Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Case of the Wrathful Wraith

The Wrathful Wraith opens in a very unique way. Perry is in court during the hearing of Louise Selff, charged with killing her cruel husband on their boat and throwing the body overboard. There’s not enough evidence and the case is thrown out. The assistant D.A. handling the case is disgusted and says he hopes Perry can sleep nights, letting a murderess go free.

Louise is in a badly nerve-shot state. As she goes out to the car with Perry, reporters hound them all along the way. Her old medium hands her a business card, telling her that she can speak with Jamison Selff and help Louise. As Louise accepts the card, the photographer’s flashbulb goes off, there’s a clap of thunder at the same time, and she screams in anguish.

After two weeks recuperating, she’s coming back home with her friend Rosemary. For a moment she starts in horror, thinking she sees Jamison at his desk. But it’s only his . . . business partner? Insurance agent? Great, I can’t remember and I can’t confirm or deny it anywhere else. Well, it’s Ralph Balfour (an unusual surname, and one the Perry writers seemed to like. I wonder if all the Balfours are part of the same powerful family?). He’s looking for something in the desk. And on the desk are assorted pieces of hate mail to Louise from various cranks. Her friend Rosemary tries to convince her not to read them, but she does anyway.

Louise continues to be distressed. She’s still on trial, she tells Perry, until the real murderer can be caught. She’s also thinking of seeing that psychic. Perry stresses against it. As the rain pours outside, Louise offers Della a raincoat. But Jamison’s raincoat is missing. After Perry and Della leave, Louise discovers that some cufflinks are also missing.

Those instances are eerie enough. But at the mystic’s house, Louise is convinced she sees Jamison. And not the cardboard standee of him that’s randomly in the woman’s house, but the genuine article. Back home, she receives a telephone call from her dead husband, telling her to look for an envelope in a desk drawer. She discovers it. These incidents just about send her over the edge.

The envelope’s contents involve a deal Jamison made with Arcott Laboratories. Louise needs to pay $30,000 to receive part-ownership. Ralph Balfour discourages doing so, however, and Louise is conflicted. At last she decides not to go through with it, feeling it’s too risky and she’d have to wait so long for any returns, but another phone call from Jamison has her collapsing in horror and anguish.

Ralph invites Perry and Paul for a drink before leaving the house that night. When they go over later, the sounds of a fight are clearly heard in the lit apartment. Finally Ralph lets them in and says he was fighting an unknown burglar in the dark, who was scared off by Perry and Paul’s arrival.

Louise, meanwhile, is trying to sleep. A strange figure stands over her bed and tells her to change her mind and give Arcott the $30,000. The person leaves, after throwing something right at Louise. She screams, bringing Rosemary rushing into the room. Then they discover that what was thrown is the missing raincoat.

This is too much for her and the doctor is called. He sedates her. Later, she takes the household gun and keeps it with her, determined to use it for protection if need be. Rosemary is very worried about her and tries to find the gun, to no avail.

That night the spectre returns. Somewhere in all the commotion, he falls off the balcony, shot. Perry and Paul find him below as they run up. This time Jamison is dead for real.

Of course Louise ends up on trial again. During the course of the case, Hamilton questions Rosemary about Louise’s insistence that Jamison was haunting her, when Louise was fully convinced he was dead the first time. Hamilton makes his opinion on ghosts perfectly clear, as he exclaims in disbelief, “Do you honestly believe a normal mind can believe in ghosts?!” At the defense table, Louise hears and is at the point of a nervous breakdown. Hamilton sees her and visibly feels terrible. He requests to talk to the judge and Perry in the judge’s chambers.

Hamilton tells them that he isn’t enjoying torturing Louise, and although he really believes she’s guilty, he also thinks she was just driven to it and is imbalanced from everything Jamison was doing to her. He thinks a plea of innocent by reason of insanity is the kindest thing for her, instead of putting her through this hearing. Perry is gracious, but says he would rather put Louise through that then have her end up in an institution. He doesn’t believe she’s imbalanced.

The plot finally unravels around the Arcott deal. Jamison had intended to stay dead, thinking Ralph would tell Louise to pay the $30,000. As the “widow”, Louise was the only one who could do it. But Ralph encouraged her not to pay, so Jamison had to “come back from the dead” and try to convince Louise otherwise. He really wanted that to go through, feeling that once Louise had money from the returns, he could “return to life” claiming amnesia and get the money himself.

Perry exposes Ralph as the double-crosser and reminds him of the night the burglar broke in. Ralph lied about the lights being off and not being able to see who it was. It had been Jamison, and Ralph had known it very well. Jamison was interfering with Ralph’s own plans, aware that Ralph had double-crossed him, and so Ralph had killed him.

There’s a lot of eerie, supposedly paranormal things going on all throughout the first half of the episode, from the mystic claiming she can get in touch with Jamison to all of the things happening as Jamison tries to convince Louise he’s haunting her. And yet somehow, there’s just not much of a feeling that there’s really a ghost at foot. Maybe it’s because I went into it originally knowing there wouldn’t be (and I wouldn’t be expecting it of Perry anyway). Yet even when I re-watch The Meddling Medium or The Fatal Fetish, despite knowing what’s happening in them, it still feels really creepy in the key scenes. Maybe because in the end, I still have some lingering doubts as to whether other forces were at work along with what was revealed.

I wish Hamilton’s strong feelings against the existence of ghosts had been explored more in the series. It’s an intriguing angle, one that, again, I’m pleased the writers remembered to keep all along after its introduction in season 5. I raised my eyebrows a bit at the bluntness of his comment on whether it was possible for sane minds to believe in ghosts, but it’s an interesting insight into his character, and the scene that ensues, with Hamilton clearly feeling terrible about putting Louise through the torture of the hearing, is one of my favorites ever. In the end, that segment is my favorite bit relating to the paranormal in this episode, rather than any of Jamison’s tricks.

As far as those tricks go, I think the part where he throws the raincoat at Louise is probably the creepiest. The camera angle is very good; the raincoat is flying right at the audience. And no one knows what it is until Louise and Rosemary discover it moments later.

There’s also at least one part I’ve never seen—the bit with the missing cufflinks. It’s missing in the print that airs on my local station, and I imagine that’s the same print MeTV airs. (Or maybe it will be chopped even further; I was cringing at everything gone from The Difficult Detour that I’ve seen in even my local station’s print.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I seem to have run into a bit of a dilemma. I miscalculated how many blog posts there were for the month. Hence, I discovered I have no topic for today. And it’s somewhat of a busy day too, so I’m wondering if I can devote the proper time to a full-length post.

I finally managed to update The Malevolent Mugging a couple more times. I am determined to finish this story. I think it’s heading towards the climax now. And Deputy D.A. Sampson got attacked, which means that I have turned a lot of attention towards him. Typically when I do that, it’s to explore the character’s relations with other characters. And typically when I do that, it’s because I rather quite like the character and am seeking better understanding of him.

Yes, I like Sampson. So much so that H.M. Wynant is becoming one of my favorite character actors. Last year, I never would have suspected either of those facts. Although I think I always liked Sampson to some extent, in spite of myself, due to his being the most interesting of the guest prosecutors in season 4.

I’ve also had this utterly bizarre idea for a crossover story between The Wild Wild West and Perry. Of course, time-travel would be involved (on the Old West characters’ parts). And Sampson and another H.M. Wynant character were the culprits responsible for the whole thing.

I could not get the image out of my mind of Sampson encountering Little Pinto, a sadistic outlaw from the Wild Wild West episode The Night of the Poisonous Posey. Pinto is killed in the episode, but there’s a mad scientist in another episode who specializes in reviving the dead, so I plan for her to bring back Pinto and the rest of the Posey gang. I picture Pinto finding it both hilarious and repulsive that his double is a staunch supporter of the law and ending up lassoing Sampson to torment him, much to Sampson’s indignant outrage. And somehow I think that Sampson is more upset that his double is a criminal than anything else.

Because I got such a kick out of that scene, I started coming up with the entire basic plot premise. And before I was done, I’d also managed to throw in a Wesley Lau character from Cannon and another H.M. Wynant Wild Wild West character, due to wanting to write about them both and deciding to put them in the same story in order to do so. And it wasn’t long before that storyline invariably became part of the main concept. Yes, this is a very strange story indeed.

I’m trying to sort out various possibilities of some of the details, and to do that I started a website just for the crossover idea. It’s also open to the main public while I tinker with it, and since almost everything there is particularly speculative rather than decided, I’ll share the link for that now.

I have no idea if the thing will ever get off the ground at all, which is another reason for sharing the link. I like my ideas for it and want people to know about them, whether or not they end up working out.

I’m also almost finished with that secondary, eerie Perry Halloween project for the writing challenge. I have one segment left, and am frankly wondering how to satisfactorily wrap it all up, but I will definitely find a way. I put those poor characters through a lot, but they must always have a happy ending when all is said and done.

I’ll do the Wrathful Wraith post this weekend, as I planned, and since my discs of the second half of season 7 are on their way, I hope to re-watch The Garrulous Go-Between and get up a post for it during the remainder of the Halloween season.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Fatal Fortune

I was hoping that would happen, although I wondered if it would be a December release. But January is awesome too! And so close!

But hey, CBS, stop making Andy a brunet! He’s nooot!

Ahem. Not that there’s anything wrong with brunets, of course. I love them! But Andy just isn’t one. What happened? Did the artists get hold of Wesley’s second One Step Beyond appearance and just absolutely latch on to his dark hair after the Pharaoh possesses him? That’s the only time I can think of when he isn’t his natural blond. And honestly, I don't think dark hair works well with his coloring. It looks all wrong on him.

My local station is starting over with Perry again, after having skipped over even more episodes than before. I watched episode 1 on Friday with a new perspective, imagining its original airing and what it must have been like, to see those classic versions of the characters for the first time. It was a very interesting trip, but what I came away with the most was the thought that Perry himself matured as the seasons went on, instead of it just being Hamilton who did.

And it made me realize all the more how much I love and prefer the later seasons. I’m tentatively thinking that even with its cringe-worthy missteps, I might like season 9 better overall than season 1, mainly for the character development in many of the episodes. Season 1 does have amazing plots, and it’s a lot of fun seeing everyone so young and fresh, but overall I prefer the added maturity and wisdom of the characters later on.

And actually praising season 9 is a good lead-in for discussing The Fatal Fortune.

It’s somewhat predictable that when Julie Adams’ character Pat goes to a fortune teller for a laugh, some of the fortune begins coming true. The fortune teller himself is a rather eerie sort, and whether or not they were going for that, the casting is perfect. He details various events that will happen to her, from gaining a promotion to making a decision about a romantic situation in her life. And he implies that her husband will die. He tells her she’ll meet the Prince Charming she wants, but first she’ll wear a bride’s white and a widow’s black.

That’s about when she’s had enough. As she and her friend leave, she’s warned to watch her step. Outside, a car nearly runs her down. She’s pulled back to the curb just in time and remembers the warning with a gasp. And above them, Marius the fortune teller observes with an eerie, knowing smirk.

Although the episode unfolds with the other parts of the fortune coming true, the most unsettling and paranormal-ish part is definitely the opening, including the near-miss with the car and Marius standing by. Every line is delivered very appropriately spookily, and with his expressions he really looks like he stepped out of a horror flick or television anthology.

Pat’s romantic dilemma is heavily explored. Her older boss is in love with her and has repeatedly asked her to marry him. She’s turned him down but cares for him dearly as a friend. He asks again, and despite meeting a younger man whom she starts seeing, she eventually decides to accept her boss Max’s offer after he has a heart attack while waiting for her answer.

I never have liked the younger man, Gordon Evans. He repulses me, especially when he tries to convince Pat that they should have an affair even if she marries Max. Pat is thankfully repulsed too.

After their wedding, Max begins exhibiting strange behavior. He’s always been bitter towards his son after said son disappeared, and now he’s feeling ill and believing that Pat is being unfaithful to him. Perry, a friend of his, is worried about him and wants him to see his doctor.

Another very disturbing scene, albeit not paranormal in nature, is when Perry and Steve rush to the house after Pat calls Perry in terror, saying that Max has become violent. Max stumbles to the top of the stairs, loudly and painfully proclaims that Pat poisoned him, and tumbles to the bottom. Steve examines him and finds he’s dead.

I actually find May-December romances very sweet and cute, when the parties care about each other. I was heartbroken that Max was murdered here. He’s a gruff but kind fellow, before someone starts tampering with his pills and making his personality go haywire.

Gordon Evans eventually shows up at Perry’s office, declaring that he loves Pat and wants to help her. He also reveals that he is Max’s missing son.

During court, Hamilton is utterly repulsed by Gordon too—so much so that he loses his temper and demands to know if Gordon and Pat were in on the scheme together to take Max’s fortune, thinking he wouldn’t live very long. He apologizes immediately, saying he got carried away. But as it turns out, Gordon is very involved.

So is Pat’s friend Beth, who is actually the mastermind. And the fortune teller was led to believe they wanted to pull a joke on Pat when they left him the instructions of what predictions to make for her.

I would love to see Hamilton tear into Beth and Gordon at their trials. What wretched, twisted, disgusting people.

One unique thing about this episode is that when Marius comes to the stand, it’s Perry and not Hamilton who jeers at the idea that Marius can tell the future. We know Hamilton would find it all nonsense himself, but he simply makes objections to Perry’s “sarcastic browbeating”. Ordinarily it might be just the opposite.

Hamilton displays a lot of interesting behavior in this episode, from those objections to his utter repulsion at Gordon Evans. On the latter, the case definitely seems to have struck a particular chord with him. I almost wonder if it’s because, being older himself, and a bachelor, he sympathizes with Max’s plight and imagines himself being set up by gold-digging wretches and how he would feel.

It’s not a very paranormal episode overall, despite the creepy opening. Overall, Marius is probably the eeriest element. And the next episode, albeit much more paranormal, still doesn’t match up to the episodes Samuel Newman wrote. But it does display more of Hamilton being very involved and wonderful.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Birthday Tribute: Dan Tobin

Tomorrow is Dan Tobin’s birthday! He was born October 19th, 1910. And … that’s unfortunately just about all I know of him, other than his death date (November 26th, 1982) and his wife’s name (screenwriter Jean Holloway). Gah, why do these sad and unfortunate things happen, with people fading into obscurity like this? Such a pity.

He’s a fun character actor with a very distinctive acting style. And looking over his credits, I have known about him for years without really knowing him. I saw him as both a lawyer in Herbie Rides Again (I think I remember which lawyer, too, now that I know he was in it) and as a gentleman crook on The Andy Griffith Show.

More recently, I stumbled across him quite by accident on The Wild Wild West. And that’s how I found my Halloween season angle for this post, as the episode, a first season venture called The Night of the Burning Diamond, is rather creepy. Dan plays a special agent sent from Washington to oversee Jim and Arte’s attempts to recover some very important stolen diamonds. The problem is, they’ve been stolen by a mad scientist who has developed a formula for traveling so fast that everyone else stands still.

Dan’s character is stuffy as he demands results. His best scene is definitely where he scoffs at the possibility of diamonds or other inert objects exploding, and picks up a pool ball as emphasis. Arte yells at him not to shake it and to throw it out the window, whereupon it explodes. It was one of Arte’s trick devices. But he just smiles and says, “You never can tell about those inert objects.” Dan’s character’s expression is priceless.

Also, I see that he guest-starred several times on two supernatural series, Bewitched and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I far prefer the latter, which Dan’s wife Jean Holloway seems to have been heavily involved with from start to finish, and I’ll have to see if I can locate the episodes he was in.

(Incidentally, I hope that series gets an official DVD release someday soon. It’s sweet and funny and cute and sometimes sad, often all in the same episode.)

I imagine one of his most well-known roles is in the first Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn venture, Woman of the Year. While I’ve seen some of their films together, I’m not sure I’ve seen that one.

I have seen The Big Clock, an intense and exciting film noir piece. But I don’t recall his character in that, unfortunately. I should see it again; it’s great.

Of course, for us Perry fans, he will always be remembered as Terrance Clay in season 9.

Clay is an interesting and unique character. His establishment, Clay’s Restaurant and Grill, is mentioned more than once in season 1. (Does that mean it was a book location?) And it’s seen at least one of those times, I think, but in a vastly different style. It’s bright and light and seems more spacious, rather than the dimmer, more crowded set in season 9.

I suppose we’re to assume that the cast has been hanging out there often all throughout the series. But Clay himself doesn’t make an appearance until the last season. I wonder what prompted the crew to bring him in? All I can think of is both that they wanted the show to return more to its roots (implying that the locale is indeed in the books) and that maybe they thought there should be a character uninvolved with both the defense and the state who comments on stuff.

And boy, does Clay comment. He seems to have vocal opinions on everything, from the cases to women to extolling the virtues of his Irish heritage. He is especially proud of the latter. And when he remarks that he can understand all of the bizarre goings-on in the Wrathful Wraith case, but he just can’t comprehend women, Della proclaims him a misogynist.

In The Bogus Buccaneers he ends up one of the defendant’s son’s three godfathers. I would like to know what got cut from the episode that may have made that plot thread make sense. As it was, he just wasn’t shown interacting enough with either the defendant or his wife for it to really seem logical. But it’s a cute angle in any case. And he and the other two godfathers (Perry and the defendant’s parole officer) decide to take care of the bill for Perry’s services, so the little family won’t have any debts hanging over their heads.

Clay is in perfect health, he tells Perry in The Carefree Coronary, and he expects to live a good, long life. A relative of his lived to 108 and died only because he was trying to get his animal out of the mire.

He has very, very low opinions of crooks and other slimy people, and when they’re killed off, he doesn’t always think it’s a bad thing. Sometimes he apparently thinks they’re worse than the supposed murderers. He goes so far as to say that the accused in The Candy Queen should be given a medal for killing the victim, instead of being prosecuted.

Quite a colorful fellow, to be sure.

I haven’t had occasion to use him much in my stories, but he is mentioned in The Broken Ties and several others. And in The Malevolent Mugging he at last appears and takes on a role of semi-importance, as a friend of Amory and Edith Fallon. Considering Amory’s surname is of Irish origin, and considering Clay’s love of everything Irish, it seemed just the perfect way to finally bring Clay into things.

No one else could have brought Terrance Clay to life as uniquely as Dan Tobin. Happy birthday, Dan!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gary Collins, and The Fatal Fetish Again

Gah. So I learned that Gary Collins died yesterday. That was a saddening shock. I was already planning to spotlight The Fatal Fetish today for the paranormal themes, but that clinched it. Rest in peace, Gary. You are loved and already missed.

(Also, I’m wondering if I should add The Garrulous Go-Between to my list of episodes to spotlight, since there’s fortune-telling and a séance involved in it, among other things. I haven’t watched it for a long time, so I’d need to see it again before I’d spotlight it. If added, chronologically it would need to be the one today. So it will be out of order. Maybe, since I wanted a post on Halloween, and that's a Wednesday, I could have a post then as well as one the next day, on Thursday.)

Gary Collins plays in two Perry episodes, and if I were spotlighting very dark and disturbing episodes as well as ones with paranormal themes, his other episode would make the Halloween viewing list too. While Gary plays the murderer in that second one, The Crafty Kidnapper, in The Fatal Fetish his role is completely different. Larry Germaine is, of course, one of Hamilton's must trusted assistant district attorneys.

As the devoted son of Mignon Germaine, who knows exactly what Gary's Larry character was exposed to while growing up. Mignon is an entertainer, canonically a cultural dancer, and her current act, at least, involves a vodun ritual and a voodoo doll.

Does Mignon really believe in the religion or is she just a performer? That is never really explained, but it’s certainly implied that she believes. She discusses magic noir with Hamilton, to which he scoffs. She tells him it’s no joke, although it’s possible she’s just being playful.

The voodoo doll from the show is kept in her dressing room. As soon as she hears from Agnes Fanchon that Carina Wileen, who has been leading Larry down a path to destruction, is in the audience, she goes for the doll.

She debuts it in a new form during the dinner show that night. Instead of dropping it in the urn as the script directs, she walks very deliberately to Carina’s ringside table and drops it there. It now has blonde hair and a white dress, like Carina. Stone serious, Mignon runs it through with the dagger, pinning it to the table. Around her, the music has stopped and everyone is watching, bewildered.

Carina knows its meaning, after Mignon told her she would do anything to keep Larry safe from her. But she isn’t afraid of this method. She drunkenly cackles as she rises from the table, intending to walk away. Instead she sways, suddenly having a pain in her side. And as everyone watches in astonishment, she collapses to the floor. Standing by, Mignon does not look surprised. A faint smirk of satisfaction plays at her lips.

The cinematography for the scene is very well-done, making it extremely eerie. As the music winds to its climax, scenes are shown in rapid succession of Carina lying on the floor and a close-up of the stabbed doll, before the scene fades out.

Paul is about as skeptical as Hamilton. At the hospital, when it’s revealed that Carina is being poisoned, he mutters disparagingly about aspects of vodun and wonders if he should take a “non-stop broomstick to Haiti” when Perry wants him to research it. Amused, Perry advises him to take more conventional transportation to a local museum and speak with an expert on the subject.

The “expert” most likely isn’t an expert in reality, as he gives Paul some misleading information along the way. He does admit that it’s a complicated mixture of various things, but he (and Mignon too, actually) still makes it sound as though vodun always involves black magic and wanting to hurt people. It’s a stereotypical Hollywoodized notion, so I don’t really blame writer Samuel Newman for going that path. But in actuality, it’s only renegade vodun sorcerers who practice black magic. The majority of the sorcerers work with white magic and helping people. Voodoo dolls aren’t even supposed to be used to hurt people. They’re often given for good luck.

Paul seems particularly repulsed or weirded out by the idea of snake worship, so it’s a safe bet that he probably hates snakes. Some information is given on the snake god—that its origin is the serpent in the Garden of Eden—to which Paul is further in disbelief. I am trying to research that point, but so far I have not found any corroboration. I imagine it’s possible that snake gods in all or many religions could stem from that, but in any case, this snake god is benevolent. Which is certainly a point no one seems anxious to make here.

Aside from simply dismissing all of the misinformation as bad writing, there is at least another explanation for Mignon using the doll in the stereotypical way. She’s a desperate mother, worried about her son. She might be willing to try anything, as she threatened. Alternately, whether or not she’s actually a follower of the religion, she might have only wanted to give Carina a warning or a threat, instead of thinking the doll would really do something. Her lack of surprise at the collapse, however, certainly suggests that she believed something would happen. Gah, it must have been so horrible for her when Larry ended up accused of Carina’s eventual murder and the real murderer said he got the idea to do it when he saw Mignon stab the doll!

After Paul does his interview, the eerie elements are mostly dropped in favor of investigating the strange goings-on at the Allied Pharmaceutical Company. There is a mysterious scene when he goes to New Orleans to find Mignon, but nothing creepy really happens beyond the tribal drum-type music in the background.

In the epilogue, everyone gathers to watch Mignon and Agnes perform in the dinner show again. Agnes then changes the script by smiling and throwing the doll to Larry, who catches it with a grin. Paul comments, “Uhoh. Here we go again.”

In spite of misinformation, and the paranormal not being responsible for what happened, the scene where Carina collapses is still eerie. And I suppose that it was subconscious power of suggestion when she saw the dagger, but still, to get the pain and fall right after that is chilling. Particularly with the succeeding close-up of the doll.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Man-Eating House

Further proving that I do strange things when left to my own devices, I have been tinkering with a website this past week, at points when I haven’t had any other immediate things to get written. I was inspired by a friend creating a website to talk about the workings of an intricate role-play game she’s involved in, and I started a website to sort out the workings of the timelines I have going in my Perry stories.

It’s mostly for my own entertainment and usage, since I have different stories on and on, but if anyone else gets a kick out of it, I’d be pleased. I also talk about the various oneshot episode characters who play important roles in the stories and discuss some of the background information behind the stories. I try for the most part to give information that I haven’t recorded here. When I get further along with it, I plan to talk about the main characters as well, and the things that happen to them throughout the stories.

I’m not ready to officially announce the link yet, but I probably shall soon. Meanwhile, since I forgot to set the website to Private while I tinker with it, it is floating around cyberspace if anyone randomly wants to search for it.

I have topics figured out for every blog post this month, except today’s. And I was kind of hoping to tie it into a Halloween theme (although I don’t yet know how I’ll do the same thing with the tribute next week). So I decided to fall back on something I said I might occasionally do—spotlight characters or guest-spots that some of the cast has been involved with.

I came up with the idea of talking a bit about William Talman’s character in the episode of The Wild Wild West called The Night of the Man-Eating House. Now that is truly an eerie and unique haunted house excursion. The spirit haunting the house seems to be directly connected to the house, so much so that the house itself feels alive. When it traps the characters inside, and they try to damage it to get out, mournful and pained cries fill the air. Arte sums it up as, every time they hurt the house, she cries.

William plays a small-town sheriff traveling with Jim West and Artemus Gordon as they try to return an escaped Federal prisoner to prison. Most of the episode is a nightmare Arte is having, but there really is a freaky house, seemingly just like he dreamed about. They run into it in the waking world at the end of the episode, leaving things wide-open for a continuation. Hopefully, things wouldn’t go exactly the same as in the dream, since Arte would surely remember the details and try to prevent it from playing out the same way.

Assuming the sheriff’s personality is the same in Arte’s dream as in real-life (and that’s backed up by them having exactly the same conversation in both the dream and reality when they find the house), he is very skeptical. I could not help but be reminded of Hamilton just a little as he expresses disbelief over the house being haunted and even able to be hurt. My favorite line in the episode is his, as he incredulously exclaims to Arte, “Hurt the house?! What kind of nonsense talk is that?!”

Unlike Hamilton, however, the sheriff isn’t as cultured and doesn’t always use proper grammar. When the house first seals them all in, he says, “Them shutters! They’re slammin’ themselves shut!”

It’s always a bit surreal to hear an actor use a speech pattern he rarely uses, and I’m not sure it’s entirely believable from William, since his characters usually have a better command of the English language, but it’s very interesting. And William does make the character very believable in other ways. His expressions as the house continues to act up are classic. An example:

Also unlike Hamilton, the sheriff comes across as a bit absent-minded and possibly trigger-happy. He has to be reminded more than once to bring the lantern and shine it around, and when weird things happen in the house, his first instinct seems to be to shoot. He tries to shoot a mysterious orb that comes in the front door and floats in the entryway, which results in the doors to the living room slamming shut. When Jim and Arte manage to get them open, the chandelier falls and nearly kills Arte, and the prisoner escapes.

The sheriff gives chase, firing warning shots towards the ceiling, but the ghost of the house, the prisoner’s mother, has no intention of allowing him to catch up. He meets a very mysterious and disturbing end off-screen. When Jim and Arte find him moments later, Jim exclaims that every ounce of blood has been drained from his body. And unseen by them at this point, their elderly prisoner is now a young man.

The transformation is explained later as some sort of power over time that the ghost has in the house. Whether the sheriff’s life force was also part of the process is not revealed.

His death greatly disturbs both Jim and Arte. In the morning they talk about the sheriff lying dead upstairs, sounding very sobered and affected, and then go up to look around now that it’s light. They find that his body is suddenly gone. The antagonist gives no explanation and no further mention is made of it.

I suspected the escapade was a dream due to the distortion of the screen when Arte fell asleep near the beginning, and it’s probably about the only time I’ve been happy for that twist. Usually a dream ending is a cop-out, a deus ex machina, an easy way out of a problem. But I was thrilled to see the sheriff alive and well the next day, when Arte woke up. And I stubbornly insist that when they find the house in real-life, Arte will remember more of his dream and he and Jim will manage to keep the sheriff alive.

(Curiously enough, I learned that the episode was supposed to not be a dream, but CBS was running scared and did not want a supernatural thing airing so early in the evening, so they had to change it to a dream. Good grief, how times have changed. Not always for the better, considering some of the stuff that airs early in the evening these days, but CBS being so worried about this episode still seems amusing and laughable.)

I started a story continuing the episode’s events, but I haven’t got very far in it. I did give the sheriff a name; I decided to call him Sheriff Whitney, after William’s middle name.

It’s sad to realize that the Wild Wild West guest-spot was one of William’s last. And unlike most of his characters, the sheriff has a mustache, making me wonder if it’s the same one he had in The Ballad of Josie, his final film.

My Halloween story this year involves a very dangerous and disturbing house. While it doesn’t cry, it does seal the Perry characters inside, and I christened the tale The Case of the Man-Eating HouseI also have a few scattered references to the Wild Wild West episode, including, of course, Hamilton being skeptical (or rather, wanting to be) and scoffing at the nonsense of the house itself locking them inside.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Case of the Meddling Medium

So I’ve decided to start a community on Livejournal for Perry. I keep finding fans there and I determined we need a place to play. If you’re on Livejournal, drop on by! In fact, if you’re not on Livejournal, come sign up! It’s awesome.

And I’ve finished the Halloween story. That’s definitely a weight off my mind, and off the month’s schedule. It should be easy to just work with blog posts and the remaining pieces of the ten-part writing challenge, particularly since the latter will be spread throughout the rest of the month.

Meanwhile, I’m putting up the Halloween story in several parts, since it ended up way too big to be a long oneshot. It’s an ensemble piece, but Della seems to have become highly prominent.

Also, you may notice I changed the blog’s background. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, and thus spotlight characters from all throughout the series run and not only the original Core Five. It seems highly appropriate, especially since two of my favorite characters are not part of the original Core Five.

I determined to take the paranormal episodes of Perry in the order they aired. But since The Dodging Domino has no supernatural elements and instead takes place right at Halloween, I’m undecided whether it will be a part of my series or if I’ll spotlight it later, perhaps on Halloween.

The first time Perry delves into the paranormal is season 5’s The Meddling Medium. And I think it is rivaled only by The Fatal Fetish for a creepy and chilling presentation of the paranormal.

The Meddling Medium takes place at a large and isolated mansion. The lady of the house, Sylvia Walker, is consumed by a desire to contact her dead son Thomas. Her nephew Philip Paisley shows up and promptly seems to go into a trance, delivering a message from Thomas via automatic writing. The message consists of a poem Thomas wrote right before his death, which only his mother Sylvia ever saw. Immediately she is convinced that Philip has really been in contact with Thomas. Over the ensuing months, Philip moves in and repeatedly goes into trances and delivers further messages.

Sylvia’s daughter, Bonnie Craig, is not convinced in the least. She is certain that Philip is pulling off a cruel fraud for reasons of his own, but she can never prove it.

One evening, when Perry is visiting the house at Bonnie’s request, it all comes to a head. Philip goes into a mood and refuses to keep trying to enter the trance that night. He tells Bonnie that she should do it instead, if she’s so convinced he has no powers. And, hoping to prove him a fraud, she goes to the table to do so.

She ends up in a trance-like state herself, and writes a verse, backwards to boot. Perry holds it up to the mirror and reads what sounds like a warning on Philip’s life. Philip leaves in disgust to take the in-house elevator to the bottom of the hill. Thomas was killed in that elevator before Philip insisted it be repaired. But tonight something has gone wrong again. Philip dies the same way Thomas died before him. And Bonnie is accused, especially after it’s revealed that she was seen going in the direction of the elevator with some tools.

There’s the matter of her death note, too. Of course, there’s no way for Perry to prove that Bonnie really went into a trance to write it. But he learns he may be able to legally prove whether Bonnie has ESP, and hence, may have written her macabre message after sensing the thoughts of someone else in the room. With the help of a parapsychologist friend of David’s (who played himself, by the way; he really was a parapsychologist!), an elaborate test is prepared and okayed by the judge. It does eventually prove that Bonnie has miniscule ESP abilities, and due to an electric Faraday cage, reveals the true murderer—an electrical expert—to boot.

Hamilton’s opinion on the paranormal is consistent throughout the series, which, while being a little detail overall, is something I’m impressed with the writers for remembering. The great Samuel Newman wrote two of the paranormal episodes (in fact, the two I find the eeriest), but he did not have any involvement with the other two. In this episode, Hamilton makes a hilarious quip about Perry utilizing ectoplasm and other macabre methods to build his case. And throughout the subsequent ESP test, Hamilton looks very skeptical, although he says very little.

The uncut version of the episode reveals to the audience from the beginning that Philip is faking his trance. The usual, syndicated version of the episode leaves this out, making the audience unsure of whether it’s real or not. But in any case, Bonnie’s trance is very much unexplained until the very end when her ESP is confirmed. The scene where Bonnie writes her mirror message of death is, I think, the creepiest scene in any of the paranormal episodes. The last thing the audience is expecting is for her to space out, let alone to write something like The fraud whose hoax turned hope to dread, shall take his place among the dead.

Even the house looks eerie. The exterior shots of the mansion on the hill, complete with a raging lightning storm, look like something out of an old horror picture.

I wonder to whom the title refers, anyway. “The meddling medium” could either be Philip, meddling by pulling off his fraud, or Bonnie, meddling by unwillingly inserting her own trance in place of Philip’s. Or it could even be, I suppose, the medium Philip asks for help in faking a trance.

The Meddling Medium was most likely intended to be a Halloween episode. It even aired towards the end of October. And I give it a very high approval rating. It’s a perfect Perry episode to watch on a dark, cold autumn night.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Not a full-length post, but something.

Well, folks, I definitely say it looks like I'll have to trim a bit, post-wise, in October. I'll make sure to get all the paranormal ones in, plus there's a birthday tribute in a couple of weeks. But I may shuffle things around, at least on the weekdays. There may not be any set day on the weekdays when something will go up, just whenever I can grab the time to write. And I'm thinking I'd like to have one specifically on Halloween, a Wednesday.

Seems I bit off quite a bit this month. I'm still working on my very long Halloween story, and in addition to that, I've taken up the other half of the writing challenge at Livejournal's October Writing community: namely, to write ten short pieces of at least 1,000 words each during the month. And I'm using some of the prompts from my favorite writing prompt community, 31 Days, to fulfill it.

These shorter prompts are also very Perry-related; I've decided to continue something I wrote this August and combine it and the new scenes into something I'm tentatively calling Dead on Arrival in my Memories: This linked list will update with each finished piece. I'm hopeful I'll be able to write all ten for the month, but that's not as important to me as finishing the Halloween story while there's still a lot of Halloween season left.

The themes seem to have taken on a supernatural air, which isn't unexpected considering the subject matter and the time of year (and the author). But the particular supernatural air they've taken on is a surprise to me. Even though I knew that the unfortunate cast member from August's piece would have to be back somehow, if I started an arc.

Happy Halloween season, all!