Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chinese New Year Post!

Happy Chinese New Year tomorrow! In celebration, I thought of examining some of the fine Chinese-American actors who have been on the series.

The idea first sparked in some form when I saw an episode of Ironside in which Perry alumnus Benson Fong played a large part. He was excellent in the role of a father with a wayward son and brought a great deal of emotion and heart to the part. I wanted to highlight him on the blog for his Perry characters, but upon realizing I mixed up one role with another actor, I decided to celebrate them both (and more).

Born October 10th, 1916, Benson Fong left his California home for a time to study in China, but then returned to the United States and his mercantile family. He was found by Paramount while working as a grocer and asked if he would like to be in a movie. The result was a role in China with Loretta Young.

Quite an impressive film career followed! While in many movies he had small parts, in others he had a great deal of screentime. He even played Charlie Chan’s Number Three Son in some installments of that popular detective series and also had a major role in the musical Flower Drum Song. He appeared as well in the moving religious movie The Keys of the Kingdom and the Disney comedy The Love Bug, both of which I’ve seen. I vaguely remember his character in The Love Bug and am quite sure I enjoyed his performance.

On Perry, Benson appeared one time each in the first four seasons.

His first character is in The Empty Tin, and while that’s a favorite season 1 episode, I don’t remember the character too well. He is the servant of a man who was nearly killed when the photographer John Lowell sold him out to the Chinese Communists. Benson’s character comes after his boss’s death to kill Lowell out of revenge, but learns that he sold out from fear of the Communists and not for money, and that he was haunted by it ever since. This softens the servant’s heart.

He has a very prominent part in season 2’s The Caretaker’s Cat, as the staunchly loyal caretaker and defendant James Hing. That’s the role I immediately think of whenever I think of him. The episode’s plot is so quirky and bizarre, first-rate Perry, and the cat is so cute. And while on the one hand it’s mind-boggling that James Hing went along with his employer’s plan and never questioned the possibility of something going wrong, I love his loyalty and love towards his employer. That man’s death is definitely up there with the victims that didn’t deserve to die at all.

As has been the case with quite a few Oriental actors, Benson has played characters from other Far East countries. This happens in his third Perry role in The Blushing Pearls, where he plays Japanese pearl expert Itsubi Nogata. This is the only Perry character of his who actually commits a crime, being the actual thief of the titular object. He’s the one Perry tricks into coming out of his hotel room with the pearls when he thinks there’s a fire.

Benson goes back to playing a Chinese character for his final Perry venture, The Waylaid Wolf. As Oolong Kim, he is one of the housekeepers for the eponymous character’s father and is involved in the mystery. Perry tries to find out if he’s the one nicknamed “O.K.” by the murder victim.

Also of note is the person playing Oolong’s wife, Frances Fong. I wonder if she’s a relation? She apparently had quite a career as a character actress from the 1950s all the way up to 1999, but I can’t learn any biographical information.

Benson acted right up to the year he died of a stroke, 1987, and he also found time to open a chain of Ah Fong restaurants in California. He’s definitely one of the most prominently seen of the Oriental character actors during the heyday of classic movies and television, one I greatly enjoy discovering.

The actor I somehow mixed up for him is Keye Luke, in his role of C.C. Chang in The Weary Watchdog. Oddly enough, they do have a connection, as Keye played Charlie Chan’s Number One Son in that film series! (Keye’s younger brother Edwin also appeared in that series.) Later on, another connection was born when they each appeared in incarnations of Kung Fu—Keye in the television series and Benson in the follow-up movie.

Born in China, Keye was raised in Seattle. The Wing Luke Asian Musuem is named for a relative.

An unusual notation is that author Lisa See decided to depict Keye’s naturalization as an American citizen in her book Shanghai Girls. That’s neat that she chose to show that event.

Keye worked for a time as an artist in Seattle and Los Angeles, even in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, before moving on to acting. And it didn’t take long before he netted the role as Charlie Chan’s son. Over the next decades, he kept a steady stream of work at the movie studios, playing all manner of characters.

While Benson Fong’s list of credits is impressive, Keye Luke’s is even moreso, with over 200 listed on Out of all of those, he brought his talents to Perry twice.

In The Weary Watchdog, C.C. Chang appears initially to be a respectable businessman, but Perry eventually strips away the façade to reveal quite a wretched character. Stealing the titular art object is the least of his offenses! C.C. has been running an abominably cruel ring where family members of tortured loved ones still in China are forced to pay blood money to keep said loved ones alive. He’s also the murderer, killing his partner when he found out the guy was cheating him.

This episode boasts an assortment of fine Chinese-American actors, including James Hong as C.C.’s stepson, Judy Dan as Trixie Tong, the son’s love interest, and Beulah Quo as Mrs. Tong. Another Chinese-American character, James Wong, is played by a Korean-American actor, Philip Ahn.

Keye Luke’s second Perry appearance is in season 8’s unique venture The Feather Cloak. He plays Choy, a character whose role in the episode I can’t quite remember. I’ve only seen it once, something I want to rectify, as it’s certainly one of the most unusual Perry episodes of all. Arthur Wong, another Chinese-American actor, plays the judge.

Keye Luke has been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honor definitely well-deserved. There has also been a recent short film made about some of his life and work.

He passed away in 1991, also of a stroke. Like Benson, he was acting almost right up to the time of his death.

A list of Chinese-American Perry actors would never be complete without the lovely Irene Tsu. Also born in China, Irene moved quite a bit at an early age, going from Taiwan to Hong Kong and finally to New York, where she, her mother and her sister settled down for a while. An aunt was already living in the city. Her father, meanwhile, had remained behind in Taiwan.

Irene took ballet lessons and eventually auditioned for the Broadway version of Flower Drum Song. A staff member for another production, The World of Suzie Wong, saw her audition and got her to audition for the other show, where she got a part. When she later auditioned for the film version of Flower Drum Song, she got a part there as well and came to Hollywood. She soon appeared in the Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day film Take Her, She’s Mine and her career in movies and television was launched.

One of the most recognizable and hard-working of the beautiful Oriental actresses frequently seen on television, Irene made her Perry appearance in season 7’s The Floating Stones, as defendant Julie Eng. James Hong returned to play Lewis Kew, a lawyer who is in love with Julie, while Richard Loo played Mr. Eng, Julie’s grandfather. The case revolves around smuggling and mysteriously disappearing and reappearing diamonds. Julie is eventually accused of murdering the thief.

Irene is still alive and acting, in between being a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker and spending time with her family.

And while working on this post, I discovered something else. To say that James Hong is productive would be a vast understatement. IMDB lists 387 credits (!!!), with more very likely on the way. He studied engineering, and worked for a while as an engineer, but became interested in filming and took time off to make films before deciding that was what he wanted to do full-time.

A founder of the East-West Players, the oldest Asian-American theatre in Los Angeles, and a former president of the Association of Asian Pacific American Artists, James plans to produce his own films. I certainly wish him much luck!

To properly highlight every Chinese-American actor on Perry would take many pages. But I offer this sincere tribute to all of their efforts. Together they created some of the most interesting Perry characters and brought a great deal to each episode in which they appeared.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Red Riding Boots

So I was watching The Red Riding Boots on my local station last night. And while I’ll always love it for being one of the Mr. Sampson episodes, there is one plot twist that has always disturbed me.

After Joe Dixon’s arrest for Rita Conover’s murder, Burt Farwell is apparently determined to quite literally let him hang. His ex-wife Jill comes over and insists something has to be done, that Joe must be innocent, but Burt adamantly objects and insists that they can’t know he’s innocent and they shouldn’t interfere. Jill correctly deduces that Burt is afraid for some reason and calls Perry to help Joe.

Of course, once everything comes out in the climax, we know that Burt’s feelings are because his and Jill’s daughter Ann told him she killed Rita (who in turn was trying to protect Jill, whom she saw leave the ranch that night). Jill didn’t kill Rita either, but kept quiet about being there because apparently she thought Burt did it (perhaps thinking so because of his fear). Oy vey. So we have quite a twisted mess there.

But seriously, what in the world is Burt planning to do? Surely, even if Ann had killed Rita, it would have been an accident (or even self-defense) and they would have gone easy on her. But the way it’s set up for Joe, it’s being called murder one and he would have gone to the gas chamber if Perry had lost. Would Burt have really let it go that far? Would Jill or Ann?

I can’t believe Ann would have, at any rate. She probably would have had a breakdown long before the execution and the truth would have finally come out. Her immense distress throughout the episode is two-fold, wanting so badly to help Joe but at the same time fearing that then her mother would be arrested and perhaps eventually executed.

As for her parents, though, I’m not sure what they would have done. Jill surely, hopefully would have spoke up, since she’s insistent on getting Perry to help Joe instead of doing nothing, but on the other hand she still doesn’t reveal the truth about her having gone to the ranch. And Burt, well . . . considering his strenuous protests, it’s hard to say if he would have ever revealed what he thought was the truth. Although he doesn’t insist that Jill not call Perry when she picks up the phone to do so, so that’s something in his favor that suggests he’s hoping Perry can get Joe off without exposing Ann’s part in the murder.

It’s certainly understandable that Burt doesn’t want to see his daughter be arrested and possibly convicted, for any length of time, but especially when Joe’s very life is at stake and Ann’s likely wouldn’t be, it does disturb me that he likely wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help Joe if Jill hadn’t pushed it.

I wonder if any member of that family is prosecuted for withholding evidence?

Also, this episode certainly features one of the most intense and alarming climaxes, as Ann can’t stand choosing between her mother and Joe and runs out of the courtroom, apparently intending to jump out one of the courthouse windows. The shots of her poised on the windowsill and peering out at the traffic several stories below are unnerving. Thankfully, Perry unravels the truth and startles Ann by asking her which parent she’s protecting, thus giving him the chance to grab her and pull her down.

While not something that disturbs me as much as the other plot twist, it is heartbreaking to see how far Ann is willing to go out of her desperation and confusion, particularly considering how young she is. Elen Willard delivers an amazing, heartfelt performance throughout the episode, especially in the courtroom scenes. Her agony and indecision are clearly brought to the forefront.

And it just occurs to me to wonder if the sickening actions of the murderer, Rennie Foster, to incriminate the stepbrother who always tried to protect him, were meant as a deliberate parallel to the broken Farwell family, who are all bending over backwards trying to protect each other. Deliberate or not, it definitely stands to showcase this episode as depicting extremes on both ends of the spectrum: Burt willing to let Joe take the fall to protect Ann, and Rennie willing to let Joe take the fall to protect himself.

Poor Joe. His words in court about Rennie are so ironic: “He’s wild, but he ain’t bad.” What a crushing blow for him when the truth comes out. We don’t see what his reaction is, but it must be a horrible feeling. He apparently doesn’t have anyone ready to go to bat for him as much as they should have. His ex-wife is Rita, a femme fatale to the core, his stepbrother kills her and deliberately frames him, and the Farwells are all torn between letting him die and letting each other die (or be otherwise punished). Even though the whole mess is so tragically ridiculous and could have been avoided if everyone would have just told the truth, and it definitely shouldn’t be repeated in any form, I do hope Joe finds someone who cares about him as much as the Farwells care about each other.

And it prompts me to wonder if that manslaughter charge in Tennessee accurately reflects that case or if that was another of Rennie’s deliberate murders, covered up as such when the police decided it was manslaughter.

I do kind of wonder what the deal is with Rennie telling Sampson about the manslaughter charge and being allowed to testify without Sampson intending to reveal that fact. I assume it has to do with the manslaughter charge not being relevant to the case and that since Rennie hasn’t actually been convicted of it, he is still legally able to testify. And I assume that since Sampson insists he did not offer immunity, the plan is to turn Rennie over to the Tennessee authorities after Joe’s trial.

The court scenes are definitely fun as Perry and Sampson clash and Sampson reveals several key parts of the case that Joe hasn’t told Perry. It’s terrible for Perry, but I do like seeing the prosecution get some good points in, showing that they’re really not so incompetent. My opinion that Sampson gets to build some of the best cases of the deputy D.A. episodes still stands.

And I’m always enthusiastic over H.M. Wynant’s delivery of the lines, too. As far as I’m concerned, what makes Sampson so memorable is all on H.M., since the dialogue isn’t any different than what would have been given to Hamilton or another deputy. H.M. really takes the character and makes him his own and makes sure he stands out.

In spite of any unsettled feelings about parts of the episode’s execution, I will definitely continue to watch it any chance it’s available (and any other time I want). It is a solid case, one of Perry’s most baffling, and certainly one of the most heartwrenching.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The depiction of loved ones affected by death

The Hateful Hero was on MeTV recently. While I was watching, I ended up realizing another very unique angle this episode tackles and another reason why I would say it’s one of the best Perry episodes of all.

It’s interesting and a bit sad to note that even though there are deaths in every episode, it’s very rare to see the repercussions of said deaths on the family and other loved ones, unless the repercussions cast all the relationships in a negative light. It’s common in episodes for family and friends to say that they’re unmoved or glad that the person is dead. Worse, sometimes when someone shows grief or outrage, it’s an act and they’re the guilty party. (Or occasionally, they genuinely loved the person and the death was an accident, sometimes causing a breakdown in court when this is revealed.)

It’s gotten so bad that whenever there’s someone in a detective series who’s supposed to be close to either the victim or the defendant, I end up almost immediately suspecting them. And many times, I’m right. It’s kind of tiresome. Having a close loved one be the guilty party happens so much that it’s way too much of a cliché. Or alternately, I suppose, it’s a large dose of reality, since many crimes in reality actually are committed by close loved ones. Depressing.

Of course, another thing to factor in is that most of the time, the deaths are of very unlikable people. But even that doesn’t always mean there aren’t people who genuinely care about them. Sometimes, those people really are grieving, too, and were not involved in harming the victims.

Even when this happens, however, it’s usually not a major plot point and instead is something incidental, perhaps thrown into the confession scene as the person reacts to the news of who killed their loved one. Even in The Antic Angel, where the defendant is the estranged husband of the victim and clearly still cares about her, we don’t really see his grief. Although, the effects are certainly shown in the fact that he ends up accused of the murder!

This manner of showing the effects of death happens in several episodes where loved ones are accused of the crime. The Flighty Father is another example, and the girl in it expresses sorrow over having had an argument with her uncle before his death. She calls him a poor old man and feels honestly horrible about what she said and did.

However, as poignant as that scene is, it is only one scene in the episode. I can think of just three episodes off-hand where the effects of a death are keenly felt and shown for one or more loved ones and the grief is indeed a semi or major plot point, stretching over several scenes or shown throughout.

One is The Loquacious Liar, where the wife’s continuing love for her rotten husband is very critical to the plot. It causes her to think her son is nuts about apparently his whole story of being abducted, instead of just thinking he must be wrong about his step-father hiring the guy and someone else must have hired him instead. This causes her to tell her husband about the disaster, setting into motion the fight that leaves him dead and the son accused of murder. She grieves heavily about the death and her part in the fight being started. She’s caught in a nightmare involving her two most precious loved ones.

This is also the episode that has one of Tragg’s best and most moving serious moments, as he tells the wife of her husband’s death and says that in thirty years on the force, he’s never found an easy way to say it. It’s one of the most caring and kind announcements of a loved one’s death throughout the series; indeed, perhaps the very most.

Then there is The Lover’s Leap. Who could forget Julie Adams’ heartbreaking performance as the wife who doesn’t care about her husband’s crimes or going to jail as an accessory or anything except him? The scenes where her act as an uncaring ex-wife is stripped away, revealing her immense grief and anguish over his death, are among the most haunting of the entire series. When the true killer’s identity is revealed, likely crushing her anew because he’s a dear friend of hers (who admittedly didn’t mean to kill the guy), and she collapses against Perry in tears, it’s extremely powerful and poignant. She railed against Perry’s constant questioning and always appearing at the worst moments for her, but then she turns to him in that moment of deepest agony.

And, of course, we come to The Hateful Hero. It’s interesting to note that this is one of the few episodes where there are two deaths instead of just one. One of those deaths is the more standard “creep” variety, and in fact, we never meet any family of Ralph Pearce. But the other death, that of Andy’s dear friend Otto Norden, is the more rare “good guy” variety. And, I think, this is the only good guy character death in the series where we really see the repercussions on loved ones.

Certainly Erna Norden’s intense grief is one of the driving sub-plots of the episode. One reason we see so much of it is likely because of her and Otto’s important connections to Andy. Another reason, however, is because of how important Otto really is to the unraveling of the mystery.

One little thing I like very much is how Carrie Wilson, the owner of the plastic company where Otto was killed, wants to go see Mrs. Norden and offer condolences. It’s a compassionate, human gesture that I don’t recall seeing from very many people throughout the series and helps to signal that this is going to be a very unique and powerful episode.

I do wish this episode had shown the actual funeral. The funerals shown at various times in The Wild Wild West and Adam-12 are very moving and powerful and even heartbreaking. We do see Mrs. Norden’s mantle of photographs and awards that Otto received, including one given posthumously. It’s a beautiful but bittersweet tribute to a courageous policeman.

Andy is deeply affected by his friend’s death, although with Andy’s personality, we mostly see this through his facial expressions and the tones of his voice rather than through tears and outbursts. He tries desperately to be strong for Otto’s mother, comforting her when it fully hits her that Otto is really gone. But even then, his voice trembles a bit, showing some of his sorrow.

Andy, unable to bear hurting her more than she already is, can’t bring himself to question her on the possibility that Otto may have been the dirty cop instead of his cousin Jimmy. Perry then takes upon himself the role of devil’s advocate and goes to question her, resulting in a grief-stricken breakdown. It’s definitely a good thing Andy didn’t attempt the questioning, as he was very likely the only close loved one she had left. For him to be the one to question her would have felt like a final crushing blow.

When the mystery is finally solved and healing can at last begin, we revisit Mrs. Norden. Perry brings her the news that Otto was not a dirty cop, nor was Jimmy. Mrs. Norden reveals her own doubts and fears and how grateful she is to finally have them alleviated. Andy and Jimmy then appear for Wienerschnitzel night and Mrs. Norden accepts Jimmy as another surrogate son.

The Hateful Hero thus takes its place as a very realistic emotional venture, showing the deepest grief that a death can have on a loved one. In one way, I wish they would have taken an approach like this more often. In another way, though, it would have made the show so heartbreaking. The fact that most of the victims are creeps and very often have no one to really care about them somehow makes it so much easier to shrug and accept the death and move on without being particularly emotionally affected. A more rare episode like this really wrenches the heartstrings and makes you wonder why such a horrible death had to happen. It feels so very human all the way around. And it’s all the more powerful a venture because of its rarity.

Bravo, Perry Mason.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Birthday Tribute: Mort Mills

Here is a post that is long overdue. Since I recognize recurring characters as well as the main characters, Mort Mills and his character Sergeant Landro should have been highlighted ages ago. On this, the day after his birthday, I shall finally do a proper tribute post. (Or as much of one as I can.)

I can’t seem to find much biographical information. He was born January 11th, 1919. While he appeared in some movies, including as a patrolman in Psycho, he was seen much more frequently on television.

He turns up everywhere. Most weeks, I run across him at least once on one show or another. He’s been on The Untouchables, Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Ironside, and many more. As with many character actors, I see him play good and bad guys with equal frequency, and he does both very well.

He doesn’t always appear only in a guest-star capacity. He had a steady role in the 1950s series Man Without a Gun, as the marshal and friend of the titular newspaperman. It sounds like it was an interesting series, showing how said newspaperman managed to bring criminals to justice without violence—at least most of the time. Sometimes, the marshal was needed anyway.

Another role as a main character was in a series called Dante, about a guy named Dante who opens a nightclub called Dante’s Inferno. (I am amused.) He’s supposed to be reformed, but old gangsters keep calling on him and the police think he’s probably up to his old tricks. Again, Mort played the role of the police character. The series sounds a lot like the similar-premised Mr. Lucky, which I noted moments before reading the same notation in the article.

Then there’s series such as The Big Valley, where Mort appeared in a handful of episodes as the same character—in this case, a sheriff. In one venture, Earthquake!, he interacts with fellow Perry actor Wesley Lau. Wesley plays a rather cowardly creep who can’t seem to stop having affairs with other women. When the latest venture results in the poor girl getting pregnant, Wesley’s character tries to ensure that she stays trapped under the church in the damage from the earthquake, so that his secret won’t get out. To that end, he works in the posse organized by Mort’s sheriff.

Wesley is amazing and believable in the part, somehow managing to make the character feel real and human, and it’s delicious when the truth is learned and Mort’s sheriff really gives it to him, furious over the lengths to which he went to keep his infidelity known. In the end, Wesley’s character tries to commit to being a better person, and his wife, who is really amazing, decides to adopt the child after the poor mother dies in childbirth. It makes an interesting parallel with the Barkley family and Victoria Barkley’s welcoming of Heath, the illegitimate son of her husband, into their family.

Then, of course, there’s Perry. Mort appeared in one episode before taking on the role of Sergeant Landro; in season 3’s The Slandered Submarine, he plays Barry Scott. I remember seeing him there, but I don’t recall the character’s function in the episode. I don’t think, however, that Barry was mixed up in any of the crooked goings-on.

It’s the following season, in The Difficult Detour, when Sergeant Landro makes his first appearance. An officer of the county sheriff’s department, Landro is first seen wearing a uniform instead of the suit he wears in all future appearances. (The suit surprised me, really; I didn’t think there were plainclothesmen in the sheriff’s department.) He’s pretty much a standard policeman character, kind and concerned but businesslike and efficient.

Ensuing episodes continue this characterization but also show him coming to know and remember Perry and company. While he doesn’t appreciate law-bending antics any more than the other police characters, he is generally polite and congenial to Perry. Sometimes, in later episodes, he’s somewhat weary and exasperated and resigned to see Perry appear, but never to the extent that Tragg is.

Usually, episodes with Sergeant Landro will also feature Hamilton; Landro works for Los Angeles County, as does Hamilton. He is used when cities outside of L.A. but still part of the county come into the plot. One time, however, in The Brazen Bequest, Hamilton is not used. I can’t quite remember how Los Angeles County fits into the picture in that one, as I thought the college that’s the main setting was in another county altogether. If Los Angeles County had been used, Hamilton should have been used as well. And if Los Angeles County wasn’t used, I don’t understand why Landro was there.

I don’t know why they decided to have Sergeant Landro be a recurring character, but it’s always fun when that happens. I enjoy seeing a known character pop up repeatedly. It shows continuity, which older shows weren’t always so good about.

Sergeant Landro makes the majority of his appearances in seasons 5 and 6, with three in the former and two in the latter. Those appearances are book-ended by his first appearance in season 4 and one last appearance in season 8. I wonder why we don’t see him in season 7.

I suppose it’s not a surprise Mort wasn’t asked back for season 9, since in many ways that season seemed to be revamping the Perry formula, trying both to return to its book and season 1 roots as well as to march forward into more contemporary territory. Landro could have certainly fit in, but they were probably so occupied with ideas for the new-old format that they didn’t think of calling Mort back.

Mort acted on into the 1970s, where his final appearance was on The Streets of San Francisco. Then, unless a whole bunch of credits are missing, he seemed to have retired. He lived until June 6th, 1993, when apparently a burning cigarette started a fire that killed him. What a heartbreaking and unnecessary death!

While perhaps a lot of television viewers don’t know him by name, I imagine most everyone knows him by sight. Mort Mills was certainly an important and memorable contributor to classic television, still widely seen wherever these wonderful shows are viewed.

As a side-note, apparently Mary Treen was his cousin? (Can anyone confirm this?) Wow, she also has a very impressive resumé! She sounds like she was a nice lady, too.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A new Perry parallel

We have Cozi TV! I’m not sure when our affiliate came to be, but I’m guessing it was probably just a couple of days ago, perhaps on Monday. I found it last night and they happened to be right in the middle of The Six Million Dollar Man. So much Richard! The episode I found was really rather weird, as I’ve heard seasons 4 and 5 are, but it still had the basic goodness of the characters intact. I look forward to watching several of the shows on there. They even have The Name of the Game, which I’ve been trying to get hold of for ages.

The only thing I’m not terribly crazy about regarding the station is that it seems that sometimes it’s just a bit crude. Like, I saw some weird ad where somebody apparently decided to strip off his clothes (thankfully off-screen) each time he read a new praiseworthy comment for the station. I don’t think MeTV would ever have an ad like that!

A couple of weeks ago I discovered something that’s at least somewhat a Perry parallel, as I see it. It’s not as strong a parallel as some others I’ve found, but the contents are so unusual that I have a hard time believing there couldn’t have been some influence from Perry on the script.

The items in question are the Perry episode The Cowardly Lion and the Cannon episode Death of a Hunter. In both episodes, incidents involving dead men in lion’s cages happen. That in itself isn’t so much a parallel, granted, but once Death of a Hunter got to the second, more striking parallel, that was when I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t a coincidence.

Regarding the lion’s cage parallel, in both episodes the idea is to blame the lion for the person’s death. The key difference is that in The Cowardly Lion, the body was scratched by a lion pelt and placed already dead in the cage. The living lion did nothing to the guy except to investigate his condition. In Death of a Hunter, the lion really does kill the guy—but it happened because he was trying to tranquilize it and somebody put an energizing drug in the dart as well as the tranquilizer. Hence, the lion started to relax, but suddenly snapped to and attacked, likely because of being furious over being hit with the dart as well as because of the energizer.

The more direct parallel is the reason for the murders. In both, bad guys are smuggling drugs on certain animals’ cages. The cages in question then disappear. The murdered people are aware of the problem, albeit in The Cowardly Lion the guy is one of the crooks, and in Death of a Hunter he’s an innocent learning of the criminal operation and trying to stop it.

For the most part, the episodes differ other than these two points, although I suppose there’s a more minor parallel in the fact that both murdered men were having extramarital affairs. But while the guy in The Cowardly Lion was just an absolute slimeball through and through, the guy in Death of a Hunter was depressed and discouraged and only ended up with the other woman when he was having problems with his wife. At least, that’s how it started. They seemed to have continued their affair even after he tried to patch things with his wife, which is definitely not cool.

I don’t recall hearing of drug smuggling via animals’ cages in any other episode plots, which is why I can’t help thinking the Cannon writer must have been familiar with the Perry episode and liked the weird twist. The writers are not the same; if they were I would say for a surety that the parallel must have been deliberate. As it is, I can only guess. But it seems a pretty good guess, all things considered.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Lady in the Lake

I hope everyone had a good New Year! It isn’t one of my favorite holidays, as we don’t do much to celebrate. (I would love to attend an Oriental New Year’s celebration sometime!) But hopefully it will be a good year, filled with Perry goodness.

I actually had a topic on Thursday, but then I wasn’t feeling well and had to put it on hold. And then Friday night came along and provided another topic, so the original one has been put on hold again.

So for once I caught a Perry movie while it was actually on the air. I kind of wish I hadn’t, because then I would have recorded it for later and we’d have a copy that could be kept. I wasn’t planning to record it since we’d be there to watch it at the time. How was I to know that it would end up having such an exciting twist?

I imagine there are some purists who don’t like that The Lady in the Lake ended up with the murder victim not being dead, considering that a real murder is part of the Perry formula. But considering who the victim was, I’m thrilled!

I had thought the victim would probably be that awful Lisa person. When instead it was the wife, I was deeply disappointed. She was certainly among the handful of characters who didn’t deserve it in the least. To have her be alive and held prisoner was wonderful, in my estimation. And even aside from that, just looking at it from a story structure standpoint, I think it’s good to jar up a formula now and then. It keeps things fresh and new and puts people on their toes, wondering when next something might be different.

The one thing that puzzles me is who the Lisa person is. For a while, I honestly thought she was the sister, having survived and come back for revenge—which would be ungodly depressing, considering how horrible Sarah felt about standing by and watching her end up in the water. In the flashback at the beginning, the sister has red hair, even though the paintings of the girls both feature blonde hair. And Lisa’s hair is very strikingly red. When they found the sister’s brush in that motel room, it seemed to cinch the idea all the more.

Unless the movie was edited, there’s only one point where they could have explained the brush—right after the final commercial break and before the big reveal in court of Sarah’s survival. At that point, our local station made their commercials run so long that it cut into the movie’s return. Ugh. That’s been happening a lot lately and I’m getting sick of it. They need to time their commercials better!

I’m assuming that the Lisa person was instead exactly who she said she was and that she wasn’t the sister at all. Perhaps the brush was something Sarah was keeping. Or perhaps Lisa had it to taunt Sarah with. But I was definitely left confused when that angle didn’t appear to be explained in what I watched.

I also thought the evidence against the husband was rather flimsy. It would have felt more believable if he and Sarah didn’t get along well or even if their argument had been more intense. On the other hand, though, I really loved how their relationship was portrayed, for the most part, and I wouldn’t have liked to have seen that be changed.

I just wish Sarah would have been more receptive to the truth that Lisa was the one engineering the kiss and Sarah’s husband didn’t want it. It always annoys me when one member of a couple shows such a lack of faith in the other half. Of course, if she hadn’t been upset and gone out, then Lisa wouldn’t have cornered and abducted her at that point, but I’m sure they could have reworked the script a bit so that there was another reason why she went out.

I still think Paul Jr. can’t hold a candle to his dad as far as private-eyeing goes. And it really made me roll my eyes when he decided to pretend to be the thug the defendant’s brother thought he was, in order to try to get information from him. It worked for a bit, but it certainly backfired on him! I imagine that’s why Paul Sr. hardly ever did stunts like that. As I recall, he was usually always up front about being a private detective. And he had a pretty good track record of getting information.

At least, though, I liked how determined Paul Jr. was to finally catch up to Lisa and her companion. Paul Jr. was the one who actually rescued Sarah from her captivity, so he must be given credit for that. I was very glad to see him corner Lisa at last, after he kept bumbling through the case. And no matter Lisa’s motives in keeping Sarah alive, I have to be thankful to her that she did.

It was fun to see David Ogden Stiers as the prosecutor. He did a good job, although I was hoping to see him and Perry get a little more involved in having conflicting feelings about how the case was going. I like when that’s happening with Perry and Hamilton, as long as it’s handled without casting a bad light on either side and doesn’t dissolve into wildly flying accusations about the attorneys’ conduct.

I adore the reunion scene in court, when Sarah is brought in alive and she and her husband embrace. I just wish we had seen them again in the epilogue, although it was amusing when the epilogue consisted of Della insisted that Perry wouldn’t be skiing again.

All the cast did an excellent job, although most of them are unknown to me. The only guest-star other than David Ogden Stiers that I’m familiar with is David Hasselhoff. Knight Rider is a fun show that I enjoy watching sometimes. I never saw Baywatch.

Overall, I found it a very satisfying entry in the Perry movie series. And although I don’t consider the movies part of the canon, I like this one so much that I’d like to say that I imagine a version of it happening “off-screen” in the television series, if that makes sense.

I’ve kind of thought of bringing a few of the movies’ characters, including David’s and Scott Baio’s prosecutors, into my stories. They’d be the same ages as they are in the movies, only the Perry they would encounter would be the television series Perry instead of the movie Perry. In other words, they would be part of my extended television series ventures instead of being at work twenty-odd years after the events of the series.