Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bill Vincent again

How does that Bill Vincent manage to keep slipping past me? I didn’t remember that he was the assistant D.A. with Hamilton in The Golfer’s Gambit. Of course, I scarcely watch the episode, so it’s a logical error to make.

Seeing it again on MeTV this week, I was reminded of all the reasons I hadn’t liked it before. Those still stand, and in addition, the murder victim Chick irritated me a lot more this time. He repulsed me every time he was on the screen. If I hadn’t been trying to record it, I would have loved to have fast-forwarded the episode ahead to the banquet where Hamilton spoke.

But as cringe-worthy as Hamilton’s testimony and cross-examination in court were, I did like seeing Bill Vincent again. It’s interesting that Hamilton trusted him with the task of coming along and questioning Hamilton on the stand. And I enjoyed the silent exchange of Bill asking if that was all and Hamilton giving a slight nod.

So that makes three appearances by Bill Vincent. (And I double-checked Don Dubbins’ credits to make sure there weren’t any other surprise appearances lurking about.) Clearly the writers were trying to do something with him, as I previously surmised. Bill seems to have been placed as being important to Hamilton—a recurring character for the prosecution, and the first aside from the mysterious Leon to actually interact with Hamilton. If the series had been renewed for a season 10, I’m assuming we would have seen more of Bill.

Making Bill a prominent assistant D.A., one whom Hamilton seems to have especially taken under his wing, is the sort of thing I would have loved to have seen the writers do with Sampson. It would have given Sampson even more screentime and he would have interacted with Hamilton, both of which would have been wonderful things.

Bill is certainly in need of more help than Sampson, however; Sampson has been shown to be able to put together some very good cases and has researched about as much as any D.A. on the series is allowed to by the writers. He has a blustering approach at times and is a bit harsh, but overall he seems far more mature and experienced than Bill.

Bill, on the other hand, has been an eager beaver both times Hamilton let him handle an entire case in court. I’m guessing he was more subdued in The Golfer’s Gambit because Hamilton was right there, and perhaps he was still mortified and mollified after Hamilton had to come right into court to stop him in The Impetuous Imp. Too bad he couldn’t have taken some of what Hamilton subsequently tried to teach him into practice; towards the end of the season, The Misguided Model shows him as being quite possibly more impulsive than ever. The judge gives him a fierce scolding for his flimsy case against the defendant, more than I remember Hamilton ever being given.

Unfortunately, since Hamilton’s testimony was made out to be so awful in The Golfer’s Gambit, the writers’ intentions may have been that Bill picked up Hamilton’s bad traits instead of his good; hence, the scene in The Misguided Model. I still wish Hamilton’s testimony hadn’t been written to be so ridiculous. Even if he and the police are supposed to jump to conclusions, it usually doesn’t get that bad.

(I didn’t really like Perry’s eventual, amused smile, either; other people and I get that type of smile in real-life when someone thinks we’re being ridiculous. Its inclusion definitely drives home how bad the scene is. It’s a pity; I usually feel that Orville Hampton wrote better for Hamilton than Ernest Frankel did. I wonder if the court scene could have been John Elliotte’s idea. He had some involvement with the story as well, and I generally don’t care much for his Perry story attempts.)

In any case, it’s really interesting how often Bill was used, particularly since he’s the only assistant D.A. since season 4 to have more than one episode. I wish the writers could have had the chance to go somewhere else with him, to show him learning something good from Hamilton and applying it in the way he handles a court case. And there could have been so many fascinating scenes of Hamilton talking to and teaching Bill in his office.

I wonder if anyone ever interviewed Don Dubbins about the character and if he knew what the intentions were for him. That is impossible now, sadly due to his death some years ago. But if such an interview ever did happen, I wish I could find it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Background People, Places, and Things

One thing that fascinates me is when a series takes the time to examine background locales, people, or things that repeatedly crop up. There’s a book series written by a local author that does this. Each book in the series has the main characters (who are angels) trying to help a different character who was featured in the first book, no matter how minor the character’s role was. That is awesome. Everyone gets the spotlight eventually.

Perry has also done this every now and then. I think the earliest occurrence was in the season 1 episode The Gilded Lily. That is the infamous one where all the suspects are blonde. And the defendant is Stewart Brent, the owner of the building where Perry and Paul have their offices!

I was very surprised when I watched that episode anew in 2011 and discovered that fact. I had never expected that we would meet the guy owning the building, or even that the Brent whom the building was named after was necessarily in the area or even alive. It was a lot of fun to meet him.

Along those same lines, there’s actually quite a few episodes that deal with other people who have offices in the Brent building. I’ll have to start making a list of them as I run across them again; right now, for some reason, the only one I can call to mind is the one with Steve Ihnat near the end of season 8. (The Duplicate Case, as I just remembered.) And also, I think another season 1 episode, The Terrified Typist, involves at least one other office in the building.

From the beginning of the series, the newspaper all the characters are reading is the Los Angeles Chronicle. Many episodes feature the paper’s front-page headlines, describing the murders and the people arrested for them. Most likely the most memorable shot of a paper is in The Caretaker’s Cat, where the paper is displayed and then burns up, just like the man’s house. Wow, that’s an intense and unique shot.

The season 5 opener, The Jealous Journalist, finally gives us some insight into the paper and the people responsible for it. The main plot concerns the disappearances and deaths of Adam York and his brother, and how the paper’s future depends on the will, the shares allotted to those in the will, and the interests and integrity of said people.

Of course, I’d say the biggest background thing to later get spotlighted is Clay’s Restaurant and Grill. Mentioned a couple of times in season 1, the place is never actually identified amid all the eateries the characters frequent. But in season 9 it becomes a very real location, with a very real Clay. The place is seen at least once in most all in-town episodes of season 9, and Clay is present for almost all of those appearances.

Regrettably, some people never did quite make it out of the background. Gertie and Sergeant Brice, two faithful characters practically from the beginning, always remain out of the spotlight. They have some good scenes in some episodes, but they are never a major focus.

I have heard that Gertie is more prominent in at least some of the books. And I don’t know if Sergeant Brice is ever in the books at all. I think the main sergeant in the books is someone else, and I don’t know if he’s similar in any way to Brice.

It would have been a lot of fun to see an episode based around Sergeant Brice. We could have learned more about this quiet, loyal member of the L.A.P.D., and maybe seen more interaction between him and one or two of the Lieutenants.

While Brice is my favorite of the two, and I would probably in all honesty be more interested in an episode about him, I would enjoy learning more about Gertie, too. She seems a bit scatter-brained, but I think her appearances definitely show a hint of an intelligent woman—particularly when she has to fill in for Della in season 7. She also likes to fangirl over things, I’m guessing, judging from that stack of fan magazines she keeps at her desk. She would be fun to write about.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Notable Guest-Stars: Allison Hayes

I am so sorry. I was so busy this morning/afternoon, I wasn’t able to squeeze a blog post in. And I hadn’t decided on a topic. Several ideas came to mind tonight, and I determined to go with this one.

One of my favorite female guest-stars on Perry is Allison Hayes. Popular with the B movie crowd, I’ve heard, one of her most well-remembered roles was in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

Apparently I’ve known of her existence for years without being fully aware of that fact, as her first released appearance was in one of the Francis the Talking Mule movies. I saw most of those many years ago, and although I was never a big fan, I found them fairly enjoyable. I remember seeing the one she was in, Francis Joins the WACs, but I don’t recall anything about her character.

I find it a bit sad that the film she considered her best, Count Three and Pray, did not give her the proper attention. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t fully pass judgment, but I’ve seen multiple times where various actors and actresses don’t get the credit and attention they deserve from audiences and critics and are overshadowed by other, more well-known names. In this case, however, the opposite happened—the previously unknown actress (Joanne Woodward) was given the attention while the already-known Allison was mostly ignored. They should have both received attention, if their performances warranted it, and I have no doubt that Allison’s did.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, Allison became friends with Raymond Burr while working on the picture, and it was implied that their friendship was at least partially responsible for her appearing on Perry.

This fansite that I just stumbled on seems to include a great deal of biographical information. I’m going to be perusing it for a while; it looks like fun.

I was stunned a couple of days ago when I learned that Allison died very young, at age 46 in 1977. And it’s very tragic that it sounds like it didn’t have to happen. She received lead poisoning through a calcium pill she had been taking for years. For the last years of her life she fought hard to get the FDA to stop importing that pill. When she was diagnosed with the leukemia that led to her death, it was unclear how it had developed, but it might have been instigated by the pill, or by the many X-ray examinations when she was trying to find out what was wrong before she realized it was the pill.

The fansite I’m still looking at seems to only make a brief note of her appearances on Perry. She was in five episodes through the series’ run. I spotted her in The Singing Skirt when I watched it recently. And I saw her in The Laughing Lady on MeTV. She’s also appeared in The Deadly Debt, as the sister of the murder victim, and in The Captain’s Coins. I am having a terrible time bringing her character to mind in the latter episode, however. From the summary I found, it doesn’t sound like she had much screentime. And I suspect at least some of it was chopped out of the only version I’ve seen. Maybe that’s why I can’t recall her. I like the episode, and I plan to dig it out to watch her in it. I’ll probably send for the uncut disc from NetFlix.

Her largest and most memorable Perry role, I feel, is in The Bogus Books. (Of course, you knew I wouldn’t forget that one, right?) As Pearl Chute, she has many scenes and even has the chance to light up the screen with H.M. Wynant, who is playing her “friend” Gene Torg. The characters certainly seem to behave as though they’re not solely friends! In any case, lucky, lucky girl.

I’ve been pondering more on Pearl’s actions in the episode, specifically towards Gene, and came to a conclusion. It doesn’t seem to me that Gene’s presence in the book racket would have particularly added anything to Pearl’s benefits, considering what she wanted. In fact, she would probably get a bit less than she might otherwise, since Gene would need to be paid part of the money too, under Pearl’s terms. Hence, from Pearl’s point of view, I imagine that regardless of whether Gene was really trying to go straight, Pearl felt that the deal was just too good to pass up and she honestly wanted to share the benefits with him. Not that it justifies her trying to pull him back into criminal activities, but if from her point of view she honestly was trying to do him a favor, it would make me feel better about her actions towards him.

I wonder if Allison and H.M. were friends in real-life. The Bogus Books was not the only time they appeared together. Of course, they were also in The Singing Skirt, but I don’t think they shared any screentime in that.

They did, however, in an episode of Shotgun Slade called The Laughing Widow. H.M.’s character sadly ends up dying in that, and Allison’s character falls apart, grieving and sobbing over his body.

Who knows; they may have had other appearances together, too. This one wasn’t even listed among H.M.’s credits; I stumbled across it quite by accident. I’ve added H.M. on the IMDB page for the episode and hope that there are other things he’s been in that aren’t listed. That would mean more surprise finds!

I consider Allison a hero in the same way I do William Talman, for her staunch determination to get the FDA to ban the dangerous calcium pill. I plan to look up more of her movie and television work; her last appearances are two episodes of Gomer Pyle that I have around here somewhere and like. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if my favorite of her roles is always Pearl Chute.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Depressing Perry episodes?

While trying to think of a topic for today, I wandered into the Perry Mason Yahoo Group again to see what was being discussed. The interesting topic of “Do any episodes literally depress you” jumped out at me and I began to ponder.

Honestly, I don’t tend to be depressed by Perry episodes. Sometimes the death itself depresses me, but that’s rare, and generally doesn’t impede my enjoyment of the episode overall.

The closest I think I came to being depressed by a Perry episode is The Silent Six. The disturbing revelations that the murder victim was killed because the shooter thought he was the one beating up Susan Wolfe, when he wasn’t, left me with a bit of a cold, shaken feeling. However, on later viewings, that was countered by all the wonderful screentime for Steve. I look forward to seeing this episode every time it’s on, in spite of still being disturbed by the climax in court. Undoubtedly that has to be one of the darkest, most ironic cases.

Other deaths that seem particularly depressing to me are in The Empty Tin and The Lover’s Leap, two episodes I absolutely love.

In The Empty Tin, I did not like that the old man’s nephew (played by Warren Stevens) was killed right after his marriage. And the poor bride was shot too, but she was going to live. What a horrible thing for her to wake up to! I wish that they would have had the husband critically wounded as well, but still alive. I doubt I could even write a little story to save him, since he seemed to have been shot right in the heart.

And in The Lover’s Leap, one of the key plot points is the fact that the angry, divorcing couple was putting on an act and truly loved each other. When the husband fakes his own death and later is killed for real, his wife is so grief-stricken and distraught that she has to buy tranquilizers to try to hide it. Perry eventually breaks her down on the witness stand, as she sobs and wails that she can’t take it any more. At the end, when the killer is revealed, Mrs. Comstock collapses against Perry in tears, still overwhelmed and unable to bear her husband’s death. The guy was a jerk, and she surely could have done better with her romantic interest, but since they did genuinely love each other, the plot thread was discouraging and depressing and left me with a feeling of “What’s she going to do now?”

I very briefly explored a possibility of that in one of my stories. When I wrote a series of scenes to be woven together into the story Lux Aeterna, one of them features a despondent woman assisting the madwoman Florence when she takes over the world. The woman tells David Gideon that she’s aligned herself with the megalomaniac because she doesn’t care about the old world now that the only person she loved isn’t in it. I never named her, but I did intend for that to be Mrs. Comstock.

Other deaths I find depressing are Captain Caldwell from The Misguided Missile and Mr. Jeffers from The Nine Dolls. Caldwell was killed for knowing too much and not being willing to back down on bringing the criminal to justice. Mr. Jeffers was killed because he had discovered his long-lost (to him) granddaughter and intended to change his will and leave everything to her.

There are a few other scattered deaths throughout the series of people killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as well as a few other people who knew too much and several killed for other, equally unfair reasons. I felt bad for the woman in The Fiery Fingers who died because her cousin was so jealous of her. It would be boring if the victims were always slimeballs who pretty much deserved to die, but that doesn’t change that it’s depressing when a good person (or even one not as bad as some of the others) gets offed.

(Then there are the occasional times I find it depressing when one of the slimeballs is killed, such as Simon Oakland’s other Perry character in The Frantic Flyer. That generally happens if I like the actor or if the character exhibits some behavior that makes me pity them in spite of their slimy actions. In that fellow’s case, it’s both. I felt bad for him that he truly loved Janice and she was out to betray him. And then he got killed by the guy who mended his leg, someone he probably came to trust a good deal after all those weeks. That episode is a true parade of slimeballs. Not that many episodes aren’t, but it particularly stood out to me there.)

Overall, though? I still can’t come up with even one Perry episode that depressed me all the way through. I might dislike the death or some other elements, but on the rare occasions that I find an episode truly awful . . . I get irritated, not depressed. And if by some chance I get depressed by an episode on one viewing, I probably won’t on the next.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Musings on the "later episodes"

One thing that seems to be a constant source of disagreement among fans is the later episodes. And I’m never quite sure what is meant, by and large, by something as vague as “the later episodes.” Some people seem to mean season 6 on. Others refer mainly to 8 and 9. And others probably have other meanings.

Personally, when I use the term, I generally mean season 6 on. Although maybe season 5 on would technically be better, since that is when Lieutenant Anderson first appeared, I believe it’s really season 6 when things begin changing the most. The difference is, I am thrilled with the changes. And many fans I encounter are not.

I suppose the great majority of the complaints I hear are actually about seasons 8 and 9. And said complaints run the full gamut, from the plots are either weak or complicated to Raymond Burr was getting tired of the role and it shows to there’s not enough scenes between Perry and Della! And probably many others.

My main complaint about season 8 is, as mentioned before, the strange way the writers treat Andy. The plots seem fine to me for the most part, save for one or two here and there. The outrageously ridiculous scam in The Blonde Bonanza boggles my mind (although I’m okay with the episode overall). The Sad Sicilian irritates me because of the eponymous character’s behavior and the way Della is so gosh-darn fond of him. And The Avenging Angel (from season 9), while interesting at first, takes such a long time telling us the ins and outs of the music business that the murder doesn’t even happen until there are around fifteen minutes left. I was pretty restless and impatient by that point.

(Then there’s also off-the-wall cases like The 12th Wildcat, which I’ve already ranted about plenty. But for me, the screwy episodes are always an exception, not the rule. Yes, even when it’s season 8 or 9 being discussed.)

Since I’m not an active fan of the Perry/Della romantic pairing, any lack of scenes between them has mostly gone unnoticed by me. Anyway, I thought they had some very nice scenes in the last two seasons, from their interaction in The Paper Bullets, The Twice-Told Twist, and others.

And as for Raymond Burr being tired of the role and it showing, well, maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. I’m starting to think it’s a personal preference, as I’m not the only one who doesn’t really observe this and/or be bothered by it. I realize he was getting tired of the role; that’s pretty much a fact. But I can’t say it’s a fact that it shows.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately that some people don’t appreciate the characters growing more serious as the seasons go on, changing from the happy-go-lucky, more impulsive characters they were at first. This also must be personal preference and not an out-and-out proof that the series was going downhill. I have definitely noticed the increased seriousness over the seasons, and honestly, I love it! I don’t consider it a sign of the actors wearing down, but of the characters maturing. In real-life, I believe many, if not most, people do not remain as happy-go-lucky at some later points in their lives as they were at earlier points. As life goes on and things happen, both good and bad, it changes all of us, and I believe a lot of us do become more serious. If the characters had remained static throughout the series, always happy-go-lucky, I think I would find that irritating. I like that they change and develop all along the way.

Anyway, it’s not as though they completely forget how to laugh (which is the impression some people give). They still have humorous moments in the last seasons. Perry and Della have a good-natured chuckle over Paul ending up riding in the race car at the end of The Runaway Racer (a callback to similar scenes in earlier years). Paul has a ball imitating Perry’s double in The Dead Ringer. And they often hang out at Clay’s having a grand old time with Clay and Steve, and sometimes with Hamilton.

I won’t deny that I enjoy the fact that the series was always contemporary as it went on. The show kept up with the times; it wasn’t just stuck in a permanent season 1 atmosphere. I suppose some people wish it would have been. Certainly if it had, it would be a period piece. And I love period pieces—make no mistake about that. But I honestly don’t love the thought of Perry as a period piece. I love for it to always be contemporary. For me, it makes it far easier to relate. And the show is always Perry to me, as long the writers don’t lose track of the mysteries and the characters and the high moral standards of said characters.

They certainly didn’t lose track of the latter; in fact, I think they become better with that as the show went on, since Perry dropped a lot of his early, rather eyebrow-raising tactics. And as far I’m concerned, the mysteries and the characters themselves were rarely tampered with. They changed, but that doesn’t mean they stopped being enjoyable or in-character. To some people, it seems to. But not to me.

I doubt that the later seasons will ever not be a controversial topic among fans. The opinions on them are extremely varied. Some people dislike everything after the first few seasons. Some only dislike 8 and 9. Some largely dislike the later seasons but still find some here and there that they like.

I have to be honest, it is difficult to find people who actually like the later seasons, and who like them as much or possibly more than the earlier ones. And I have to be honest that for those looking for intense, twisting plots similar to the books, season 1 is their best bet. Many excellent plots came out of season 1.

But there are those fans among us who really don’t care so much about that, who prefer character interaction and who think that the later episodes provided us with fine interaction, just as good or in some cases, better than early on. We also think the plots of the later seasons are exciting and valid, even if they aren’t quite like the books.

There are also people who feel that the show was always solid and the quality never really waned, even as all the changes happened. I am in that category, as well as in the category of especially loving the later seasons.

I love every season of Perry. Every season has its faults, its ups and downs, and every season has episodes I’m not that keen on. Some seasons (such as 7 and 2) have far less of those than others, as far as I’m concerned. I do judge the episodes mainly on character interaction but sometimes on plot, and on the fact that the character interaction I’m most interested in is generally not what many fans seem to be interested in. A great number of my favorite episodes would probably only rarely, if ever, be found in other fans’ lists.

To some extent, the diversity is part of the fun of any fanbase. But it is nice to not be the only one who likes certain things, and I’m proud both to enjoy the later episodes and to know some others who enjoy them too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NPR bit!

Okay, guys, the Hamilton bit is brief but awesome and airs in the second hour of Morning Edition, at the beginning of the "B" segment, approximately 21 minutes past the hour! I love it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Various News and Musings

Wow. The Perry sale at the past week was a smashing success! I knew it would be, but I don’t think I expected so many of the volumes to sell so well they would go out of immediate stock and take several weeks to ship. Hopefully that has gotten Amazon’s attention. Perry has been one of the best-sellers in their DVD departments the past few days. Now if they would just realize how many people would pounce if they’d bring the price of the second half of season 8 into a reasonable range! I don’t understand what the problem is and why it has to be so expensive. People are still mad, insisting they won’t buy it on Amazon and that they’ve found it cheaper elsewhere. I can’t buy it on Amazon either, not at their price.

Also, long ago I got a giggle out of the fact that Richard Anderson plays a character named Ray Norman on The New Perry Mason, when Wesley Lau plays a character of the exact same name on Cannon. (And I write for Wesley’s Ray Norman in a Wild Wild West time-travel story that includes Perry characters.) I idly wondered if the scripts were written by the same person, since it seems odd for that name to appear twice in two shows around the same time period.

I finally got around to looking it up. And guess what? It really is the same writer! Robert W. Lenski did both The Telltale Trunk for The New Perry Mason and Hear No Evil for Cannon. I am finding this hilarious. I really expected it to just be a weird coincidence and that the writers would be different. But with this information, I’d say that either Mr. Lenski really liked the name Ray Norman or he was just bored or in a hurry and couldn’t think of another name. Or he even forgot he had used it recently.

Last night I made a few updates to that Perry website I work on now and then. ( I have been getting story inspiration for the Perry mystery scheduled to come after The Malevolent Mugging. I’d really like to try it out, both because the ideas are so strong and because I think and hope it might be fairly popular, with Della in a central role. (Also present would be Gene Torg and Pearl Chute from The Bogus Books.)

But at the same time I’m concerned about trying to juggle two Perry mysteries at once (and the Wild Wild West story). If the new one takes off, updates for The Malevolent Mugging will come even less frequently. If I wait to finish it first, however, I’m nowhere near the end and I might start rushing it. I know for a fact that The Malevolent Mugging has readers, even if they’re often quiet, so I don’t want to disappoint them by having this story take even longer to finish. Or by rushing it and lessening the quality.

But when inspiration calls, it’s hard to make it be silent. Maybe the best thing to do is to just start trying to write the first bit and see what happens. Tentatively the story is to be called The Nefarious Necklace (or something similar) and involves plot ideas both from me and from a reviewer and friend.

And NPR’s Perry-related piece involving Hamilton is this Tuesday, the 15th, on their Morning Edition show! If you haven’t already, look for your local affiliate or plan to listen online.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Some Further Musings on The Candy Queen

So after a great deal of pondering off and on the last few days, I think I decided that season 8 holds its position as my fourth favorite season after all. For all of the oddities of the season, there are still many things I love, and those give it the edge over the negative aspects.

Tentatively I planned that the rest of the list would then go 5, 9, 3, 4, 1. But I hate plopping 3 and 4 so low, as there are many episodes I love. Really, every season has a number of gems. 3 and 4 are bumped low mainly because of the long stretches when Hamilton isn’t there. The plots, however, are consistently good, even during those times. In fact, I think some of the very best episodes without Hamilton are from 3 and 4.

I happily watched The Candy Queen on MeTV this past Tuesday. It’s one of my favorites of season 9. Hamilton is awesome, Steve is awesome, and William Boyett and H.M. Wynant are guest-stars (and are both awesome). I enjoy seeing Nancy Gates as the defendant, Claire Armstrong, too.

H.M.’s final Perry character is the manager of an illegal casino operating in the backroom of a nightclub. Very much unlike Slim Marcus from The Singing Skirt, however, Tony Earle seems to be a pretty nice fellow. And he isn’t mixed up in anything involving the murder, aside from knowing that his boss wanted the Candy Queen formula and later had it.

Oddly enough, both Slim and Tony suffer from an odd fate—neither of them receives credit at the end with their proper names! Slim is called Wilton in the cast list, even though Hamilton gives his first name as Joseph, and Tony Earle is listed as Tony Mario. Weird.

Also, I’m never quite sure what to make of Claire Armstrong and the co-owner of the Candy Queen company, Ed Purvis. It always makes me angry that Claire (off-screen) refuses to believe Ed that slimy Mark Chester is no good, and that her reaction to Ed’s news that Chester was illegally gambling is to decide to terminate his contract and have Chester take his place.

Of course, it sadly happens too often, to think the new guy is the bee’s knees and to not trust the guy who’s been faithful and loyal for years. Claire behaves very stupidly, but it’s believable.

It bothers me even more, however, that while it shows her heartbreak and devastation over later realizing that Chester really is a creep, she’s never really shown being properly regretful for the rotten way she treated Ed. She doesn’t even say she’s sorry.

She does sign the extension of his contract, when Perry brings it, but if I remember right, Perry did it without her requesting it, apparently feeling that it is what she would want. (And she was apparently alright with it, since she signed.) When Perry asks if there’s any message to go with it, she says to just give Ed the contract.

I suppose the implication is that Claire and Ed are so close, the contract extension is all that needs to be said. But after everything Claire did to him, it really feels like there should have been more. And I guess one could argue that Ed should have turned up to see Claire off on her cruise, but at that point he probably still wasn’t even sure how she felt about him or if she would want him there.

My most favorite line from the episode is still the one delivered by William Boyett, the tough detective in charge of raiding the gambling joint, when casino manager Tony Earle addresses him as “friend”: “I’m not your friend.” Ha, priceless.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Singing Skirt

First, some news, courtesy of This week only, through Saturday the 12th, they’re having some incredible sales on Perry DVD sets (all except part 2 of season 8)! Most are $10.99, with a few later ones at $17.99 and a couple at $24.99. This is an excellent time to start collecting, or to pick up installments you don’t yet have! If you’ve only ever seen Perry on television, you’re missing a lot of scenes that were cut out.

Speaking of cut scenes, I ordered the disc with The Singing Skirt from Netflix, as I wanted to see if anything involving H.M. Wynant’s character had been cut. The problem is, it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I couldn’t fully remember. I recognized one scene towards the beginning as being new, featuring the Ennises in their one and only scene together, but other than that I just wasn’t sure.

Is it just me or is the episode’s plot very similar to The Long-Legged Models? Both are based on books of Gardner’s, according to the opening credits, and there’s no indication that they’re based on the same book, so I have to wonder if he really wrote two books with such similar elements.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Long-Legged Models too, but from what I recall, there’s a deal over a legal gambling joint in an area either in L.A. or nearby, a girl who knows too much and is being threatened by the gamblers, and a series of identical guns admitted as evidence. Perry initially tries to confuse the issue with the guns and only makes everything worse.

That plot could describe either episode.

You know, the funny thing is, from what little I do recall, I thought Perry’s actions with mixing up the guns were more shocking in The Long-Legged Models than in The Singing Skirt, yet Hamilton never learns about what Perry did in The Long-Legged Models.

I really felt sorry for Perry in The Singing Skirt, trying so hard to help the girl by switching the guns (before any of them were used in a crime) and being so confident that everything would be alright, only to later discover that the one he put in place of the other was the (first) murder weapon. He ended up getting himself as well as the defendant into quite a mess.

H.M.’s character is quite a nasty fellow all the way along, plotting with Mrs. Ennis to take her husband’s money in a crooked poker game. And he shouldn’t have been dating her in the first place, although as far as that point is concerned, the defendant shouldn’t have been going out with Mr. Ennis. This episode is interesting for being one of the few where the defendant really isn’t just squeaky-clean and misunderstood.

I couldn’t remember how the confession scene was done, and I couldn’t imagine H.M. doing one of the really cheesy ones, so I was gratified by the intensity of it. George Anclitas, the owner of the gambling joint (and not such a nice guy either, really), suddenly realizes that H.M.’s character Slim Marcus must be the guilty one. He snaps and grabs for him, while Slim tries to get away, and ends up throttling him right there in the gallery. The bailiff struggles to separate them and finally succeeds, and in a fit of hysteria over nearly being killed, Slim blurts out, “I’ll tell you how I did it! I’ll tell you how I killed her!”

Every now and then the show does an episode where the killing is an accident, and I have to admit, I wished it would have been that way in this one. But the only thing that’s said is that Slim and Mrs. Ennis fought over control of the money and he shot her. Since there’s no mention of a specific fight for the gun, I suppose there probably wasn’t one and he just picked up the gun and did it. I think that would be Second Degree Murder, if it wasn’t premeditated and was committed in the heat of the moment.

Of course, if I really wanted, since there’s so little information, I could say that Mrs. Ennis picked up the gun and they struggled and it went off. But it wouldn’t change Slim’s nasty behavior throughout the episode or what he did to implicate the defendant. I don’t particularly have any intention of tinkering with a story to try to cast him in any kind of slightly better light.

Then again, I never intended to do that with Tobin Wade either, and that happened. In Tobin Wade’s case, however, what fascinated me most was that he apparently really had been friends with the Stuarts and then let his greed and desperation take over so that he turned against them. And I wondered if he would ever regret what he did to them.

Slim doesn’t have anyone he’s close to, unless I were to say that once upon a time he had been close to George Anclitas. And somehow I can’t picture either of them ever having been a genuine friend to the other. They were probably always in it for the money. But again, with so little information, it could likely be written any way someone wanted.

One thing that was instantly apparent to me: I could see why they wanted H.M. to play a character nicknamed Slim! He really was impressively slender and trim then, as both he and Richard Anderson have always been.

And as always, he delivers an amazing and fully believable performance. He can play any part, good or bad, to perfection.

Funny thing: I do remember that the last time I watched The Singing Skirt before this, whenever that was, I couldn’t remember who the guilty party was and I hoped it wasn’t him (even though at that time, I wasn’t really up on recognizing him whenever he popped up in something). I was disappointed that his character was guilty, despite the fellow’s nastiness. When that happens, I like to think that I’m more interested in the actor and that somehow his real goodness is coming through to me, rather than that I’m just shallowly thinking the character is cute. Although another part of it is that because I’ve found something I like in an apparently roguish character, I’m hoping he turns out to not be as bad as he seems. Sometimes it works (such as in an epically awesome episode of The Virginian I saw part of last night). Other times, such as here, it doesn’t.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Grinning Gorilla

The Grinning Gorilla is an episode I hadn’t got around to yet. When it was on MeTV the other day, I watched it in its chopped state. I had never paid much attention to what it was about, but when I read that it involved Della finding an old diary that started Perry on a mystery concerning a mysterious death, I was intrigued. Most of the episodes without Hamilton and the local police don’t seem to have anything particularly exciting happening to the other main characters (which is another reason why I often lack interest in those episodes), and this one sounded so different from the norm, with a focus more on the main characters than the guest stars, that I really wanted to see it.

It’s definitely one of the best of the ones that’s missing Hamilton and the local police. And another reason the plot got me so enthused is that it reminded me so much of Nancy Drew mysteries. So many of those involve Nancy or one of the other characters making some fascinating or incredible discovery that starts everyone on their path to mystery and adventure. Della and the diary run a perfect parallel with those plots.

And then there’s the creepy, weird mansion filled with secrets and experiments involving primates. The scene where Perry goes in and a gorilla is on the loose is so exciting and unusual for the series. The main characters, as observed previously, are rarely in danger. And perhaps the gorilla really was harmless, as the defendant said, but it certainly didn’t seem that way for a while.

That scene put me in mind of the original version of the Nancy Drew mystery The Case of the Moss-Covered Mansion. It also concerns a creepy house where wild animals are at large. One intense scene has Nancy facing off against a vicious big cat! (I think it was a jaguar, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read it.)

For those who don’t know, quite a few of the first Nancy mysteries were revised later. Usually I’m quite happy with the revisions. They remove various descriptions and dialogues that later sounded racist or otherwise offensive. They also made other, less important changes, such as upping Nancy’s age from 16 to 18. Sometimes minor things like that were the only real changes. Other times, entire plots got altered to the point that the two versions were vastly different books! Some I really like better in their revised form, but others have just sounded silly.

The Moss-Covered Mansion is one of the installments that received a complete overhaul. I honestly detested the revised of it; it’s one of the only Nancy books I haven’t ever really liked. Among other things, it had bizarre stuff like a mention of exploding oranges in a crate. And while exploding anything is of course serious, that just came off sounding more ridiculous than anything else.

The original is absolutely nothing like that, though, so if anyone is curious and would like to read The Moss-Covered Mansion for the possible parallels with The Grinning Gorilla, it’s the original version they should look for. Applewood was republishing the original novels, but I think for some reason they stopped around #21. Pity.

I remember reading once where someone said Perry seemed grouchy in this episode. He definitely did, but honestly, if I was in his place I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same. Della suddenly shows up with this stuff she’s bought, gives Perry the package to hold for a moment, and Perry is immediately mobbed by reporters demanding to know about his “interest” in the unsolved case. Perry has no idea what they’re talking about, has no interest at that point, and is being uncomfortably put on the spot. And people keep bugging him about the case when he doesn’t have any interest or time to invest in it. I think that would be enough to make most people mad!

Victor Buono is present for his third guest-spot on the show, and as usual, he delivers a fun performance (although my favorite of his Perry characters is the modern Fagin in The Twice-Told Twist).

Lurene Tuttle is on hand as the defendant. I’m . . . honestly not sure what to make of her character again. I wasn’t terribly fond of the character and her temper and some of her actions. But Lurene is always a nice veteran actress to have onboard and never fails to give a memorable and unique performance.

All in all, it’s definitely a fun Perry episode and I intend to see it in its uncut form hopefully soon.

And speaking of uncut episodes, while pawing through my season 6 set, it seems like the episodes that received the majority of the cuts are the ones that are my special favorites! Others, such as The Unsuitable Uncle, which I don’t care for that much, weren’t cut very badly at all. Very oddly annoying. I’m thrilled to have my favorite episodes uncut, however, so I’m definitely pleased with my purchase. I hope to get the second half soon, since I think I liked a greater number of season 6 episodes on that set.