Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Betrayed Bride

One of the things I love about Perry Mason is that it’s a legal drama. There’s usually funny bits in every episode, provided by the characters’ reactions to what’s going on around them, and sometimes there are cheesy things that are unintentionally funny, but the show doesn’t deliberately try to be funny. Nor do things often seem larger-than-life and ridiculous (aside from some of those cheesy things like several of the confessions).

I have nothing against the “dramedy” format for a show. Some pull it off amazingly well, such as M*A*S*H. But again, much of the humor comes naturally. It doesn’t feel forced or overdone.

The Betrayed Bride has never been a favorite episode of mine. I take issue with the family all trying to break up Nellie’s marriage, no matter what they think of the guy. When MeTV ran the episode yesterday, I discovered something else I really don’t like.

For what I hope was the only time, the show tried to deliberately be funny, silly, and larger-than-life. The whole family is a bunch of utter kooks. Nobody can be taken seriously. John Larkin’s Perry characters are always unique and memorable, but the guy he plays here is absolutely off-the-wall. The family reminds me of the nutty families that turn up occasionally in shows such as The Bionic Woman (in the Vincent Price episode) and Diagnosis Murder. But those shows, at least, are noted for falling more into the dramedy category. Perry, being a straight drama, really doesn’t carry such silliness well. It feels so out-of-place with the format.

The episode sticks with this lighthearted strangeness for most of the scenes until the murder happens. The family plotting to break up Nellie’s marriage and sending for the French girl to turn her husband’s head is presented in a largely ridiculous and humorous way. I think Jimmy is the only one who objects, if I remember right. I was out of the room for some parts of the early scenes when it ran on MeTV yesterday.

The episode finally does get down to business and be more serious once the murder has happened, but wow, what a wild ride to get there.

The one positive thing I will say about the nonsense is that everyone is marvelous at being kooky. It really shows how versatile they are as actors. John Larkin, Neil Hamilton, Jeanette Nolan, and all the rest are incredible. You can tell they're having a blast. And Jeanette Nolan, multi-faceted as always, is playing the biggest nut in the family . . . but it’s an act for the character as well as for the actress. She’s actually the darkest character in the story, who murdered not only the young husband she brought home, but the first husband who died off-screen before the episode opened.

Young Jimmy Meancham’s interest in and concern for the defendant Marie is cute. And the episode is unique in another, more positive way as it ends over in Paris. Both Perry and Della came over to explain everything to Marie’s parents. Perry is rarely shown outside of the U.S., and it’s even more rare that Della is with him when he goes!

The script was written by John Elliotte, who also wrote The Frustrated Folksinger and came up with at least some of the story for The Hasty Honeymooner and The Golfer’s Gambit. I don’t think our ideas of good stories mesh very well; absolutely none of those episodes are favorites of mine. The Frustrated Folksinger I like better than any of the others, but I still don’t find it particularly memorable except for Gary Crosby guest-starring. I’ll see if I still feel the same when it airs in a few days. And The Golfer’s Gambit . . . well, it could have been a contender, but as far as I’m concerned, it fell flat on its face once they got to court.

I should add a disclaimer that I realize the utterly silly and bizarre short story I did involving the vigilante The Ruthless Tooth ( is also highly incompatible with the series’ format. But its humor came largely from some of the show’s main characters reacting to the utter lunacy of the vigilante, making me wonder if I would find The Betrayed Bride more tolerable if there had been more of Perry and company reacting to those nutcases instead of just seeing the nuts mostly by themselves in the first half. I believe I would have been highly amused if Perry, Paul, and the rest had encountered them more. I love where Hamilton talks with one of the slightly eccentric old ladies in The Nebulous Nephew. I still wish the scene where Andy goes to the house in that episode had been shown and not just mentioned after the fact.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I have a very odd hang-up for a Perry Mason fan.

I do not like when favorite characters of mine, on any series, are thrown in jail for crimes they did not commit. For some reason, something about a character I’m absolutely nuts about being behind legal bars sets me on edge.

It’s something I absolutely will not write about in fan stories. They can be accused falsely, but actually being thrown in jail is a plot twist I won’t use.

I can’t really explain why that bothers me so badly whereas I have no qualms putting the characters through some of the disasters I’ve enacted in my stories. It doesn’t seem like there’s much logic to it; I only know there’s some kind of blockade there, without fully knowing why.

On Perry, there actually isn’t too much concern of my getting extremely tense over that plot twist. I often care about the defendants, and I don’t like them being in jail, but I don’t generally like them to the extent that it upsets me the way it did when, say, one of the main Diagnosis Murder characters was clapped in jail.

Perhaps it’s the way the show is set up. There are scenes of Perry talking with the clients in jail, but rarely if ever do we see them in their cells and what happens with them while they’re in there. Mostly it’s either them talking to Perry or them being in court.

Of everyone who has been in jail on Perry, the only time I’ve found it bothered me anywhere to the extent it has on shows in the past was the last time I re-watched The Daring Decoy (perhaps a week or so ago). I found myself absolutely not liking the idea of Daniel Conway in jail, at all. I wonder if that means I’ll end up having the same hang-up about Amory Fallon the next time I watch The Impatient Partner, as I thought I liked his actor every bit as much as Daniel’s.

And I hope Daniel isn’t going to prove difficult to write for. I just debuted him in the latest chapter of The Malevolent Mugging and wasn’t entirely sure of some of his dialogue. I want to make sure his speech pattern is different from Sampson’s. They both seem to have a pretty good command of the English language.

Personality-wise, there shouldn’t be any conflict. Daniel is easy-going and friendly, while Sampson seems rigid and arrogant. But it could just be because of only seeing Sampson in court settings; perhaps he’s friendly and amiable outside of court. And even in court, he’s quite gentle and kind with the widow in The Loquacious Liar and the teenage girl in The Red Riding Boots. If he was really the way I thought he was when I saw his episodes last year, he would have treated them as zealously as he did some other witnesses.

I’ve come up with a backstory for Sampson in the story too, which I find interesting to work with. It happened when I saw someone running a blog who came up with a backstory I didn’t care for at all. Theirs basically involved him having been an extreme womanizer while working through law school, jumping in bed with the women he met on his trucking job, both single and married. And the person speculated that maybe Sampson was continuing such antics even after becoming assistant district attorney.

Thinking of staunchly upright Sampson like that didn’t sit well with me at all. But it did get me thinking. What if Sampson had a past that wasn’t so glowing, and it helped mold him into the determined prosecutor we see on the show? That could be very interesting. So, borrowing a bit from the Diagnosis Murder episode Reunion with Murder, I crafted my own backstory, which ends up being an important plot thread in The Malevolent Mugging.

I envisioned Sampson as coming from a wealthy family, since he seems well-to-do and highly educated (which is, of course, not proof of a wealthy background at all, but it fit here). He enjoyed living it up and only went to college because it was expected of him. He skipped classes a lot and got involved with wild parties among some of the older students on campus. But he was never heartless or genuinely cruel, and when what started as a prank got way out of hand and the victim ended up kicked out of college over it, he felt horrible. He tried to rectify the damage caused by him and the older, ringleader students, but could not. After that, he turned his life completely around, devoted himself to the study of the law, and determined that he would always fight to protect the innocent from the criminal element that plagued Los Angeles County.

And he’s now the second supporting character in my stories whose family’s status has been established. His parents are said to be alive and wealthy, traveling in Europe during the story’s events. (Mignon was the first, although her parents and siblings have only been mentioned in my Livejournal stories.) They were not pleased with his decision to become an assistant district attorney instead of a cushy defense attorney, and he still has problems with them both, but especially his father.

I’m not sure why I haven’t felt comfortable diving into much information on the main characters’ families and backstories yet. Perhaps it’s because they’re more well-established characters and it doesn’t feel necessary. I think Tragg is the only one whose family life I’ve explored at all, of the main ones. And I have explored a bit of Hamilton’s backstory, mainly in some of the short stories I wrote about him and Mignon on Livejournal.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Dan Tobin's death. I haven't seen anything new with him since last month, nor have I learned any further information about him, but I definitely intend to remember him by watching a season 9 episode of Perry, and perhaps something else too. I hope to make an actual memorial post for him this week, but because of the extreme scarcity of information about him, I'm unsure if I'll be able to make anything very long.

We remember and love you, Dan! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I failed at writing a post yesterday. And I'm failing at writing a proper post today. This weekend I should have the time to get one in. Today, let's all eat to our hearts' content!

Meanwhile, I did jot off a rather odd character exploration blurb/short story involving characters from The Decadent Dean. I never thought that would happen.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Old acquaintances

One thing I find interesting is how many of the oneshot characters are already known to at least one character in the main cast (without being related to any of the main characters). But there’s different categories of people the main characters have known before.

The most characters seem to fall under the label of “People the cast knew years before the series.” This category is mostly populated by old friends of Perry’s, including the defendant in The Married Moonlighter (the little girl who proposed marriage to Perry when they were young kids, aww), the businessman in The Difficult Detour, Major Jerry Reynolds in The Misguided Missile, the family with the drugstore in The Promoter’s Pillbox, and dozens of others.

Sometimes Della has an entry in this category too, such as Della’s friend Janet in The Weary Watchdog. (Or at least, it’s assumed by fans that Della and Janet have been friends since before the events of the series, although it’s not known for sure.) I’m sure Paul also has people in this category, but at the moment I can’t think of them.

Of course, Hamilton has at least one person in this category—his friend Jefferson Pike, from The Prudent Prosecutor. And Mignon Germaine may or may not fall into this category; we only know that she and Hamilton have been friends for “a long time.”

Steve has his friends Dave and Susan Wolfe in The Silent Six, and Andy has the Norden family in The Hateful Hero, but it’s unclear how long they’ve known these people. The Wolfes, at least, probably belong in the below category.

Then there’s the category of “People the cast knew closer to the series.” That is to say, characters that Perry only met once he became an attorney, Paul his go-to private detective, etc. Mostly we see characters that were childhood or wartime friends, or from an unknown period that was still very likely pre-series. Still, there are quite a few businessmen and corporations that fall into this other category, since Perry is already the companies’ attorney when the episodes open. (Seriously, how can he be the company attorney for so many companies all at once? I would think it would pretty much be a full-time job to be the attorney for just one of them. I should make a list of all the companies Perry is the attorney for.)

A much less populous sub-category of this is “People who are from specific mysteries in the past.” In fact, off-hand I can only think of one episode that falls under this sub-category.

The Bogus Books introduces two oneshot characters that Perry and Paul originally met only several years ago. With both, they were brought in and addressed so familiarly and with such case-specific information that at first I found myself wondering if they were recurring characters and I hadn’t seen their original episodes. But that is not the case with either one of them.

One such character is the English professor Muntz, whom Perry first runs across in Joseph Kraft’s bookstore. Muntz muses on their first meeting and says it was five or six years ago during a “regrettable hazing incident” at the college where he teaches. Perry says it was six years ago. I was intrigued and wished that there had been an episode detailing said hazing incident.

Muntz is mixed up in the used book racket Kraft was running, but becomes concerned when Kraft’s pretty employee is arrested for Kraft’s murder. Muntz doesn’t want her to get convicted, nor does he want to get blamed for the murder himself, so he tries to investigate and find out what really happened. He and Paul end up tangling in the dark and punching each other in the face.

Muntz is quite a likable fellow, in spite of his involvement in the racket. He doesn’t seem to want any actual harm to come to any people and is, in general, good-natured. I would have liked him to turn up in a later episode, after serving whatever prison sentence he got for being involved with stealing books.

The other character is conman Gene Torg. While attempting to close a deal with Kraft that would let him and his girlfriend profit a great deal off the used book racket, he hears that Perry has arrived and immediately becomes concerned. Perry seems to recognize Torg, but Torg denies that they’ve met and hurries out.

Perry is undaunted. He remembers Torg and Paul does, too. In a later scene, Paul explains that they met Gene before, during a con game case. Hence, Perry had Paul begin investigating Gene immediately.

Gene is a bit of a mystery. He also seems fairly good-natured, and definitely takes a more actively visible pleasure in his illegal activities than Muntz seems to, but it’s somewhat unclear just what the full extent is of what he’s willing to do where said illegal activities are concerned. He’s a smooth-talker, and likely quite a deceptively charming conman, but he appears to shy away from violence. His girlfriend wonders if he could have killed Kraft by accidentally shoving him too hard, although she may have said that only to counter Gene asking it of her first.

Gene has one of the most amusing lines in the episode, when Perry is trying to find out the whereabouts of everyone at the time of the murder. Gene’s girlfriend was getting a shampoo, and Gene says he knows it sounds like he’s kidding, but he was getting a shampoo, shave, manicure, “the works” at the time.

I was also amused by Perry’s initial quizzing as to whether he had met Gene before. He says Gene looks familiar, which gave me a giggle in light of the fact that Perry and the others have met four doubles of Gene’s in past seasons—Daniel Conway, Slim Marcus, Deputy Sampson, and Max the diver.

(On a mostly unrelated side-note, I re-watched The Traveling Treasure on MeTV Friday night and was amused by Max chewing gum in court. I don’t think anyone else has ever tried that. . . . And now I got a silly mental image of Sampson giving him a black look because of it.

Max is a gold thief, but he’s not mixed up in that episode’s murder, and he still has enough decency to not try to involve fellow diver Charlie in the smuggling. He’s adamant about Charlie not being involved. But I’ll talk more about him when I do a post for his episode.)

I wonder if anyone’s written fan stories for the cases in which Muntz and Gene first appeared. I bet those would be fun to read.

Oddly enough, I can't recall if Tragg has any old acquaintances who pop up in the series at all. I kind of think he doesn't. Anyone know otherwise? It's one more instance of Tragg especially being slighted where background information is concerned.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Woeful Widower vs. The Fiery Fingers

The Woeful Widower from season 7 has several unusual things going for it.

(I’m also having the eerie feeling I wrote about this episode somewhere in the blog, even though I can’t find where….)

For starters, it’s one of only a handful of episodes (about nine total, I think) that’s a remake of a season 1 story. This one’s origins lie in The Fiery Fingers. I prefer this one. I like season 7 better than 1 in general, but in specific, I really like the way this one handled the plot.

The best thing about The Fiery Fingers is Perry’s interaction with the adorable but stingy old lady defendant. Perry is at his compassionate best as he accepts outrageous payments for his services without so much as uttering a protest. Of course, many kind-hearted people would probably find it difficult to protest, the way she comes on so certain of herself and the amounts she chooses. Perry ended up getting $30 in total ($5 for giving advice, $25 for defending her).

The person playing the same role in The Woeful Widower, that of the housekeeper tending to the invalid wife, is much less lovable. I thought something was a bit off with her from the beginning, the way she seemed so obsessed with her hatred of the husband and finding a way to show him up.

Perry doesn’t seem to like her, either, in contrast to his gentle fondness for the old lady in The Fiery Fingers. (In fact, the entire dysfunctional household in The Woeful Widower seems to thoroughly irritate and even anger him.) When she’s accused of robbery after having met Perry and told her wild story of believing the husband is going to murder the wife, Perry doesn’t want to defend her. Even after promising Mary Douglas, one of the only really normal people in the family, that he’ll help, Perry appears only as a friend of the court. And after he gets the case thrown out of court, he is displeased at the woman’s gleeful delight at the thought of suing the husband for malicious prosecution.

The invalid wife and her relationship with her husband is basically the same in both episodes. In both, she was hurt and blamed him for it, although the circumstances were different. And in both, she refuses to let him into her room ever after. He devises a plan to get her asleep with sleeping pills so he can sneak in and retrieve a pack of letters written to him by another girl he’s involved with on some level.

One interesting difference in the episodes is that while we see the invalid wife in The Fiery Fingers, she is only heard and not seen in The Woeful Widower.

The Woeful Widower gives us a look at a side of Perry we rarely see: when he really is wrong. Oh, in many episodes he suspects the wrong person for a while, but in The Woeful Widower he latches on to a suspect for the majority of the episode, obscuring his view of the big picture. He dislikes the husband thoroughly, certain that he really is the murderer as the housekeeper insists. Even when he doesn’t like the woman’s wild tales, he still puts stock into them, as he’s convinced there’s been a murder when he’s called for help shortly afterward. He’s very surprised to arrive and find the wife still alive and the household upset over the robbery. After the murder really does happen, Perry doggedly pursues all angles that would incriminate the husband, while meanwhile Andy says they cleared him long ago. It’s Mary Douglas who ends up accused of murder here, instead of the housekeeper again.

Perry’s determination to prove the husband guilty is never outright noted by characters in the script, but his feelings and intentions are quite obvious. It’s intriguing all on its own, but it would have added to it even more if someone, even Perry himself, had made some mention of how completely he was on the wrong path for a while.

The husband is quite a pathetic figure. He isn’t the (say, what’s the term for a male black widow? The kind of black widow that has a succession of spouses, killing each one, that is) murderer Perry is determined to prove he is. But he can’t seem to stop getting involved with women. With both wives dead under mysterious circumstances, and another girl around whom he seemed to be interested in, there’s always someone. He seems to be lonely, having ill luck with the women he chooses. And according to the third girl, Carole Moray, she just “felt sorry” for him and everyone did. She promises Paul that he will, too, eventually.

One thing both episodes have is Perry wanting to exhume the first wife’s remains to see if she could have been murdered, too. In The Fiery Fingers, Hamilton’s already seen to the exhumation by the time Perry requests it. In The Woeful Widower, it hasn’t been attended to, but the husband and Carole Moray are planning to arrange it themselves after Perry brings it up in court.

Harry Townes, the actor for Newton Bain, the husband, really did an excellent job with his character. It’s hard to think of this pitiful fellow as any kind of genuine Casanova, but I think that’s kind of the point. No one really fell all over him; like Carole said, they all felt sorry for him.

On the witness stand, it’s hard to tell whether he just feels sorry for himself or if he really does blame himself for things like his second wife’s injuries. And in the climax he finally shows a burst of anger, attacking the housekeeper in the house when he realizes she murdered both of his wives.

Perry has finally figured things out by then (apparently having done so sometime in court that day), and accuses her of the murders when he, Paul, and Andy rush in. She finally admits it. Her extreme hatred towards Bain is really because she loves him and can never get him to notice her. To him, she was just an albatross he could never get rid of. What a messed-up household.

Other players who flesh things out are the wife’s stepbrother and his wife. The brother is played by Jerry Van Dyke (sans the banjo). I can’t recall if they have counterparts in The Fiery Fingers.

I also don’t recall if there’s a counterpart for Mary Douglas, the main defendant. She’s played by Nancy Gates, and it’s a pity she doesn’t really have any interaction with Wesley Lau. They’re just wonderful when they play dysfunctional siblings on Bonanza.

The epilogue brings about Carole’s prediction. Paul comments that under the circumstances, it’s too bad the husband has to stand trial for assaulting the housekeeper. “In some ways,” he adds, “you have to feel sorry for a guy like that.” Mary looks at him in amazed and amused disbelief and exclaims, “What?!” Embarrassed, Paul takes it back.

Overall, I watch this episode semi-frequently. I enjoy its unique elements and intense plot. It’s not an absolute favorite, but it’s a fun watch. The Fiery Fingers I don’t watch as much, since overall I’m not as fond of season 1 as I am of later seasons, but I am curious to see it again now.

And I’m unsure what to do about a post next week. If I write one for Thursday, it will be right on Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ll try to write one the day before.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Balfours Everywhere!

Happy Veterans’ Day! I wanted to do a post suitable for the day, but I couldn’t come up with one that would work. I’d need to re-watch The Sardonic Sergeant and The Slandered Submarine before spotlighting them, and I’ve already rambled a lot on The Misguided Missile, even though I never have spotlighted it, per se.

One thing I’ve been wondering about is the name Balfour and its usage in the series. It doesn’t seem to be a very common name overall, and yet it turns up on Perry repeatedly. Is it a coincidence? Or did the crew really like it for some reason? Offhand I can think of three times characters by that surname played important roles in episodes.

The first time is in The Lucky Loser, an early season 2 venture. The Balfour family is said, I think, to be among the most influential families in the entire state (if not the most). That’s quite a statement, considering the size of California. They’re very wealthy, very powerful, and have the bad luck to run into enough trouble to need legal help. Perry is asked to defend the patriarch’s grandson and teach him how to fight for himself.

The second time is in season 7’s The Devious Delinquent. Once again, the Balfours are very wealthy. They are not, however, the same Balfours as in the previous usage. And once again, Perry must help the grandson of the patriarch. With the reappearance of the name and approximate social standing, I can’t help wondering if they’re supposed to be related to the other Balfours. Perhaps the patriarchs are cousins?

The name is back in season 9, with the character Ralph Balfour in The Wrathful Wraith. He’s connected with the murder victim Jamison Selfe, but I still can’t recall the exact nature of their involvement (business partners, insurance agent and client, etc.). And he ends up being the murderer. If he is connected with the wealthy Balfours, he causes them a great deal of scandal.

I want to say there was one other time when the name was used, but I can’t think when it would have been.

As with most of the large and rich families Perry and company encounter throughout the series, the Balfours in seasons 2 and 7 seem to be dysfunctional on various levels. It’s been quite a while since I saw The Lucky Loser, but I did see The Devious Delinquent recently, and again witnessed the disasters rampant among those Balfours. And they were all brought about by one wicked woman, the housekeeper, wanting to get everyone out of the way until she was the only one left to inherit. Ugh. As if that wasn’t enough, she tried to convince the poor grandson that she was his only friend, while she was really leading him to near-destruction.
If the name ever ends up in one of my stories, I'll probably try to connect all the Balfours into one big extended family. That would be interesting.
And I am afraid, as previously warned, that I may need to cut back on the number of blog posts for the next couple of months. The season grows busier and I don't have as much time to plot out detailed posts. I'll have to see what develops.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Has the mysterious Leon been heard after all?

I am rather exasperated that I forgot to address one other intriguing element in The Daring Decoy. It’s just possible that Hamilton’s supposed secretary Leon was heard sometimes, after all.

An unidentified man talks to Hamilton on the intercom in Hamilton’s office, letting him know of an arrival to see him. Hamilton thanks him and says to send him in. Was he talking to Leon? Unless he has more than one male secretary, or had a male receptionist at one time, it’s likely.

This fellow had a very deep voice, which is a bit difficult to equate with the image of Leon I designed in my mind. Actually, I had a different image of Leon before I tried drawing him, and when I drew him, I ended up with someone a lot younger (and with wilder hair!) than my original envisioning. And now that that character is an established part of my stories, I’m a bit unsure of what to do about this deep-voiced person in canon who may be the real Leon.

I guess it’s certainly possible that even the version of Leon I ended up drawing could have a deep voice, going against type. But it’s certainly going to be hard to start hearing him with that voice in my mind, since I’ve been hearing him with a much different voice. I wish I’d remembered (or that someone else had remembered and told me) about that bit in The Daring Decoy before I designed Leon. And I’ll have to look through other early episodes to see if Hamilton speaks with this person at any other times. I’m very curious now!

I had thought I was drawing nigh to the conclusion of The Malevolent Mugging. It was scheduled to launch directly into a sequel, possibly called The Gruesome Graveyard. Hence, a lot of loose ends were to be left open as it closed. But upon reading and re-reading the proposed final chapter for The Malevolent Mugging, I just couldn’t feel good about closing the story there and marking it “Complete”, even though I would be immediately starting the sequel to continue things.

At this current time, I have determined that, like some novels, The Malevolent Mugging will be one big story comprised of two parts. The chapter I just put up today marks the end of Part One, and the next chapter should be the beginning of Part Two. Since I have publicly announced these intentions in the story itself, I hope I won’t end up changing my mind and reverting to the separate sequel idea again.

Part Two will continue the threads of plot that have been left open, including one of the important writer-created character’s disappearance and the continuing aftermath of Deputy Sampson being attacked. Various clues and plot threads will also entangle Daniel Conway and his nemesis Warner Griffith from The Daring Decoy, and the characters will discover that those people’s problems will have a direct bearing on the case at hand.

Instead of further confusion with Daniel and Sampson looking so much alike (considering that there’s already the Amory and Andy thing), I have half a mind to have either them or people around them think that they do not resemble each other that much, and be perplexed when anyone suggests it.

Also present will be a mysterious woman named Virginia, who claims to be a distant relation of the Petersons’ and demands inclusion among the recipients of a departed Peterson family member’s will. She quickly becomes a fixture around both Amory Fallon and Daniel Conway, seeming to be trying to stir up trouble for them both while coming across as completely innocent and oblivious. Amory suspects she is trying to drive him mad by making it look like they’re having an affair, while with Daniel she appears to be attempting to frame him for illegal activities.

I’ve been attempting to write for Deputy Chamberlin, furthering my idea of him and Sampson being friends. I’m finding, however, that Chamberlin is difficult to get a voice on. While it’s true that both he and Sampson canonically spouted dialogue written for Hamilton, Sampson delivered it with more flair and personality and it was fairly easy to find a unique voice for him. Chamberlin still doesn’t feel very developed, no matter how I try to work with his character in scenes. I’m hoping that as it goes on, I’ll be able to figure it out.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Daring Decoy

I can identify a lot of the Perry episodes by title alone, but The Daring Decoy was not one of them. Such is the case with some of the season 1 episodes. However, there are very unique witnesses and plot elements in those early episodes that I sometimes remember them by. As soon as I realized the bookworm elevator operator was there, I realized what episode it was. I’d seen it several times and liked it alright, but overall it never really stood out to me as exceptional.

The Daring Decoy is fun, intense, and quite book-inspired. It’s kind of a jolt after Perry and Hamilton had several episodes where they were on better terms, especially The Empty Tin three episodes earlier. Then this episode comes along and Hamilton makes perhaps the most jaw-dropping comment throughout the series, when he tells Perry that if he had his way, Perry would be smelling brimstone through a nail-hole. Wow.

That’s probably the closest television Hamilton came to acting like his book counterpart. Everyone surely knows by now that I’m not too pleased with some of Perry’s law-bending, but nevertheless, that’s quite a harsh comment against him. Last year I never thought I’d have a reason to count this episode among my favorites, as the ones where Perry and Hamilton are extremely at odds like that generally never are.

. . . Then I discover that it’s the first of H.M. Wynant’s Perry appearances. And that he’s the main guest star. By the time I watch it all again, I’ve decided to give it a pass in spite of that cringe-worthy remark and the other scenes where Perry and Hamilton are on bad terms.

H.M Wynant has an interesting history of Perry episodes. I was incorrect about him never being the murder victim, and also never playing a really nasty sort. Tobin Wade in The Decadent Dean is one of the worst slimeballs in the series, I think. It looks like he really was friends with the titular dean and his wife, and then his greed turned him against them, even to the point that he manipulates the poor wife into drinking again and fakes his own death, framing the dean for it. Gah. He ends up dying for real later. And H.M.’s shady private detective character in The Tell-Tale Tap also bites the dust. In addition to them, he’s the killer in The Singing Skirt (which I have yet to see again, as it’s really not a favorite at all).

But his character in The Daring Decoy is very different. Daniel Conway is a good guy, a hapless businessman and company president who walks into a cleverly crafted trap and needs legal help.

He’s also very unique among Perry defendants. The early part of the episode focuses on him alone and not really any other guest characters. I only recall this happening in a couple of other episodes.

Has anyone noticed that most Perry defendants have either family members or friends somewhere? They generally come in and are important to the episode and to the interaction surrounding the main guest star. We learn a lot about who these people are, and their backgrounds, from the way they interact with those they're close to. But Daniel seems to have neither family nor friends; by all episodic indications, he’s a loner. His only ally, aside from Perry the company attorney and probably his secretary, seems to be a stockholder from Texas who apparently has a crush on him (which is reciprocated). He’s embroiled in serious conflict with a former member of the company’s board of directors, who may or may not have been a friend at one time.

Daniel is very good-natured in spite of all this trouble. He’s a kind and friendly person and a levelheaded businessman. Some loners are aloof or even grouchy, but not Daniel. He is surprised and bewildered when the Texas stockholder wanders into his office late at night and wants to know what he’s doing to protect himself in the conflict with Warner Griffith, but he isn’t curt or rude, even before he knows who she is.

Like many defendants, he doesn’t know quite what to do when he walks into the trap and finds a murder. He takes the gun, which belongs to the company, and tries to fool the elevator operator into thinking he’s just getting on at the sixth floor instead of the seventh. With her buried in a book, he’s sure he can get away with it. But she recognizes people’s shoes, and without ever looking up, comments on him walking down a floor before getting back on the elevator.

(And musing on this is suddenly making me realize something else fairly unique about Amory Fallon’s case. So many defendants actually stumble on the murder scene. Amory never even saw it. He was in the apartment house, but not Ned Thompson’s apartment.)

The elevator operator would be a fun character to bring back in a story sometime. She’s one of my favorite unique witnesses in season 1, along with the photographic memory fellow in The Fugitive Nurse. I wish they had both appeared in other episodes.

The conflict between Daniel and the former board of directors member, Warner Griffith, is something I’d be curious to explore in a story too. Griffith really seems to hate poor Daniel. Whether or not he really believed Daniel guilty is unknown. Griffith isn’t the murder victim, which is also unique. In many episodes, he would have been.

Also, I think I’d enjoy having Daniel meet Amory and comparing and contrasting them. I have material with which I hope to write a follow-up/sequel to The Malevolent Mugging; maybe this will all be a part of that.

The Texas stockholder is determined to do something to help. She goes to Perry, lying to try to craft an alibi for Daniel, and insists she knows he couldn’t be guilty. Perry knows she’s making things up and tells her that unfortunately, the courts won’t recognize women’s intuition as evidence. Perry eventually manages to sort the whole thing out, of course.

By the end of the episode, when the murder is solved and Daniel is acquitted, he’s hanging out with Perry and Della at the counter of a restaurant and grill (Clay’s?). The Texas stockholder, Amelia Armitage, shows up to check on him, congratulate him on his victory, and assures him of his re-election as company president. Her family owns 37% of the stock. Daniel remembers her from when she wandered into his office near the beginning of the episode and seems quite taken with her. Della wants to play matchmaker and see if she can arrange a “merger”. Perry scoots her out, to allow the two to get to know each other on their own terms.

Della places Daniel’s age at around 33. Whether the age was deliberately picked or not, it does closely match H.M.’s real age at the time. Depending on when it was filmed, he would have been either 30 or 31. He was 31 by the time it aired in March 1958.

Overall, it's probably about the only episode where Perry and Hamilton are on seriously ill terms that I will now enjoy watching repeatedly. A main guest star I quite like goes a long way to make me receptive.

And I think I’ll go ahead and just put up the link to that Perry fanfiction website I’ve been working on. I have it pretty good right now, although I plan for actual paragraphs of information rather than just basic dossiers of the characters, and I still need to get up the section for the main characters. I’ve been having fun with the listings for oneshot and recurring characters first and foremost, as I want to make sure it’s clear what episodes they’re from.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Garrulous Go-Between and The Dodging Domino

Well, I epically failed at getting any post up right on Halloween. I was running extremely late, and I’d gotten a burst of inspiration for working on The Malevolent Mugging. Since other projects have been claiming my attention a lot lately, I wanted to seize that inspiration while I had it. But I consider the Halloween season to technically run through All Souls’ Day, even though I don’t observe that, so I feel I’m still on time. But I apologize to anyone who was looking for a post yesterday. I didn’t get so much as a chance to make a post saying the main post would be delayed, in between everything else.

To be honest, I’m kind of fired up about The Daring Decoy and would like to examine its unique structure and squeal over its main guest star, but I’ll try to keep all that for the weekend post and finish up the Halloween episodes series first, as promised.

I watched The Garrulous Go-Between on Monday, and remembered why I’d never considered it one of the paranormal episodes. There is a fortune-teller, true, but just the fact of her worshiping Isis for the giving of fortunes certainly isn’t enough to push this into paranormal or even just eerie status.

It’s generally accepted by the other characters that the fortune telling is a fraud, although she never wanted harm to come to the main girl and did not deliberately participate in any scheme to make her believe in the fortunes. Therefore, I suppose it is possible that she really did see something. Either that or since she knew that the bad guys were out to get the girl, she was trying to deliver a warning masked as a fortune. I don’t recall that either way was actually made clear.

The main disturbing thing happening in that episode is the main guest star’s canary ending up dead, following a fortune that someone the girl cared about would die. And actually, I don’t remember that ever really being explained, either. But I would assume that one of the bad guys killed the canary, as Perry speculated, in order to make it look like the fortune had come true.

Meanwhile, The Dodging Domino has a very intriguing title. A friend of mine mentioned she wished there would have been an episode taking place at a masquerade party, and to be frank, that’s the image I had in my mind of what The Dodging Domino must be about, before I saw it again last year. I was kind of disappointed by the main plot revolving around ownership of a song, with Halloween mainly as a backdrop. The day only becomes important during court, when Perry proves that the killer was a short man who hid among the trick-or-treaters dressed in costume himself.

I do like the resolution scene and concept; it’s unique and clever. And Hamilton’s reaction to a group of trick-or-treaters coming into court is priceless.

The method of death is rather chilling—electrocution by a heater being thrown in the bathtub. I don’t think that sort of thing was used much. Andy even comments on the heater as an unusual murder weapon. Most of the time we see guns, knives, and poisons as murder weapons. It’s a bit of foreshadowing of the present-day shows, perhaps. It seems much more common these days to try to have strange methods of death in mystery shows.

This is the only episode written by Charles Lang, and while he definitely makes it stand out with the concept, and writes the main characters well, I’m not sure what to make of his cast of guest characters. Some of the dialogue feels absolutely cringe-worthy. I know I’ve heard people say Perry is cheesy, but I thought usually that applied solely to the crooks so often breaking down and confessing. (And probably also to how Perry almost always wins.) Other than that, dialogue is usually spot-on and feels real.

In this episode, however, I’m often not sure whether to laugh or wince at some of the conversations between the guest cast. The entire opening scene with the eventual murder victim and his girlfriend comes off so strange, particularly as they’re discussing costumes to wear to a party. I’ve especially never cared for the girl’s “Da-dum” and her introduction of her cigarette girl costume. It feels extremely cheesy. The fellow also is often overdramatic and silly throughout the scene and the episode, although I attribute that mainly as confirmation that he is, as he’s told, “a clown”.

(I do like that he’s so fond of the kids and wants to have trick-or-treat stuff for them. He’s not a very nice fellow, but he’s not as horrid as some of the victims, either.)

Then you throw in the actress Mona White’s overdramatic agent, Mona playing pranks on her “friend” Alex by completely scaring him into thinking she’s getting him into a plagiarism suit over that blasted song (which, by the way, sounds about twenty to thirty years out of date, but that could just be me not caring much for those types of showtunes) and then later completely denying any such intentions, and Mona’s off-the-wall insults. Alex’s goatee beard is a pair of earmuffs temporarily out of place? Um, okay. I snicker at that while groaning at the same time. That is just weird. In fact, Mona is just weird. Perry seems to think she’s rather kooky himself (albeit he’s at least somewhat amused).

I should mention, while I'm not familiar with a lot of the guest actors (other than Maureen Arthur, whom I've liked for several years), my disparaging comments are based only around the characters they're playing and the way those characters were written. It's not meant to be any reflection on what I think of the actors' talents. I believe the actors worked the best they could with the material they were given, and that the material itself was cheesy from the start.

This episode takes the prize for some of the strangest dialogues throughout the show’s entire run. And while I do like how Halloween became important to the plot, I really wish that there had been another episode specifically set at Halloween where the holiday was a central point throughout, perhaps with the masquerade party idea, perhaps something else.

I think overall, my favorite Perry episodes for Halloween are Samuel Newman’s, with The Meddling Medium in first place and The Fatal Fetish in second place. (In general I like The Fatal Fetish more overall, but this is solely describing its appropriateness as a Halloween venture.)