspect’s friend coming to Perry for help.

There is an idea floating around the fanbase that Sergeant Dave Wolfe, Susan’s protective brother, is Steve’s partner. I’ve referred to him as such myself. But after another viewing, I don’t think it’s true. It looks more like they just happened to be handling the complaint together at the beginning, perhaps because Steve is available and a good friend (and worried about what Dave might do if they find Joe Oliver around). And if Dave is Steve’s partner, he’s never shown or mentioned before or after. I’m pretty sure faithful Sergeant Brice is Steve’s partner.

This is, of course, the episode in which Steve tells Perry that in his line of work he’s not supposed to have friends. Perry’s response is an interesting “Of course not”, said in a tone that sounds like he’s just humoring Steve while knowing that Steve doesn’t really abide by it.

I started thinking about the interesting contrast between Steve and Hamilton and how they handled their respective situations when their dear friends ended up the suspects in murder cases. Both viewpoints are, to me, understandable and valid.

Due quite especially to the fact that Jefferson Pike saved Hamilton’s life, Hamilton feels he absolutely cannot prosecute him. Nor does he want anyone in his office to do it. So he disqualifies the entire office, which results in a special prosecutor being sent in to handle it instead. Hamilton sits by throughout the hearing, looking tense and worried at not being to do anything, but hopeful and confident that Perry will fix it.

Steve has been assigned to investigate Dave Wolfe’s involvement in Joe Oliver’s murder. He did not ask for that, and on the surface, it seems strange that he was chosen. Perhaps it was because he was there at the time, despite not actually seeing what happened in the apartment. Perhaps it was because the department knew that Steve would not let his personal feelings get in the way. If they had thought that would happen, I’m sure Steve would not have been assigned. (I also don’t think he would have been assigned if he and Dave were partners.)

When asked by Perry why he would accept the assignment, Steve basically tells him that he would rather see to it himself instead of standing by while someone else takes over. Perhaps he cannot bear to have his hands tied and only stand on the sidelines doing nothing. Perhaps, in spite of the heartache, he feels that it would be easier to investigate himself and know everything that’s developing. Perhaps he thinks that it will somehow go easier for Dave if he’s the one investigating (even though of course he would not give Dave any special privileges).

Hamilton has certainly had to prosecute friends before (and after). If not for feeling that he just couldn’t because of Jeff saving his life, I’m sure that Hamilton would have gone ahead with the prosecution on that case, no matter how much he hated it. Or maybe he would have figured out some arrangement with Perry like he did for Larry Germaine in The Fatal Fetish, which in the end absolved him of having to prosecute at all.

But, regardless of what Hamilton might have done in slightly different circumstances, we are still presented with his and Steve’s various approaches to the same basic problem. Naturally Hamilton would not feel like prosecuting someone who saved his life. Perhaps Steve would have felt the same if there had been that specific dilemma with Dave. On the other hand, maybe he still would have felt better handling the investigation himself instead of turning it over to someone else.

It’s been intimated to me more than once that Steve and Andy are cold for pursuing such investigations and even, in Andy’s case, outright stating that he will put his cousin in the gas chamber himself, if it comes to that. I disagree. Of course they love their family and friends. But they are honest and upright law officers. How can they sanction any crimes committed, even if the crimes happen to be committed by their loved ones?

Anyway, concerning Andy’s statement, he was in a terrible position right then. His dear friend had been murdered and his cousin was being blamed for it. It looked bad, but Andy did not want to believe Jimmy was guilty. To that end, he went to Perry for help. At the same time, if Jimmy turned out to be guilty after all, he would not want Jimmy to walk free. So when asked by Perry if Andy will stand by Jimmy, Andy says that if he finds evidence that Jimmy is guilty, he will put Jimmy in the gas chamber himself. And you can see from his expression that he is agonized at the thought of it ever coming to that. But if it did, what could he do? He would not withhold the evidence, even if it meant sacrificing Jimmy, because above all else, Andy stands for upholding the law. Anyone breaking the law has to suffer the consequences, even if it’s a family member. If anything, I think Andy should be hailed for his courage and dedication to the law, even in a heartrending situation like that.

Coming back to the original topic, I enjoy The Silent Six a lot more than I did before. The solution to the crime is indeed depressing, but there’s a lot of good stuff in the episode.

For a Steve fan, it’s great. He has so many substantial scenes. I think, aside from the scene where he asks for Perry’s help, my favorite bit is where he goes to Susan’s hospital room and slips a little bouquet of flowers into her hand. It’s very sweet, and he shows his gentle side throughout the scene. Susan is happy to see him, too. Steve is clearly her friend as well as Dave’s.

And the darker elements have their purpose. I liked that the show tackled the chilling angle of witnesses who refuse to help. It’s something that should be addressed, and denounced, most emphatically. The Silent Six brought it out perfectly, in all of its sickening repulsiveness, without being preachy.

And I should note, Susan thankfully survived the attack. At the end we see her fully recovered, preparing to go off on a well-deserved vacation to Hawaii with Dave. It’s a hopeful epilogue after all that discouragement in court, and we also get a bit of that fun friendship with Paul and Steve as Steve informs Paul that he cut it close on a traffic light.

Overall, I definitely say it’s one of the above-average season 9 ventures.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Various musings on Robert Karnes and H.M. Wynant

I’ve been taking my time getting today’s post done, as I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I should be writing about! I have quite a few topics floating around in my mind, but some of them are being held up by various glitches and frustrations that are preventing me from learning a bit more about them first. (Such as, concerning the inability to execute one topic, what is wrong with Yahoo Groups the last couple of days?! I’m having a horrid time loading the site. Right now it refuses to cooperate. Yesterday it was extremely sluggish.)

With my interest sparking a bit more where both Sampson and Chamberlain are concerned, I’ve been peering at their actors’ profiles and looking for other things to watch them in. And then I’ve been running across them by accident, as well; both are quite prolific character actors. I found it hilarious when, a few hours after watching The Wintry Wife, I was watching Sea Hunt and suddenly realized, “Oh my gosh! That’s Chamberlain!”

Robert Karnes, I find, is quite easy to spot from that distinctive piece of lighter-colored hair standing out against his mostly dark hair. I’ve stumbled across him on more than one episode of Sea Hunt, and judging from his resume, he’s been in several old movies and guest-starred on several old television shows that I’ve been familiar with for years. He’s even been on The Andy Griffith Show.

It’s been the same story with H.M. Wynant. (And he’s also one of the few Perry actors playing a recurring character who is still alive today. And active. Awesome.) I knew someone seemed familiar in The Wild Wild West episode The Night of the Simian Terror. But until I saw the cast list it just didn’t click.

That’s usually the case when I’ve run across him in other Perry episodes. I recognize him, but can’t place where until I see the name. I’ll probably start finding it easier to spot him in the future, now that I’m actively looking.

He has quite an impressive roster of Perry episodes, I see. Like William Boyett, he appeared in every season except season 2. He was in all the other seasons once, save for season 4, of course, where he was around three times. His characters seem to vary in their involvement with the cases, and in whether they’re good or bad, if I remember right. I can’t recall if he was ever the murderer or the victim. (I don’t think so.)

Robert Karnes was only in one other episode of Perry besides the four in season 4. In season 1, he appeared in The Hesitant Hostess as a character called Detective Purvis, and I . . . can’t recall anything about him off-hand.

I do know Robert often played law enforcement types, even appearing as a co-star in the series The Lawless Years, which sounds like it might be a more historically accurate version of some of the events depicted in The Untouchables (more or less). It follows some police in New York during the Roaring Twenties. And they actually had the real, main NYPD detective depicted in the show as a technical consultant! I think I need to try that series.

I still have one Perry episode with Chamberlain to see. My local station skipped The Nine Dolls again, despite actually listing it on their schedule this time! Ridiculous! I was looking forward to seeing it again after all these years. I’ve sent for the disc from Netflix; I should have it next week unless I rearrange my queue again. There’s so many things I’m gathering up to see that my queue sees quite a bit of shifting around.

One oddball thing I’ve noticed about Sampson: his name is never spoken. You only know who the heck he is by looking at the cast list. He’s always called “Mr. Prosecutor.” Exactly why is this? I hope the explanation isn’t something silly, like the network being worried over the character having a Biblical name. I would kind of doubt that, judging by the various references to the Biblical Sampson on The Wild Wild West, which ran on the same network. (But if that was the problem, why didn’t they change the Perry character’s name to begin with?) I think Sampson is the only one of Hamilton’s assistants whose name has never been mentioned in the spoken dialogue at all.

I’ve been tinkering with having both Sampson and Chamberlain, very occasionally, in my stories ever since my first Perry mystery. Recently I wrote a random blurb on Livejournal that has them both and features a bit of interaction with Hamilton. I’m thinking they will most likely appear with greater prominence in a future mystery, perhaps the very next one, as I’m wrapping up The Denying Detective at long last.

It really was the writing challenges I took on for May and June that seriously slowed this story down; that’s obvious from how fast I’ve been putting out the chapters this month. I think the only thing left now is the epilogue, and making sure all the last loose ends are tied together. Then I’ll be starting on the next one, which I think I’ve been calling The Malevolent Mugging. While Andy and his double Amory Fallon will dominate the main plot, I may run a cocurrent subplot with Hamilton, Sampson, and Chamberlain.

Sampson and Chamberlain may have a scene or two to themselves to interact in; I’m kind of fascinated to see how they might communicate with each other. Chamberlain certainly seems to be more of a veteran prosecutor, while Sampson is a young and impulsive fellow. Save for that tired gag of Perry being wildly accused in The Waylaid Wolf, Chamberlain comes across as a mature and skilled person. And even the wild accusation is handled with dignity, really.

The Livejournal blurb I wrote, while featuring them both, didn’t really allow for any interaction between them. Sampson is badly hurt while protecting Hamilton from a sudden and shocking attack. Chamberlain tends to him while Hamilton tries to catch the assailant, but the focus is on Hamilton’s point-of-view, and when he gets back, his interaction with Sampson. I might write an experimental follow-up showing things from Chamberlain’s point-of-view and allowing for him to interact with Sampson.

One thing I quickly realized: If those deputies are going to appear in stories with any prominence, their first names will need to be in there. Chamberlain’s we already know from The Wintry Wife: Victor. But Sampson’s remains unknown. And I’ve been discovering that you can’t combine just any name with a name as cool as Sampson. It’s very difficult to find anything that fits. The only one I’ve matched up so far as a possibility is Gregory, which seems to carry enough power to sound good but doesn’t cancel out when combined with Sampson. And yet I’m not sure it fits the character well enough. Thoughts?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mannix, season 2 episode 12: A very Perry-inspired case

This past week I happened to be watching an episode of Mannix, entitled Fear I to Fall. It’s a very intriguing episode, especially for a Perry fan. There are many parallels with our series. That’s not too surprising, either, since it was written by veteran Perry writer and story consultant Samuel Newman!

The plot concerns Mannix being sent an urgent message from a client and a plane ticket for New Mexico. When he flies out, however, he learns that the message came from the district attorney’s office, the “client” is a man who was murdered, and he’s wanted as a prosecution witness! The sheriff (played by Dana Elcar, later of Baa Baa Black Sheep) greets him by promptly slapping a subpoena in his hand.

The case involves a man who was killed during a robbery. The defendant is a known thief that Mannix tangled with in the past.

In court, the defense attorney makes a couple of amateur mistakes and ends up deciding she isn’t fit to defend her client. The judge decides that it’s such a grave matter for her to drop out that he will grant a twenty-four hour continuance so she can think things over.

The sheriff escorts Mannix back to the airport to catch a flight back to Los Angeles, now that he’s given his testimony. Mannix, still ticked off at having been called out on a pretense, slaps the subpoena back in the sheriff’s hand and decides to stay and find out what’s going on. Some things about the case don’t seem to add up. He knows that, despite being a thief, the defendant isn’t a violent man. Also, there’s a girl he was with who should be able to back up his story, albeit they haven’t been able to find her.

Going back to the defense attorney, he presents his case and encourages her to stay on it. Her father was a very prominent attorney in town, before his death in a car accident, and she feels she can never live up to what he was. But Mannix convinces her to keep at it and they continue the investigation together.

The case becomes very convoluted and heart-breaking when it looks like the celebrated lawyer was actually a blackmailer, tormenting the man who was killed during the robbery. I actually remember the victim’s name without going to look it up. But then again, it’s hard to forget a name like Dobby Dobson!

District Attorney Bartlett comes to them that night with a letter that seems to cement the blackmail angle. If they go to court, he regretfully says, he’s going to have to bring the letter out, no matter who gets hurt by it. The defense attorney, Phyllis, is conflicted. But in the end, she herself brings it out first, knowing that it has to be that way for justice to be done for her client.

When they go back to court, there’s also a very Perry-ish scene where Mannix and Phyllis demonstrate the way that the murder weapon would have had to be held to strike Dobby where he was hit. And they also demonstrate that, due to a twisted left hand, the defendant could not have done it that way. Bartlett tries to suggest that perhaps it was held in both hands, with the right one bearing the brunt of the weight. Mannix agrees that it’s possible, but says there’s a witness who can prove that the defendant is innocent. Like Perry, he’s hoping to scare the real murderer into action.

He adds a little touch to the plan by having Phyllis pretend to be the missing witness, whom they’ve continued to look for everywhere but can’t find. She calls the sheriff on the phone and says she’s scared of coming forward, but she wants to do the right thing. The sheriff says he’ll be right out for her. He picks up and leaves without so much as calling Bartlett to let him know.

Throughout the episode, I was worried that Bartlett would be the bad guy. I didn’t want that, for more reasons than one. Prosecutors take enough snide treatment from the media as it is. And when there’s a prosecutor played by Richard Anderson, well, I’m especially biased in his favor!

As it turned out, it’s the sheriff and the sheriff alone who’s mixed up in the garbage and murdered Dobby. He also framed Phyllis’s father for the blackmail. Bartlett has been let in on Mannix’s scheme and is there waiting with him and Phyllis when the sheriff shows up and tries to kill who he thinks is the missing witness. The sheriff hits a pane of glass in front of her instead. He tries to flee, but Mannix tackles him on the hood of the car and subdues him.

Afterwards, Bartlett questions Mannix as to why he wasn’t considered a suspect himself. Mannix explains the clues that led him to realize it had to be the sheriff, particularly how the sheriff was aware of things that only the criminal should know.

There were a few things going on during the court scenes that seemed a bit odd and probably would not have been permitted on Perry, although offhand I can’t recall the specifics. (Perhaps part of it involved Mannix being allowed to arrange the demonstration in court, although I’m not sure. Especially since he was considered an expert witness. It seems like it was other, smaller things earlier on.) Since Perry was praised in general for its handling of legal matters (aside from things such as the confessions), I would assume that it is the more accurate of the two.

Overall, though, I was highly impressed with the intense, twisting script and the characters. And Samuel Newman proved once again that he is usually kind to prosecutors by allowing Bartlett to be one of the good guys. Despite his unorthodox method for getting Mannix out there in the first place (due to fear that he would not testify if he was simply told the truth), all he wants is to see justice done. When he later argues against Mannix’s theories about the box, he’s only being a good prosecutor and wanting to make sure all the possibilities have been brought to the table. He definitely reminds me of Hamilton in some ways, from his courtroom style to his genuine kindness and his regret.

And to get technical, I wondered and still wonder if Bartlett was even aware of the way Mannix was brought out there. It was the sheriff who told Mannix about it. I can’t help pondering on the possibility that Bartlett requested the sheriff to get Mannix out there and didn’t know the way the sheriff chose to do it.

Of course, aside from the Perry feel of the script and Richard Anderson’s presence, there’s another connection between Perry and Mannix. Mannix himself, Mike Connors, was one of the fill-in lawyers for season 8, in The Bullied Bowler (which was also written by Samuel Newman!). The episode is generally disliked, to my knowledge, but I thought it was fine . . . despite the silliness of trying to have a bowling alley closed for being “evil”. That’s one argument I’ve never heard against a bowling alley before. Pool halls, yes. Bowling, no.

Speaking of Samuel Newman, does anyone know what the deal is with the Perry writer billed as Sam Neuman? Are they the same person? I know that alternate spellings do not always mean it’s a different person, and it seems quite a coincidence to have two Sam New(u)mans writing for the same show. Of course, it could happen, and Sam Neuman appears to have written a few things after Samuel Newman was dead. But then again, maybe it’s the same person and he just wrote those other scripts before he died and they were filmed posthumously?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In Memoriam: Ray Collins

The reason for the post being a day early this week is that it was on July 11th, 1965, when Ray Collins passed away.

While pondering on exactly what sort of content this post should have, I’ve been re-reading some biographical information. Wow, he was one amazing man! By all accounts, he kept very busy from the time he first started acting on the stage, at age 14. And later on he had quite a career in radio, too, performing in various adaptions of literary classics and other things.

There are many movies he was in that I have yet to see. And some I saw so many years ago that I remember very little of them now and have need to see them again.

I’ve been thinking on Lieutenant Tragg of late, too. Upon re-watching The Loquacious Liar I discovered that I have been mis-stating the number of years Tragg says he’s been on the police force. I have no idea how I remembered thirty years as almost twenty-five. Nor do I have any idea exactly how I am going to repair all such references in stories. I’ll be very subtly trying to change it here and there in past stories, since no one else seems to have noticed or commented on the mistake.

Tragg’s life before he was on the force is a closed book. I think the mention of him being around for thirty years might be the most background information we ever have on him. That, and his sad admission that after all this time, informing someone of a loved one’s death has never gotten easier. While Tragg has a lot of great screentime in The Clumsy Clown, I love that little scene in The Loquacious Liar most. It’s certainly one of his best and most compassionate scenes, along with scenes in The Fugitive Nurse from season 1 and The Hateful Hero from season 6.

I might go so far as to say that those four episodes, and also The Moth-Eaten Mink, may just be the five best Tragg episodes across the entire series. But then again, there’s so many wonderful episodes with Tragg in seven seasons that it’s difficult to narrow it down! Tragg is prominent in The Moth-Eaten Mink, The Fugitive Nurse, and The Clumsy Clown, but The Hateful Hero is really Andy’s episode, and I don’t recall if The Loquacious Liar featured Tragg more than usual. So perhaps those latter two would instead count among a list of the best Tragg scenes, rather than Tragg episodes overall.

Come to think of it, Tragg never really got a spotlight episode, per se. I should give him a spotlight story. I try to rotate among the cast, and the Andy/Amory Fallon mystery is still planned to be next. Tragg will certainly play a large part in that, being as close to Andy as he is, but I should also have one where Tragg is the central character.

I became advised of the existence of a Perry computer game made in 1985 (possibly to promote the first reunion film, I wonder?), and yesterday I looked it up. Perry Mason: The Case of the Mandarin Murder is a fascinating early effort at a mystery and detective game along the lines of the popular Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes games today. It deserves an in-depth post all its own, so for now I will just focus on what’s seen of Tragg in what I saw of someone’s walkthrough of the first sixteen minutes of the game. (That’s viewable on YouTube, for anyone interested in having a look!) I will also mention that the time period was clearly moved to the present-day of that time (the 1980s, but what I saw could also double as our present-day), and without harming characters or plot, much to my delight!

The game seems to be a curious mixture of the books and the television series. Having seen very little of the game (I wonder if that person will upload his walkthrough of the rest of it), I base that opinion mostly on the description of Lieutenant Tragg. The only thing that really sounded like Ray Collins’ Tragg was the inclusion of his whimsical smile. Otherwise, it sounded like a Tragg I don’t really know. He was mentioned as being as tall as Perry, with a suit five years out of style and yellowed teeth from years of cigar smoking.

Tragg smoking cigars? That’s an image I’m having a hard time calling to mind—so much so that it’s amusing me more than anything else. It sounds so very out-of-character for Ray’s Tragg. I can’t recall him ever lighting a cigar.

(None of the characters smoke at all in my stories, by the way. Despite the present-day setting I give them, I tried to move everything of the time period over from the series, right down to the fedoras. But smoking cigarettes is about the one thing I refused to bring over. Yes, trying to picture Tragg with a cigar amuses me because it sounds so ridiculously out-of-character, but the general act of anyone smoking cigars or cigarettes doesn’t amuse me one bit.)

And a suit five years out of style? Well, I suppose as a modern viewer I wouldn’t be a good judge, but I always thought Tragg was a snappy and up-to-date dresser. I just can’t see him wearing something so long out of style. Although on the other hand, Tragg is stubborn and wants his own way, and if he had a suit that he thought was especially neat, I can picture him insisting on continuing to wear it whether it went out of style or not.

As for being as tall as Perry, well, I’m pretty sure that does come from the books. In addition to being around Perry’s age (a notation not mentioned in the game).

As Hamilton begins questioning Tragg, he asks how long Tragg has been on the police force. Tragg says it’s been twenty years, and also mentions that he has been the Chief of the Homicide division for some time.

(Can a lieutenant be the chief of a division? I’m curious. I thought the captains were the ones over the divisions. Upon looking up the query here:, it seems the game’s answer was likely incorrect, or at least, very simplified at best.)

Concerning the twenty years bit, I suppose one could decide that the game’s events simply take place long before the events of the TV series, since in the first episode all of the Core Five (Perry, Della, Paul, Hamilton, and Tragg) already know each other quite well. But considering how the game’s Tragg just doesn’t quite gel with Ray’s, I’d be more inclined to say that the game created a separate “universe” to play in, not fully part of either the book or the television universes.

The game Tragg actually sounded fairly similar to Ray’s Tragg when he spoke at an earlier point in the game. It was mainly the descriptions that threw me off.

Despite liking Dane Clark’s Tragg, of course it’s Ray’s interpretation that instantly comes to mind when I think of the character. Ray Collins was iconic in that role.

So much so that on his headstone, it even bills him as Lt. Tragg under his name.

I know you’re shining wherever you are right now, Ray. And down here, we still love and miss you. You will always be our Lieutenant Tragg.

Monday, July 9, 2012

We now interrupt your regularly-scheduled Blogger post.

I get information late. I need to find more ways to stay on top of things!

Richard Anderson is going to be at the San Diego Comic-Con this Thursday!

I know, he probably attends quite a few conventions that I have no idea about and hence, don't report on, but consider this the first of hopefully many notifications! This Con is one I'm quite familiar with, being a Japanese anime and video-game fan (although I've never been able to go).

Ah, I wish I could go to this one. That would be so awesome, to meet Richard!

And how cool is this? A new line of figures for The Six Million Dollar Man, to be released over the next few months? Very cool! The Oscar Goldman figure seems to be due in October. I'm psyched for it already. I've never seen the series (yet; you can bet it's been on my list of things to watch), but that does nothing to lessen my excitement. I am so buying that figure.

The regular weekday post is probably going to go up on Wednesday this week, by the way.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Further pondering on Deputy D.A. Sampson

With my local station deeply involved in season 4, it gives me an interesting chance to review episodes I don’t normally watch if they’re not on television.

I was rather angry the last time they played these episodes, as their website had originally indicated they would be skipping them. And, just slipping back into the series and rediscovering my love of Hamilton, I did not want to see him vanish so soon. So when The Crying Cherub episode in season 3 started and I realized what they were doing, I was not pleased. I will freely admit I looked for faults in each and every assistant D.A., comparing them unfavorably to Hamilton and just wanting him back.

This time around, having expected the episodes, I’m much more relaxed. But that doesn’t mean I feel I was completely blind in my earlier analyses on the deputies. Most of them are still dull to me, or at least, lacking any unique personalities. With their dialogue having been written for Hamilton, but their actors of course being unable to deliver it the way William Talman could, court scenes with them never had that same spark.

Chamberlain and Sampson, as previously noted, seem to be the ones the writers lavished the most attention on. Not only do they show up multiple times, what they’re allowed to say and do in court is much greater than the other assistants’ screentime allotted. It’s a bit hard to put into words, but they not only are given more personality than the rest, they’re given more of Hamilton’s personality.

Chamberlain has more extensive interaction with the other characters and even Perry. In The Wintry Wife, as previously noted, he plays a very large part throughout the whole thing. (Oh, if only that had been Hamilton. Although I could do without him flinging another wild accusation at Perry during court, so perhaps I’m satisfied that it was someone else that time.

EDIT: Or wait a minute, was the accusation that time? I saw Chamberlain accuse Perry in The Waylaid Wolf, so either I mixed up two "W" episodes or else it happened in two different Chamberlain episodes. Which is, unfortunately, conceivable. Well, I'll know the answer soon.

I am so glad that episode marked about the last time that tactic was used until the series finale. And it really shouldn’t have been used again then, either, but I digress.)

Sampson is definitely stereotypical and blustery. His voice probably has a lot to do with his image. He speaks loudly and pompously a lot of the time, especially in his first two appearances. In The Envious Editor, not so much. Aside from an arrogant comment on thinking Perry should stipulate the defendant’s guilt in the murder (!), he mostly speaks in a normal tone of voice and doesn’t make any other cringe-worthy slip-ups that I can recall.

But I was remiss in saying he was never polite or kind. Much like Hamilton, he did indeed try to treat two witnesses better in particular. In The Loquacious Liar, he is quite compassionate towards the widow of the murder victim (played excellently by the talented radio, movie, and television actress Lurene Tuttle—who needs a spotlight post here for her and her many Perry characters). And in The Red Riding Boots, he actually tries to be gentle with the teenage witness. She does end up starting to cry from that examination, but that is not the point when she reaches the hysterical stage, as I was incorrectly remembering for some reason.

In general, I’m the sort of person who loves every character in a series. Or at least, I rarely hate anyone I don’t eventually warm up to. All characters have their places in the tale, heroes and villains alike. (I still find James Coburn’s character in The Envious Editor absolutely repulsive, however!)

Even before, I did carry a certain fondness and fascination for Sampson. I wouldn’t have analyzed him as being the most interesting of the assistants from season 4 if I hadn’t. Nor would I have arrived at the idea of him idolizing Hamilton.

I had already softened a great deal more towards him a few weeks ago, after noting some similarities between his courtroom style and that of Miles Edgeworth’s in the Phoenix Wright manga (Japanese comic) series. Off-hand, I can’t include the games in that statement too; it’s been so long since I’ve had much to do with those. But in any case, Miles is my favorite character from that franchise. I thought Miles was more like Sampson in the manga than in the games, but I could be wrong on that. Although in both the manga and the games, I do know that Miles had infinitely more development than Sampson was allowed.

I keep picturing Miles as being an assistant D.A. rather than an actual district attorney. Hence, with the American versions of Phoenix Wright taking place in Los Angeles, I got the image stuck in my head of Miles working in Hamilton’s office and him and Sampson sometimes meeting. (And probably clashing, oh dear. They’re too similar in arrogance and being headstrong to get along well, I would think.) Now I can’t unsee the idea, despite the fact that Phoenix Wright is supposed to take place several years into the future and uses a different court system, for video-gaming purposes. One of these days I expect I’ll be writing a short story on Sampson and Miles, just for my amusement. Poor Hamilton would probably have a headache with all the commotion.

(If I do write it, I would be most unlikely to incorporate either the new court system or the slightly futuristic date. It would be more like if the same characters had been born a few years earlier and were involved in present-day goings on, making them contemporary with my present-day Perry stories.)

I like Sampson even more now that I’ve had a chance to watch and ponder on his episodes again. H.M. Wynant did a wonderful job with the portrayal. Perhaps it was his idea to read the lines as he did, rather than the idea of the various directors’. I would be interested to know if that were so, considering how it made Sampson the most memorable of the assistant D.A. parade, and also how and why H.M. Wynant determined to tone the character down at various points.

I wish we could have seen Hamilton interact with him, at least once. But ah well, that is also a challenge for the fanfiction writers.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Case of the Golden Oranges

Since yesterday I’ve been wracking my mind trying to think of something even just vaguely patriotic for the blog today. Since I already spotlighted the military episodes I could only come up with the following ideas:

#1 Discussing The Golden Oranges, including its relevant sub-plot of whether or not Arthur Hunnicutt’s character was really a hero.

#2 Discussing Arthur Hunnicutt, and hence, coming back to the same episode topic.

#3 Discussing the one color episode and the lovely shades of red, white, and blue we saw on the series proper for the only time.

Of course, #3 is just plain silly (and shameless eye-candy). And it would require some screenshots (which I have, courtesy of my DVD). But if anyone wants me to do such a post sometime this month, I will.

For now I narrowed it down to the first two. But #2 would also require discussing season 7’s The Drowsy Mosquito, which I haven’t seen in quite some time. Then again, I haven’t seen The Golden Oranges in quite some time, either! So I suppose it’s a toss-up.

The Golden Oranges was one of the first season 6 episodes I saw last year after rekindling my interest in the series. It was also the . . . second time I saw Andy recently, I believe, and not the first as I’d previously thought. (I saw Andy many times years ago, but those memories did not travel with me and I only experienced some déjà vu of those times while watching some of the episodes last year.)

Basically the episode is one of my joys. There are so many classic, fun scenes, from Hamilton coming in to watch Perry defend a dog in court and discussing how animals really were brought to trial several centuries ago to Arthur Hunnicutt’s portrayal of our main guest star.

Arthur Hunnicutt has been a favorite of mine for years, ever since seeing him play Pa Kettle’s brother in The Kettles in the Ozarks. I was thrilled to see him on Perry, and also in his Outer Limits episode Cry of Silence (which is one of the few Outer Limits episodes that makes me laugh hysterically, at least for the first half of it. Then rocks fall and things get serious and unlaughable, for the most part).

Arthur typically plays rural or hillbilly type characters. He shines in The Golden Oranges as Amos Keller, the owner of the orange grove that is the central setting for the plot. Although he agreed to let his granddaughter Sandra sell the grove, he changes his mind at the last minute and refuses to sell. He hates the thought of the buyers chopping down all of the orange trees he’s loved and labored over and considered his friends for so many years. Plus, he doesn’t want to move into a retirement home that doesn’t allow dogs, which would force him to leave his beloved dog Hardtack behind. And he’s not partial to the thought of going to the Memorial Day parade by being picked up at the retirement home. That, he says, would be too embarrassing. Although Sandra tries to talk him out of such thoughts, Jim Wheeler, who works for Gerald Thorton, the man Amos was going to sign with, says he’s on Amos’s side after talking with him the day before.

All of the chaos in the episode results from Amos’s decision. Or rather, from the bad guys’ insistence on forcing him to go through with the deal when he doesn’t legally have to. Wanting to force Amos’s hand, the villains concoct a scheme to pretend the dog Hardtack bit Gerald Thorton. Then there will be the threat of Hardtack being taken away if Amos doesn’t cooperate, so they hope Amos will bend to their wishes to save his dog. Unfortunately for them, Perry is called in to defend the dog and gives reasonable doubt that Gerald’s injuries were made by a dog at all.

Furious, the bad guys are not ready to give up. And when Gerald Thorton ends up dead, an attempt is made to frame Hardtack again, as well as his owners. Sandra ends up arrested for the murder.

During the hearing, it comes out that something Amos has talked long and hard about through the years, being a hero during the Spanish-American War, seems to be a false claim. Hamilton brings it out during his examination of Amos. There is no record of an Amos Keller being part of the historic charge up San Juan Hill. The only Amos Keller on record was a clerk. Amos can’t deny the facts. He ends up looking like a liar just seeking attention and fame.

Perry and Paul, however, do some digging. And they eventually unearth a cover-up of a different kind. A corporal who was part of the charge was a friend of Amos’s. Upon his recent death and the reading of his will, there’s mention of Amos. It seems the corporal wasn’t part of the charge at all; he was a scared teenage boy, unable to move past his sudden fear to go ahead with the rest of the company. Amos took his place in the charge, but never said that the boy didn’t go with them. It was the corporal who ended up decorated, but, he said in the will, Amos was the real hero.

Hamilton has one of his best moments during that revelation scene. Although he doesn’t say a word, his expressions speak volumes. Clearly he feels terrible for having humiliated Amos and making it look like he really wasn’t a hero (even though the facts certainly pointed to it at that time).

Hardtack ends up being part of the solving of the murder. He recognizes the murderer and growls fiercely at him. And the murderer, agonized by the angry dog, finally confesses.

The epilogue features the Memorial Day parade and Amos, happily coming out to get in the car to ride in it. He calls to Hardtack, who joins him.

The scenes in court are so classic. There are several humorous bits in addition to the serious parts. Early on, after Hamilton observes Perry’s defense of Hardtack, he asks Perry if business is really this bad (that he has to take on animal clients). They have some very friendly interaction the likes of which was gloriously the standard thing by season 6.

During the murder hearing, Hamilton has a bit of trouble with Amos as a hostile witness. Amos initially refuses to answer anything and scolds the young Hamilton for his questions. (That’s not the first time a witness has referred to Hamilton as “young”. He definitely is, compared to those witnesses, but I always curiously wonder what the age of his character is. The age given in the books, if there was one, really wouldn’t apply to the television version; they’re very different character universes.)

As Amos remains uncooperative, Hamilton turns to the judge in exasperation. The judge instructs Amos that he must answer the prosecutor’s questions, no matter how they strike him. He finally agrees, but nonsense continues when, to protect Sandra, he insists that he wore the lady’s slippers that were found bloodstained at the scene of the crime. Hamilton is dubious and knows what Amos must be up to.

(One of these days I want to do a post on the most ridiculously uncooperative witnesses. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s gold. Poor Hamilton has conducted some very strangely amusing examinations those times.)

Being an animal lover, I enjoy the fact that the dog Hardtack has such a prominent and important role in the episode. He’s really quite adorable and gentle, except when he sees the murderer.

Andy has some good scenes too. He’s a bit more businesslike than friendly today, but he does engage in a bit of lovely lady admiring with Paul, to my surprise and amusement.

All in all, it’s such a great, fun episode. And its hero sub-plot makes it an appropriately patriotic highlight for this week.

Happy (belated) Independence Day!