Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Fatal Fashion and other news

The more I think about it, the more I think I did know about Scott Baio appearing in one of the Perry movies long ago. We used to take TV Guide and still have all our old issues floating around. I’m pretty sure I found an ad in one of them from when the movie originally aired in 1991. I remember being ecstatic and wanting so badly to see that particular film. But, without any access to it at the time, it gradually slipped from my mind.

And the film was definitely worth the wait! I just love The Fatal Fashion. I like it so much more than the other ones I saw, and not just because of Scott. Not even Richard could make me adore Perry Mason Returns (although I certainly adored his screentime within it!).

The plot, as in The Defiant Daughter, moved at a steady pace and did not drag. And to my surprise and pleasure, unless something was snipped out of it, there weren’t any scenes even slightly suggestive. Wonderful!

The subplot, where Ken is investigating and ends up having to take along a guy who works for a mobster, is amusing. I like the friendship that starts developing between them. Ken is a nice character. I have to admit, I like him better than Paul Jr. He’s more serious and mature.

It was interesting to see Valerie Harper play the eventual murder victim. I’m only familiar with her from Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda, and she both looked and sounded different here. And while the character was a creep, it seemed that at least some of the things she wrote about were things that needed to get out, such as her assistant’s crooked activities. Although she certainly should have gone to the police instead of just wanting to stir up a big scandal by writing about it.

Scott Baio’s prosecutor character is great. His admiration of Perry and hope to defeat him is adorable, and even though he’s a bit overconfident, he seems to be a capable and intelligent up-and-coming attorney. The scene where he puts Perry on the stand as a witness is very well-done and doesn’t make him come off as the bad guy, as the promo for the movie kind of made it seem it might. Things end with them on good terms with each other.

Of course, the solution to the mystery was very grim and heartbreaking. I suspected the defendant’s daughter perhaps around the halfway point or sooner, but it was still sad to be right. I couldn’t blame her for being angry over having been abandoned, but to kill someone and then frame her mother for it? Oh gosh.

I really liked how the scene was handled. You could hear in the way the judge and others spoke that they felt very saddened over the revelation of the truth.

And then the bit with the dress-designing mobster insisting on finding a way to make it up to Ken for keeping him from killing an innocent guy for the murder of his cousin was too amusing and cute. It’s too bad Della didn’t feel that the dress was her style; it looked gorgeous. And I love that line about it being a “gangster original.” Ha!

After a month of showing assorted Perry movies, MeTV will be switching to other things for October. The movie for this coming Friday will be the Columbo pilot, followed by yet another of the Columbo pilots the week after that. It kind of looks like MeTV is going for theme months. I wonder, then, what they’re going to do when they start showing the Cannon stuff? There was only the one Cannon pilot movie and the one post-series movie. Maybe they’ll also show some of the series’ two-part episodes for the movies, such as the Barnaby Jones crossovers? That would be cool!

Meanwhile, I am just finishing up a multi-chapter for The Rockford Files in time for the beginning of Halloween month. I am greatly looking forward to embarking on the sequel to The Meddling Medium that I mentioned!

And yes, I really was writing for The Rockford Files. Long story, but basically, it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t become fascinated with some oneshot characters from the episode The Queen of Peru. And I’ve wanted for a long time to write a story involving Rockford teaming up with Simon Oakland’s Vern St. Cloud character, so when this new idea took shape, I got Vern in there to enact the original idea too.

The story also has a Perry slant; Lieutenant Drumm and Sergeant Brice came in to play the main police characters, with Jimmy appearing later on and Andy being referenced. I’ve been doing some more studying of the police on both series and will probably be making another post about that before long.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A thought for the possible theatrical Perry film

So MeTV’s promo for this week’s Perry movie certainly made me sit up and take notice! SCOTT BAIO! If I was ever previously aware that Scott had appeared in one of the films, it slipped my mind long, long ago.

Scott has been a long-time favorite of mine, ever since I discovered him on Diagnosis Murder when the PAX network (now Ion) reran it in about 2000. I loved his aforementioned Jack character and promptly started looking into his other work. I became mildly obsessed with Charles in Charge and also looked into Happy Days. MeTV’s joke in the promo, “Does Perry love Chachi?” made perfect sense to me. I still haven’t been able to see the short-lived Happy Days spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, but I am still very much interested in doing so. (Interestingly, I think Chachi is only one of a handful of characters to have left a parent series and then returned to it later. But that’s a subject for another blog.)

Well, needless to say, I already have a spot reserved on a tape to record this Perry movie and keep it. I am very excited for tomorrow.

Earlier in the week, an acquaintance of mine found this interesting article about Robert Downey Jr.’s Perry movie:

I don’t recall reading or posting this particular article before, so I hope I haven’t. It puts a different spin on what he’s up to, instead of just saying the standard “it’s going to follow the books more and be set in the 1930s, etc. etc.”

This acquaintance also commented on the article (her post is at the bottom of its page, in the Comments section) and suggested an intriguing possibility for how to solve the Hamilton problem I’ve been concerned over. Perhaps Tim Talman, William’s son, could play Hamilton in the film! He has been acting, and judging from the clips in his demo reel, he’s quite good. He’s mentioned that he would be very interested in taking on the role (although I don’t know if he was specifically referencing this movie; he may have been generally speaking) and that it would be a dream come true for him.

It would be a wonderful callback to fans of the television series, whom I’m sure will make up quite a large portion of the audience if this movie really gets off the ground. And I would feel a lot more confident if someone like Tim Talman were to take on our district attorney character. I’m sure he would make Hamilton as well-rounded and human as his father did for nine seasons.

I’m not sure if Robert Downey Jr. would be interested in having anything in the film that would reference the television series, since his interest is in keeping closer to the books, but it’s certainly something to be keeping in mind. I wish the idea could get back to him somehow!

I really wonder how that movie is coming along. That article, as mentioned, is from last year. I think I found one or two from earlier this year, signaling the movie is still being planned, but it certainly isn’t full-speed ahead as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. film is right now. And while normally I don’t care for big-screen adaptions of television series, I am very cautiously hopeful and optimistic about the U.N.C.L.E. film. It sounds like it’s on the right path. If it keeps on as such, it could be something wonderful.

That is, I hope, what will eventually happen with this Perry movie. It could be a very exciting thing, if a movie could be done right. Who knows what it could bring about where other aspects are concerned. The books could be reprinted. There could be more interest in the television series, even extending to possibly new books about it being published. Maybe, even, new merchandise could be released, such as a beautiful 3D video/computer game, new board games, character shirts . . . the possibilities are endless!

Of course, as with many movie adaptions of television series, it may make most of the fanbase recoil in horror instead. But at the point it’s at now it could go either way, so I will continue hoping for something awesome. It sounds like Robert is sincere about making a film that will be a worthwhile addition to the Perry Mason family, so that is certainly something in his favor.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Deadly Double: So who really wrote it?

So I did watch The Deadly Double. It’s never actually been a big favorite of mine; even when I was a lot younger, I remember it wasn’t one of the ones I often wanted to re-watch. I can’t even put my finger on why!

It does feel different from most Perry episodes in that it seems like there really aren’t a lot of suspects. Usually, as one reviewer of the episode pointed out, there are many guest-stars, any one of whom could be the guilty party. In this episode, it seems like the only choices are the defendant (played brilliantly by Denver Pyle), Helen or Joyce, and Joyce’s boyfriend. So in the end, it actually doesn’t feel like as much of a mystery. We know the defendant is very unlikely to be the one. It does seem for a while that Perry thinks it might be Joyce (until he reveals that he always thought the boyfriend had the strongest motive), but I can’t recall that I ever suspected her too much.

I really enjoy Denver Pyle’s Perry performances. I should give him a spotlight post soon. It really surprised me the first time I paid attention to seeing his name in the credits. He is an amazing actor. Although a hillbilly goofball like Briscoe Darling or someone like the Uncle Jesse character (I don’t know enough about the latter to say whether he’s of the same breed as Briscoe, albeit I do imagine Briscoe may have been early inspiration) have typecast him, he can play so many other kinds of characters. On Perry, he is always a serious fellow, whether it’s the defendant, a suspect, the victim, or the murderer. His emotional breakdown in court in The Renegade Refugee is a powerful moment.

The one other main thing I do like about this episode is Constance Ford’s performance. The way she portrays both personalities is really quite incredible. It’s a flawless transformation from Helen Reed to Joyce Martel. The climatic scene in court really brings that home.

I can’t even quite place which scenes are missing in the television version. I watch the cut version so seldom that I couldn’t remember. I know it must be cut on television, but pretty much everything I watched seemed familiar, even though I’ve only seen the uncut version once before.

And then I spotted something that is very confusing and goes back to that question of whether Samuel Newman and Sam Neuman are the same person. credits this episode to Samuel Newman, which I took as the truth in a previous post. It’s actually Sam Neuman who is credited as the writer, so I will have to correct that with IMDB.

But I still wonder if they’re the same man. Even though Samuel Newman died in 1977, before two of Sam Neuman’s scripts appeared, I suppose the scripts could have been written before his death and then were just delayed in appearing. Sam Neuman seems to have vanished after the end of the 1970s.

When I was watching The Deadly Double I was a bit confused by knowing the IMDB information that Samuel Newman wrote the script. To me, it didn’t feel like one of his. When I saw the Sam Neuman credit, that made a lot more sense to me. While it’s true that they’ve both written some offbeat Perry scripts, they seem to have different preferences.

Samuel Newman’s strangest Perry ventures are probably the more supernatural-themed The Meddling Medium and The Fatal Fetish. By contrast, Sam Neuman seems to prefer more psychological storylines and other oddities that can’t quite be classed. He wrote The Clumsy Clown, which, while I like it, is certainly one of the most bizarre Perry episodes ever. The girl and guy are just secretly married, the other guy who’s always pined for her gets clawed by a tiger, and the girl decides the thing to do is to leave her poor new husband and go to the injured guy and try to make him happy by making him think she’s going to marry him (even though they only go through a mock ceremony and are not really married).

Of course, that still isn’t proof that the two writers are not the same. Many are the writers who have used different pennames to write different things with each one. And there are actors who are credited several assorted ways, whether on purpose or by accident.

I would really like to solve this mystery. Since Samuel Newman served as story consultant for four seasons, it seems a bit odd that we don’t know more about him. Someone must know whether he and Sam Neuman are the same. If they are, their credits on IMDB should be linked and merged. And if they’re not, mistakes like IMDB currently listing Samuel Newman as the writer of The Deadly Double shouldn’t be happening.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Defiant Daughter

Happy 56th anniversary to our show! I decided to post today instead of tomorrow because I did end up seeing The Defiant Daughter movie and I have things to say. (Actually, I may post tomorrow too. Who can say.)

The movie was definitely better paced than Perry Mason Returns. While the first movie kind of plodded along at parts, and seemed to spend way too much time getting to know Paul Drake Jr. and his quirks, this movie felt a lot more like an extended episode of the series (minus the majority of the original cast, of course). The action was fast and always relevant to the plot, which was tight and sharp and well-done. (In all fairness to Perry Mason Returns, however, being the first in the series, it did need to go slower to properly introduce things and set things up.) As The Defiant Daughter got going, the defendant and his daughter were introduced, the defendant got into a situation where he would definitely be the prime suspect in the eventual murder, the other suspects and the victim were introduced, the murder happened, the defendant was arrested, the daughter went to Perry for help, and the investigation commenced. Suspects were questioned, they went to court, and the investigator (in this case, Ken, who seemed more serious and less playful than Paul Jr.) kept digging for the missing witness and alibi.

The scenes where the daughter was being defiant were fairly cliché, right down to her insistence on helping investigate and ending up uncovering a clue that pretty much eliminated one of the suspects. I liked that Perry sat her down and gave her a talking to, telling her that they couldn’t focus on putting together the best defense for her father when they had to keep chasing her around and worrying about her. And I liked that the talk pretty much ended the matter. Sometimes I do get tired of the cliché of the kids who won’t listen and keep getting into things. As much as I love the cartoon Jackie Chan Adventures, for example, the defiant character Jade is often very frustrating to that effect.

Perry still seemed gruffer than on the series, but not quite like Ironside this time. And he did have a clear and genuine fondness for the girl in spite of the confusion she caused.

For the Perry/Della relationship fans (or “shippers”, as the term among the fans goes), there’s an interesting scene where Della was trying to get the secretary of the murdered man to open up and talk about the suspects. She appealed to how close the woman was with her boss and said that she’s been with hers for around 40 years. She also asserted that she knew exactly how it would feel to lose someone she’s that close to.

Me being a skeptic, however, the next scene immediately seems to dash the hopes of the shippers. Della told Perry back at the hotel suite that she wasn’t honest at all with the secretary. If Perry knew what she had said, one could assume she was teasing him with that remark, as Perry sometimes did with Della on the series. But since Perry did not know what she had said, it seems more of a straightforward comment.

Della could simply mean that she was lying about how long she had been with Perry, since of course the movies have that backstory that Perry and Della were apart for some time. Or she could mean that since she’s never actually lost Perry, she couldn’t really know how the other secretary would feel. She could even mean all of that and more, considering that she said she wasn’t honest at all.

In all fairness, she could mean that she felt she knew how horrible the secretary felt, since she cares about Perry so deeply and can’t bear the thought of losing him. But my conclusion is that the scene is too ambiguous to be terribly meaningful, especially in light of Della’s declaration of it all being untrue.

As with the first film, the policeman character was fairly generic. Since it’s an out-of-town setting, it’s a little more forgivable. But I like when the police have more of a presence than they had here.

There was a lot more time in court than in the first film, or at least it seemed that way. Some people never were interviewed on the witness stand, which made me wonder if something had been edited out or if they really weren’t questioned in court.

I can’t seem to get away from someone I like being the murderer! This time it was Kevin Tighe. I was happy, however, that it wasn’t Robert Vaughn. I was also glad that Robert wasn’t the victim (although Robert Culp, who was the victim, is someone I like as well). Wow, this movie was filled with guest-stars I’m familiar with.

The movie was also filled with little sprinkles here and there of it being a Dean Hargrove and Fred Silverman production. As with Diagnosis Murder, there were oddly humorous touches and a larger hint of the suggestive than with the original series. The most glaring was when Ken tracked a suspect to a hotel and apparently barged in on an affair. Nothing had happened yet, but she and the guy were sitting on the bed and he was in his underclothes. The guy then proceeded to punch Ken and he accidentally knocked into a cart wheeled by a maid, who indignantly reclaimed the passkey he had taken and didn’t even bother to ask if he was alright.

With the original series, I could imagine Paul maybe walking in on the people embracing or kissing (probably with both people fully clothed). But the scene Ken discovered would have been too suggestive for television in the 1960s. Since sometimes Diagnosis Murder boasted scenes far more eyebrow-raising than that, such as a segment in Flashdance with Death where Steve Sloan’s girlfriend does an extremely suggestive and vulgar dance while talking to Mark Sloan, it makes me wonder a bit what other unpleasant surprises might appear in the Perry movies.

Ken, and to a far greater extent, Paul Jr., remind me of the Diagnosis Murder character Jesse Travis. Jesse is an eager beaver, always wanting to help Mark investigate, and sometimes saying and doing some pretty crazy things to get it done. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any Jesse episodes (I’m one of the few who prefers his predecessor, Jack Stewart), and I might not be connecting a proper parallel here, but when I watched Perry Mason Returns, the scene of Paul Jr. trying to run off with the evidence to show Perry (right under the police sergeant’s nose!) made me think of Jesse and some of his strange adventures.

I really kind of prefer Perry to not feel like a Dean Hargrove and Fred Silverman production. Perry already had its own unique fingerprints and didn’t need some of the oddball quirks the movies introduced. On the other hand, since they did produce the movies, it seems only fair that they should get their personal stamp on them somehow. I just hope it won’t continue to be through suggestive scenes like what Ken ran into (especially if they’re played for laughs). One thing I love about the original series (and classic television in general) is not having to be on edge wondering if an off-color scene will pop up that I’d rather didn’t exist.

I think what excited me the most about the film was how well the basic plot and structure integrated into the Perry world, despite the early 1990s setting. It drove home all the more to me what I’ve always maintained, that Perry does not have to be set in a certain era (like the ’30’s or the ’50’s); as long as particular rules are adhered to, any modern time period works just fine. With the proper writing and cast, I think a Perry movie or series set in the 2010s would be wonderful and not lose the magic of the first series. But I highly doubt such a thing could ever be possible, since it seems that all television series in this era have to have some things in them that are highly unpleasant and offensive to encounter. Even shows that I more or less like, such as Monk and the afore-mentioned Diagnosis Murder, are that way on some level.

And of course, it’s highly possible such a venture would flop because of the cast. When characters become iconic in particular incarnations, people generally just don’t like seeing other people play them. Occasionally it can be successful, however, and I can’t fully shake my dream of a Perry Mason set in the present day. I actually like The New Perry Mason as far as plot structure went, and I even think some of the cast did a fine job. But naturally they could never replace our cast from the classic series. And of course, no matter how much I long to see what a Perry movie or television venture done right in the 2010s would be like, it could never be a proper replacement for the original.

Nor are the movies a proper replacement. They are a fairly fun addition overall, and I’m happy I enjoyed this one so much more than the first, but I’m once again anxious to immerse myself in the classic series. I think I’ll watch The Deadly Double, which I still haven’t got around to seeing uncut again.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Birthday Tribute: Karl Held

Today is Karl Held’s birthday! I hope he has a lovely day.

In trying to think of something fitting for a birthday post, I started pondering on my favorite episodes that feature David, and out of those, which have my favorite David scenes.

I enjoy David’s very first season 5 episode, The Missing Melody, for the plot, the guest-stars, and how David is brought into the script, with Perry and Della remembering him from the Grumbling Grandfather case. Continuity in classic television series is always a delight to behold, so it gives me a little thrill each time I watch this episode and see David acknowledged as having been around before.

Of course, one that I’ve cited before is The Renegade Refugee. True, that is the episode where David makes probably his worst slip-up, but he tries so hard to make it right. And I say he should be given credit for how quickly he listens to Perry and realizes exactly what his error was. A rebel he is no longer.

Also, often cut from the episode is one of the most excellent scenes where Perry defends Hamilton, when David is upset over Hamilton springing a surprise witness in court. Perry says that he and Hamilton are adversaries but not enemies, and says the system works so that each lawyer is pushed to be his very best.

David is very prominent in The Left-Handed Liar, being friendly with the defendant and even letting him stay at his apartment. David has an extensive encounter with Andy in that episode, which is exciting for being the first time Andy really has a long scene. But Andy doesn’t yet have his own dialogue, so he mostly sounds like Tragg all the way through it. A pity, since no one can carry that dialogue as well as Ray Collins, and since Wesley is deserving of having a separate speech pattern for his character.

I was, of course, wrong last year when I mentioned that David rarely does anything that really helps. Several episodes feature him having ideas that move the plot along in a positive way.

Of those episodes, my favorite is probably The Meddling Medium. It’s interesting to think of David knowing a parapsychologist. He’s the sort of fellow with whom Perry might be acquainted, since Perry knows such a collection of unique people from all walks of life. But, since the writers were trying to give David something to do, this time he is the one who knows the person and suggests that Perry make his acquaintance.

One of the most intriguing things about David’s suggestion is the fact that the person he recommends Perry visit was a real parapsychologist, Dr. Andrija Puharich. This marks one of only a couple of times when a real, living person is referenced on the show, and possibly the only time such a person is actually seen. (Perry mentions knowing Rod Serling in The Promoter’s Pillbox, but alas, Rod doesn’t make a personal appearance.)

I’ve been thinking for a long time about writing a sequel to The Meddling Medium, which would delve into several supernatural angles that I believe the episode hinted at but never outright said. I still think that Phillip eventually had contact with spirits and that was at least partially why he was so insistent at the end that he wasn’t a fraud, even while he was absolutely sloshed. Also, I realized that while I assumed that proving Bonnie has ESP would imply that she picked up the real murderer’s thought process, that was never actually stated. By proving she has ESP, the implication that she really channeled a spirit instead is just as strong a possibility.

I’ve thought of the story following my timeline (which is post-season 9), but on the other hand it seems more likely that it would take place shortly after the episode and hence, still be in season 5. It might be the perfect place to stick David in, as I’ve been wondering how I could fit him into a story other than my Lux Aeterna pieces on Livejournal. If I have it set during the season 5 period, that would also give me the opportunity to explore Tragg and Andy’s relationship a bit, and Andy getting to know the other characters, as it would be shortly after he becomes a main part of the cast.

This story is intended to be my main Halloween story for the year, and whatever the final plan where its details are concerned, I’m hoping to start work on it very soon now.

If I have David in it, I’m unsure of whether I’ll explore why he vanishes from the series in mid-season 5. In the Lux Aeterna stories, it’s mentioned that a friend of his grandfather’s invited him to stay with him to finish law school and get into a firm. But I’m not sure if I’ve decided that those stories are part of my main timeline. Regardless, I may ignore the mystery of David’s departure and just focus on him as the episodes did, leaving it off with him still around.

In general, although most of the David episodes do not inspire fanfiction story ideas, almost all of them are quite good and enjoyable to watch. I like The Posthumous Painter less than most of them, but it’s still a fairly good offering, and come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen it uncut yet. Episodes are always better uncut.

It’s funny that I never realized David appeared in out-of-town episodes until once I caught part of The Roving River. I still need to see that one in full, but from what I saw, it’s quite good too.

The Shapely Shadow I still have mixed feelings about (even though the plot is basically very intense and well-done), but I plan to see it again, and I hope that when I do, it will be the uncut version. I don’t recall taking issue with any of David’s scenes.

With several David episodes still having been viewed by me in only their cut states, I suppose some of the scenes people use to complain about him could be in the uncut versions only. But I’ve seen people complain about him using the cut versions alone, so I don’t imagine there’s anything even more frustrating in the uncut versions. In any case, I doubt there’s anything I personally would be particularly irritated about, and if there was, I further doubt that it would make me change my entire opinion on the character. I like David fine, and I’m happy that the writers tried to experiment with using him a bit, even if it didn’t quite work out in the end.

Happy Birthday, Karl Held! Thank you for your time as part of the Perry Mason family.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Blushing Pearls, The Avenging Ace, and Mort Mills

It’s been enjoyable to watch the early season 3 episodes on MeTV this past week. A lot of them I haven’t seen in quite a while.

I particularly delighted in The Blushing Pearls. I generally really like the episodes with Oriental twists, and Nobu McCarthy is one of my favorites of the Oriental actresses who were often seen on classic television. Her character is so cute and sweet, and I felt so bad for her, being manipulated by the other characters in the story.

I agree with Perry in thinking that the guy she’s dating, Grove, is a heel and worse. He seems so adamant in having faith in her until he sees the picture, and then suddenly his entire viewpoint changes and he unshakably believes she’s guilty. It reminds me of something Officer Eve Whitfield says on Ironside, when she can’t believe in the innocence of someone she’s been interested in. The guy ends up being proved innocent, and Eve says that if she had really loved him, she would have believed in him all along.

Now, I'm not saying that there are never cases where it's human to doubt even someone you care about, or even that sometimes doubt is justified, but in this case I think it's terrible for Grove to completely refuse to even consider that the poor girl might be innocent. (I'm not typing her name because I'm not quite sure what it is. I'm getting two different spellings from different websites, and I had personally thought her name was something else.)

The Perry episode works out good and satisfying in the end for both Nobu’s character and Grove. He (presumably) has the girl who has loved him all along and Nobu’s character has her uncle’s bookkeeper Toma, who has likewise loved her. Although Grove will also have to deal with the shame of his father being the murderer, oh gosh.

It also boasts the infamous scene where Perry starts a fire in the alley to convince the real thief of the genuine pearls to try to run out with them and get caught. I love the epilogue, where Hamilton sends him a citation for burning trash without a license. Paul, who was so sure that Perry would get in big trouble for his stunt, gets quite a kick out of it.

The Blushing Pearls has a very intriguing, eerie, and ominous music score, one that I don’t think is used very often on the series. It’s also featured in The Impatient Partner, where it perfectly suits the bizarre things happening to poor Amory Fallon. Since I watch that episode more, I’ve thought for some time that the music score was created for it. It was a bit of a surprise to hear it in this earlier episode. I’ll be paying close attention to see if it gets into any other episodes.

Another thing I managed to see a bit of this week was the Avenging Ace movie. I wasn’t available for the one last week, and my negative feelings on the first film made me most unenthusiastic about even trying to catch the one this week even though I was available, but from what I managed to see of it, I think I like it better than the first installment. I’ll have to see it in full and make an assessment then.

One of my other issues with Perry Mason Returns was how little time was actually spent in the courtroom. It looked like The Avenging Ace went to court a lot sooner and probably spent more time there. Also, it’s one of the films with David Ogden Stiers as the prosecutor, and I wish I had remembered beforehand that he might be in it, because I am very interested in seeing all the ones with him. Charles Winchester is one of my most favorite characters on M*A*S*H.

I feel a bit chagrined, as I try to make a practice of never judging a series by its pilot. A pilot, with a different feel and tone from the series proper, is usually never a good judge of what an entire series is like, particularly if it’s a pilot movie. The only pilot movie I have ever seen that’s really a good example of the series that follows is the one for Cannon. It’s glorious, just like an extended episode instead of something darker, more suggestive, and with different characterizations, as the ones for, say, Hawaii 5-O, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker are. (Okay, so at the time they made at least The Night Stalker movie a series wasn’t in the works, but still.)

Anyway, Perry Mason Returns can definitely be considered a pilot for the television movie series. And I judged the entire series on it. I should watch at least one other movie in the series before determining if it’s all like that.

I do know that in any case, just having Perry and Della around won’t feel like Perry Mason proper to me. But if the plots are executed better than in the first film, and they spend more time in court, I think I might be able to appreciate the series a bit more.

This weekend is the 56th anniversary of the premiere of our series. I’m trying to decide whether to make a post on the actual day or if I should wait till the next day, since the 21st is on a Saturday. I also have a birthday post to make this week, which is certainly a happier prospect than a memorial post.

Speaking of both birthday and memorial posts, I was watching The Untouchables on Friday night and ran across Mort Mills. (He pops up everywhere.) I realized that I’ve never really highlighted him or his Perry character on the blog. And that is totally a terrible omission, as his Sergeant Landro character recurs for several seasons. I think we see him at least eight times.

Originally I didn’t like the character too much and that was why he didn’t appear in my stories or on the blog. Now, however, I’m not even sure why I didn’t like him. He’s a perfectly fine character and a good, upright policeman. And even if I didn’t like him, I shouldn’t allow personal feelings to keep me from highlighting a recurring character on the blog.

I should try to find a place for him in a story. I still may have a bit of trouble with that, however, as when he appears it means something is happening in Los Angeles County rather than the city, and the city police will most likely not be involved. I think I’d find it a bit hard to write a whole multi-chapter story without the city police! On the other hand, though, there are those episodes where Andy appears if some element of the crime involves his jurisdiction, so maybe I could get Sergeant Landro into a story that would have the city police, too.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

In Memoriam: Raymond Burr

Figuring out memorial posts grows more and more difficult. But I’ve been thinking long and hard of something to write for our Perry Mason, Raymond Burr, on this, the day marking his death twenty years ago. In the end, this post seems to have mostly written itself, in spite of any plans I had. And it's fitting that the 200th post for this blog should be significant, although a memorial post is always bittersweet.

Twenty years ago! It doesn’t seem possible that so much time has passed since Raymond’s departure from this life. And he was still involved with projects right before his death, including both an Ironside reunion and his final Perry Mason television movie.

Raymond was always so productive, both during his time in the movies and when he moved to television. For all his complaints about being tired of playing Perry and wanting a break, maybe moving to an island he’d bought, he was back in another steady television series the year after Perry ended. And Ironside ran almost as long as Perry; eight years to Perry’s nine.

I dearly love both characters. I feel they should be separate and distinct, but each one is an enjoyable protagonist to watch. Perry Mason is not as gruff as Robert T. Ironside, definitely friendlier (although he can be stern when the need calls for it), and is also more permissive in what to do to get his clients off the hook. Ironside, while often grouchy and aloof (although he mellows more over time), and insistent on sticking to proper police procedure, cares about his friends and the people he’s trying to help just as much as Perry does.

I prefer Ironside’s methods to Perry’s, as I don’t feel it’s right for Perry to bend the law or to continually ask Paul to get into situations where he’s bending the law too. But Perry feels that the end justifies the means, which would definitely make for an intriguing conflict between him and Ironside, if the two were ever to meet.

Following the end of Ironside in 1975, Raymond tried several other projects, including television series, but they were short-lived. The next really big project, I believe, was ten years later with the return to playing Perry Mason. And wow, those television movies must have taken off, with Raymond playing Perry 26 more times in all. Whatever one thinks of them overall, the Perry Mason movies are certainly among the longest-running television movie series involving a particular character, if not the longest-running of all to do so. Any other television movie series with certain characters that I know of (Columbo, Jim Rockford, etc.) stopped long before 26 (or 30) installments were made.

When I saw an interview with Raymond from around 1989 or 1990, I think, he expressed enthusiasm and excitement about the films and returning to playing Perry Mason. One of his favorite elements was the further fleshing out of both Perry and Della as characters, although I think he underestimated the times the original series did this as well. Many times in the original series, Perry showed a sense of humor, whereas Raymond felt that only the movies depicted this aspect. On the other hand, the movies did bring some unique information to the table, such as Della’s enjoyment of gardening.

I still can’t comprehend that The Powers That Be felt that they could still make Perry movies without Perry in them. And I suppose the films must have been marginally successful, since there were four without him. (People were probably mainly still tuning in to see Della, as well as other cast members if they were fans of those people.) Perhaps the plots were good; I couldn’t say. But ratings did steadily drop and the movies stopped, which is, as far as I’m concerned, a good thing. Trying to make Perry movies without Perry is preposterous. Perhaps they could have spun Della off into her own series of films, if they had wanted to try that, but just trying to market the Perry name and have other lawyers attempt to fill his shoes did not work. The public didn’t accept Monte Markham as Perry in The New Perry Mason, and they weren’t willing to accept other lawyers appearing in films under the Perry Mason name, either. For the majority of television viewers, Raymond Burr is the only acceptable Perry Mason.

I’m wondering how the new Ironside series will fare this year. Most remakes have badly flopped, but every now and then one succeeds, such as Battlestar Galactica or Hawaii 5-0. It would be kind of neat, if the new Ironside series succeeds. It could even bring added awareness of the original version. On the other hand, what a testament to Raymond Burr’s interpretation of the character it would be if the series fails!

Raymond always brought such varied and intriguing characters to life, from television’s Perry Mason and Robert Ironside to deadly villains in the movies and disturbed and heartbreaking characters such as the kidnapper in A Cry in the Night. It’s always a delight to view one of his roles. He was an excellent and very dedicated actor and will forever be remembered as such, as well as a caring, helpful man and friend.

As a parting note, MeTV has released the rest of their September schedule, and for some reason, they’re playing Perry movies every Friday in September. It’s very nice to see them giving such attention to the project. Perhaps their decision is both because of Raymond’s death this month and also the anniversary of the beginning of Perry Mason on September 21st, 1957.

I’m looking around the MeTV site for a Raymond tribute page, but I haven’t located one. If anyone catches a specific tribute on either the station itself or on the site, drop me a line.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Uncut 12th Wildcat

So this past day I did something else I’ve rather been dreading: watching the uncut 12th Wildcat.

Despite as disinterested as I am about sports, and American football in particular, the episode isn’t that bad . . . until, of course, we get to court. My complaints about how that is handled have not changed. Hamilton is making way too many mistakes and has to be reprimanded far too many times. It’s out of character. If this is the sort of conduct Bill Vincent sees, it’s no wonder he makes mistakes in The Impetuous Imp and The Misguided Model.

I counted around four or five times where Hamilton is reprimanded for unusually bad behavior. And judging from the scene when we first switch to court, there were many more problems happening off-screen. The exasperated judge is scolding both Perry and Hamilton and says that for the last time, he will not tolerate personal exchanges in court.

Having seen the episode in full, I suppose it is conceivable that Hamilton is on a high from his third narcotics bust and goes into court overconfident and that’s why there are so many screw-ups. But I really don’t think so. This seems more like just plain old bad writing, especially in light of the episode’s other, even worse problem.

Yes, the identity of the murder victim is never disclosed onscreen. We’re left to assume that the missing man is the one the defendant’s husband killed, but we’re never actually told that. It really wouldn’t have taken much for Perry to say it—just one more line, one more sentence!—but he doesn’t. And the epilogue, while cute, is like some hastily written fluff party. It reminds me of some of my first drafts of epilogues, where I’m so anxious to get a story done that I’m tapping out something short and cute to wrap it up. Luckily for me, I generally see the problems before I post and fix them by having the characters tie up all loose ends as well as celebrate. The writer did not do that here. The epilogue consists solely of everybody toasting each other.

The episode does manage to have its good points. As I noted before, Hamilton’s very first scene is excellent. There are many Steve scenes. And it boasts what is probably the most adorable Sergeant Brice scene ever.

Perry and company are eating at Clay’s and discussing the case when Brice randomly wanders into the scene. He smiles and greets Della, teasingly asking her if the guys are giving her a bad time. She smiles and runs her hand up his arm, telling him that if they ever do, Brice is her policeman.

This certainly opens up an intriguing friendship that is never really explored before or since. They wouldn’t be having such a familiar exchange like that if they haven’t had a great deal of interaction in the past. We’re sadly never shown any other scenes of them interacting, unless there’s some short little bit in the uncut version of a season 3 or 4 episode I’ve never seen. I’ll definitely be writing a story about Della and Brice sometime in the future.

Della is adorable too during the football game. She is very caught up in the game and is tensely excited as she roots for the Wildcats. I was a little surprised to see her show such an interest in football. I never thought of her as much of a sports fan.

Perhaps it’s not so much that she has an interest, but just that as long as she’s there, watching, she gets excited in the moment. They have friends on the team and among the team’s management, too, so she might be rooting for them, really. And they know that if the Wildcats win, there will hopefully be that payoff and they can crack the case.

It is kind of a cute thought, though, if Della enjoys football in general. It would be such an unexpected aspect of her character.

Brice also has an interesting moment in The Impetuous Imp. When Paul arrives on the crime scene and Steve doesn’t want him underfoot right then, Brice shrugs and calmly says, “He’s the boss. Let’s go, Paul,” rather indicating that if it was up to him, he would probably just let Paul stay.

I’m currently trying to find the post where I compared the defendants of The Impetuous Imp and The Negligent Nymph, and mused on preferring the more mature and serious girl from Nymph as opposed to the ditz from Imp, but so far I can’t seem to locate it. (Oh wait, I just found it.) I tend to not tag a post with an episode title if I only mention the episode in one paragraph, but sometimes that results in my losing track of the post. I think I need a better tagging system. It would help if Blogger didn’t limit you on how many characters via tags you can use per post. I think that’s why I started the system I’ve been using.

Anyway, I watched The Impetuous Imp too, generally enjoying it as I usually do, but the epilogue gave me pause this time, in spite of its amusing nature. It occurred to me that it really is terrible that Paul wasn’t consulted on the subject of the girl’s novel. Since she changes the name, however slightly (Paul Lake), I assume he could not sue her if he doesn’t care for the portrayal. But it seems it would just be the most decent thing to do, to tell him before a character heavily based on him goes into the world of print. Perry even seems to know about the book, since he says, “You’ll see, Paul.”

I guess it was just the practice back then, to keep it a surprise. But I heard about more than one instance where somebody sued in real-life because a television character was named exactly after them without their permission and they did not like it one bit. One would assume Perry would mention to the girl that even if Paul could not potentially sue, out of decency she should let Paul know before publishing the book. It would be a little different if it had just been a finished manuscript that she was planning to send off, and Paul was just learning the truth then, but in the scene it’s an actual, published novel. Before he even knows about it, people all over the nation (maybe even the world) are paying to read about Paul Lake, Private Eye. Wow.

In all fairness to the girl, it does sound like she portrays Paul quite well in the excerpt that's read. Paul's feelings on being the subject of her book, however, are not expressly clear. He gives one of his classic facial expressions during the excerpt and yet another when he sees the title of the book. And we are left with that.