Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Memoriam, Part 1: William Talman

So today is the day of the two tributes, honoring our district attorney and the second of our police lieutenants, both gone far too soon. I thought I’d post one early in the day and one later, since I don’t really want to combine them.

I’ve been wondering exactly what to say on this one. It’s still so difficult to find the remaining things William Talman has been in, save for some of the ones in which he plays the villain that I haven’t gotten the strength to see yet. I always enjoy his performances, but naturally I lean towards preferring good guys over bad. And it seems I’ve talked so much about William on Perry that there wouldn’t be anything left to be said! I was hoping to be hit with some new angle to follow, but I haven’t yet.

I was surprised, as I mentioned, to actually like book-Hamilton when I read through some of The Caretaker’s Cat. I was expecting an extremely pig-headed person, but at least in this novel, he wasn’t. I was particularly impressed by him saying how he has a horror over the possibility of convicting an innocent person.

That sort of attitude certainly parallels that of Hamilton in the television series. William brought the character to life so beautifully and so humanly, always making sure that he showed his kindness and concern towards witnesses, families of the victims, and even the defendants. He always wanted justice done above all else and was happy to cooperate with Perry as soon as Perry could provide good reason to believe why someone else may have been the killer.

I encountered someone once who complained about Hamilton gloating whenever he had one over on Perry, claiming that in the books he doesn’t do that. I honestly can’t comment there; I don’t know, although I’ve been told by others that he does indeed gloat in the books, too. I suppose it is rather immature, as the person complained, but it is such a part of the television Hamilton and William was so good at it. Many of his comments are downright hilarious, and his expressions, when gloating and especially when he’s exasperated, are just priceless. Some actors are just masters of epic expressions, and William Talman was definitely one of them.

I was surprised by how this person I talked to seemed to prefer the characters to stay the way they are in the books, relationship-wise. She felt that they were overall more distant and she preferred that, I think because she said she wanted the emphasis on the cases. I can’t see myself ever preferring a verse where Perry and Hamilton don’t become friends, when their friendship was the key element that drew me in years ago and it’s one of the keystones of the television series. It grows and develops so much over the nine seasons, as do the characters themselves. As I recall, Hamilton does a lot less of the gloating in later seasons, as he becomes a more mature person. Occasionally he’ll even joke about it, such as at the end of The Shoplifter’s Shoe when he says “Well, Perry, it looks like I was wrong. For once. On this case.” I love that little mischievous smile and how it’s obvious that he and Perry are sharing a laugh.

The significance of the scene totally went over my dad’s head, as he could only say, “This time? He’s wrong all the time!” But I saw the beauty in Hamilton cracking the joke, and that little smile which said he knew it was an ironic joke, and the fact that he was comfortable enough around Perry to actually make the joke and have it understood. Truly, a scene like that never could have happened in season 1, where Perry and Hamilton usually are either aloof and distant or at war—although even then, there are scenes that show a certain respect at times and the budding friendship that will emerge in full bloom later on.

It’s lovely how the actors were such good friends in real-life; William even commented that Raymond was his best friend. And that definitely comes out in the series. When actors have an amazing rapport, there’s no way to stop it from transferring to their characters. And no reason to want it to, either, as it makes everything feel more real and gel better.

Could the Perry and Hamilton dynamic have happened with another actor in William’s place? Yes; there are many talented actors. But no one else could have played the character like William did. And I’m not at all sure that any other performance would have become so incredibly memorable even so many years later. William just fit the part like a glove. He made it his own. And that is why it’s so easy to picture him whenever we think of Hamilton Burger.

I hope that he and Raymond have continued their friendship on the other side. Perhaps they’ve even found some new things to perform in. That would certainly be a treat for anyone luckily enough to see it.

Meanwhile, as we miss wonderful people like William down here, we have many incredible performances to treasure, including every Perry episode in which he appeared. They make for highly enjoyable repeat viewing again and again.

William, we still think about you and love you. And I am thrilled that all the Perry episodes are still around and have even been restored to pristine glory. We’ll be able to share in your adventures as Hamilton Burger for a long time yet.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Case of the Shoplifter's Book

I am absolutely ecstatic! I have learned something I asked the Yahoo Group in vain some time back, whether or not the Deputy D.A. Sampson character exists in the books. Apparently he does! A deputy D.A. named Sampson figures into at least one book, The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe. I’ve asked the person who reviewed the book what the character is like, but I haven’t received a reply yet.

Just judging by what I subsequently read at Storrer’s site, I can’t quite figure out what he’s like. I don’t like that at one point he’s coaching a witness on what to say. But I’d have to actually read the book to see what’s fully going on; I would imagine that Sampson fully believes that what he’s saying is the truth and hence, doesn’t think it amiss to coach the witness into saying it. Yet still, it sounds more like the impetuous Bill Vincent than Sampson.

The television Sampson is sharp, smart, and seems upright almost to a fault. He does try to drag answers to leading questions out of some uncooperative witnesses, but just by treating them as hostile and demanding they simply answer Yes or No, which certainly isn’t the same as coaching them on what to say. And when accused of offering immunity to someone wanted for manslaughter in Tennessee, he responds, “We resent that, Your Honor!”

I suppose, depending on the context, I might not find it out-of-character for him to coach the witness. But I don’t think it’s right for either side to do that with a witness, and knowing Sampson, he would likely agree and not knowingly be a party to it.

Of course, however, the book versions of the characters really are different in many ways from their television counterparts, and not always flatteringly so. I imagine it could be argued that the book characters have more faults and hence are more human, but I say there are many ways to have faults and the way the books do it isn’t the only way, nor necessarily the best way.

One definite, but superficial, difference between the Sampsons is that his first name in the book is given as Larry. I still like my choice of the name Gregory; Larry just doesn’t sound as fitting for a character as strong and determined and brash as H.M. Wynant portrayed him. And the television series already has a deputy D.A. Larry anyway, in the form of Larry Germaine. So I’ll probably keep using the name Gregory. It wouldn’t be the first time the books and the television series have diverged on a name.

What’s really weird is when the books and the television series agree on a name . . . even if the titles and plots are completely different! On Friday night MeTV showed The Shattered Dream, a television series-only episode. And after reading the aforementioned very interesting review of the book version of The Shoplifter’s Shoe, I have come to the realization that The Shattered Dream used several names from The Shoplifter’s Shoe! This can hardly be a coincidence. And since the stories are completely different, it’s a very weird deliberate act.

First off, the most glaring parallel is that both stories feature a prominent character called Virginia Trent. In Dream, she’s the heiress to a diamond business. In Shoe, she’s the niece of the defendant and is always spouting psychology to explain people’s actions.

I suppose that if that was the only parallel, one could possibly assume that it’s a coincidence, even though Virginia isn’t a very common name. But it doesn’t stop there.

In Shoe, Virginia’s aunt is named Sarah Breel. In Dream, the murder victim is using the alias Breel when he leaves his wife. And his wife’s name is Sara.

And it gets weirder still. Dream features a character called Irene Bedford, who owns the diamond that’s absolutely central to the whole plot. Shoe features Ione Bedford, who pretends to own nice things like the Bedford Diamonds, which are also fairly critical to the story.

What in the world? How did all of that happen? It almost makes me wonder if Dream was originally intended to be a very loose adaption of Shoe, but somewhere along the line someone decided it should be its own story. Later on, when they finally got around to adapting Shoe in season 6, they kept all the names. In fact, so far it seems to be one of the only times I’ve seen where the book and the television names remain the same.

As mentioned, I looked through Storrer’s site to see the details of the book version of Shoe. I was impressed to see that aside from some fleshing out of things, the basic plot was almost completely retained for the television episode . . . until we came to the solution of the crime.

In the television Shoe, of course, we find out that while Virginia thinks her gunshot killed Austin Cullins, it actually went wild and Leonard Nimoy’s character Pete Chennery was the actual murderer. But if I understand the book version’s plot, it looks like in it, Virginia really did kill Cullins! She did it out of reflex when he shot at Sarah, so it certainly couldn’t ever be construed as cold-blooded murder. But Perry fixes things with legal trickery so that Sarah Breel is exonerated and Virginia is unlikely to be prosecuted. And, he says, the police are likely to think Chennery did the killing.

Um . . . does that mean that Perry basically just set up someone else who’s guiltless to take the blame? Or else he did nothing and just plans to continue to do nothing and stand idly by if the police find Chennery (as Perry admittedly thinks they won’t)? I know book-Perry does a lot more shady things than television Perry, even at his worst, but this? I suppose I’d actually have to read the book to know for sure what’s going on to that effect, but it definitely doesn’t sound good from here.

In any case, book-Perry really is quite a piece of work. I’m thinking more and more that he and book-Della would probably make great friends with either version of Simon Templar.

It really puzzles me as to why, when Erle Stanley Gardner wanted to write something to show lawyers in a better light, he instead wrote Perry as acting a lot like a shyster and doing downright illegal things in at least the earlier novels. How would that help public opinion? I guess it must have, or the books wouldn’t have taken off so much, but I’m just sitting here thinking What in the world? and being glad that the television Perry had his act cleaned up quite a bit. I may be in the minority, but I really prefer when the protagonist doesn’t have such questionable morality, especially if he’s in a position like Perry.

I suppose it could be argued that the difference between a regular shyster and Perry is that Perry really cares about his clients and he isn’t just out for money. But I don’t like how book-Perry doesn’t care whether his client is guilty or not, since one of the defining traits of television Perry is that he cares very much. Nor do I like that book-Perry really doesn’t care if the murderer goes scot-free as long as he gets his client off (regardless of whether the client is the killer). I know book-Perry is probably closer to real lawyers, since I don’t imagine most real lawyers go around solving crimes and digging up the killers except in unusual cases. But I guess even though Hamilton is my favorite, I still kind of romanticize Perry a bit! That’s definitely the television show’s influence, and I don’t mind at all.

Interestingly, I guess the fact that book-Perry defends guilty clients sometimes and doesn’t seem to care about exposing the real murderers in any case might mean the reduction or elimination of the police apparently not doing their jobs well, which is certainly how it looks in the television series when the wrong person is arrested near constantly and Perry is solving the cases and discovering the real criminals. Alternately, however, book-Perry’s attitudes don’t always make him seem like such a great hero. Sometimes I like antihero characters, but I’m just not crazy about Perry being one. And Sergeant Holcomb, in the books, seems a lot more idiotic than any of the television police ever did.

I guess, just as with those who prefer early episodes over later ones, and vice versa, it really comes down to what’s wanted out of entertainment. And since I prefer characterization over twisty plots, and feel that the television characters deliver the type of characterization I find most pleasing, I will always prefer the television series to the books, even if I can come to enjoy the books as sort of an alternate universe.

That said, I would still like to see a fanfiction story where book-Perry and television-Perry somehow meet and compare differences in personalities and attitudes and such. It would be so much fun! And looking at it in a meta light, it could be very helpful for me and others to really see the similarities and differences between the versions of the character.

If anyone reading this has read the book version of The Shoplifter’s Shoe, I would really like to know more about how Sampson is portrayed! I’m going to be trying to track down a copy of the book, but since I really prefer shiny new books to second-hand books, and it’s unlikely I can find a shiny new one, I’m not sure when I’ll find a copy I want to buy. It’s also on Kindle, for those who like intangible books. (I don’t.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

The news is good for Perry fans!

MeTV's fall schedule is up and Perry fans are in business! Apparently The Love Boat wasn't working out as well as they hoped; it's back to Sundays only and we get the morning Perry episode back! The evening showing stays in place too, thank goodness, and Ironside will air right after Night Gallery!

There were some disappointments for me on the schedule, but nothing I hadn't already expected. Cannon, Kojak, and The Fugitive are going on hiatus for a while. So is The Twilight Zone, to my surprise, but I really doubt that will last long since it didn't work out when they tried that last summer.

Overall, there is much to be excited about on the Perry front!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

More recurring characters!

The Buried Clock isn’t an episode I watch often, so when I do, I seem to find some surprises!

When Perry talks to his client on the phone near the beginning, the show employs a tactic it rarely uses: a split-screen. It’s a fun way to see both ends of a conversation at once, but I believe Perry only used it two or three times, if not just this once. It’s definitely surprising, even jarring, to see it on this show, as its lack of usage makes it seem somewhat out of place. Still, it’s a change from the regular way telephone conversations are shown, and it’s fun to have a change.

Also, when the sheriff wanders in, Perry greets him as though he knows him. That intrigued me enough that I decided to find out if both he and the district attorney are the same characters from season 1’s The Angry Mourner. I knew that Paul Fix’s D.A. always had a preference for bow ties, but I was thinking I’d learned that his guest-spots did not all revolve around the exact same character.

Apparently I was wrong. The character in The Angry Mourner, The Buried Clock, and two other episodes (The Barefaced Witness and The Potted Planter) is always called District Attorney Hale, albeit his first name changes from Darwin to Jonathan. Perhaps they’re twin brothers!

As for the sheriff, he bears the same name in the two early episodes, Burt Elmore, but the actor changes from James Westerfield to Robert Foulk. The latter actor also plays a different law-enforcement character in Paul Fix’s final episode as Mr. Hale.

As I’ve often said, I love continuity in old television shows, especially since they often didn’t have any. I’m rather excited to discover more recurring characters, even if one of them changed actors and the other changed first names! They’re apparently meant to be the same people regardless. And I believe they’re the only (or at least, the first I’ve discovered) out-of-county recurring characters! Sergeant Landro doesn’t count, as he’s in the county, just not the city.

Personality-wise, I’ve usually remembered Paul Fix’s district attorney character by the fact that he’s played by Paul Fix rather than that he had a particularly unique way of handling things. The more I think about it, however, the more it seems to me that he not only did a fine and professional job, he did put an unusual spin on his prosecuting. He seemed to add a bit of a calm, small-town, Mayberry-ish flair instead of being very out-and-out forward and blunt and raising his voice. I’ve meant to watch the uncut Barefaced Witness sometime, as I have the feeling the television version may be one of the most chopped-up of the series, so perhaps this will give me the added push to actually do it. I’ll pay close attention to Mr. Hale and see how he comes across.

From what little I saw of the sheriff in The Buried Clock, he seems to be a fairly friendly sort and on good terms with Perry, which is rather interesting and not always usual. I’ve never seen either The Angry Mourner or The Buried Clock uncut, either, so I believe I shall embark on that quest to see more of what the sheriff is like.

And tomorrow MeTV reveals the complete Fall schedule! I’ve been anxiously waiting for it for several reasons. I’ll be sure to report on any changes that will affect Perry or other projects of interest to Perry fans, such as Ironside. I would love to see Ironside return, either in the morning or following the nighttime airing of Perry. I would also love to see the morning Perry airing return, but given the choice, I would rather keep Cannon and Kojak and have one of them fill the slot. I know they’re leaving the Sunday block and I’m afraid they’ll both be booted instead of moving elsewhere.

Tentatively I’d say that the most we can probably hope for is that MeTV will at least keep the nighttime Perry airing as they have hitherto done. It seems to be a staple of the station, as its weekday afternoon Westerns are. Hopefully it will stay that way. MeTV’s prints are certainly less chopped-up than Hallmark’s, and for me, MeTV is the only way to see all of seasons 7, 8, and 9 on the television since my local station has eliminated so many episodes from its run.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ohh wooow....

One very quick note, even though I just made a post a few hours ago. Amazon sent an email and Perry is the Deal of the Week again! Every single volume is under $20 for the week! If there's volumes you're missing, this would be an excellent time to pick them up. I am staring at Amazon's page with starry eyes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Season 2 vs. Season 1

Well, two episodes into season 2 on MeTV and we have two undeserving deaths in a row! Man.

The season opens with The Corresponding Corpse, and although it wasn’t very good of the victim to be hanging out with another woman while being married, I wonder if in his mind she was always a friend and not a romantic interest. He called her a friend in the episode, after all, which was what got her so upset. And in any case, he had decided he wanted to make things right and go home to his wife and let her know he was really alive. It was really sad that his wife’s coworker decided to kill him so he couldn’t come back. The wife seemed upset, too. The murderer said she didn’t want her husband back, but I wonder how true that was. And even if she didn’t want him back, she sure wouldn’t want her coworker either, after he murdered the guy! Poor wife ended up with no one.

Then, in The Lucky Loser, the victim is thought to be the wife’s mysterious boyfriend, but we learn later that he died months ago and the victim is really her poor husband, whom she cold-bloodedly shot to get him out of the way. Oh good grief. With him, he was trying to cover up what he thought was a death he had caused, which wasn’t good either, but he didn’t shoot the guy on purpose. He seemed more like a defendant character, since several of them thought they killed people when they didn’t, rather than a victim himself. Overall, both he and George from the previous episode were minor offenders compared to most of the murder victims. Both of them are quite sympathetic characters who really deserved their chances to live.

One other unique thing about The Corresponding Corpse is that it’s one of the few times when we have a defendant who really is engaged in some not so nice things, this time by wanting to be romantically involved with the victim even after finding out he’s married. The same thing happens in The Singing Skirt, only the romantic interest isn’t the one who dies—his wife does. Usually, even when it looks seriously bad for the defendant, the worst they generally do is try to cover up for someone else whom they suspect, so it’s unusual when the defendant is more morally grayer than that.

I’ve appreciated season 1 more on this round, and I wondered if I would have a hard time adjusting to the switch to season 2 and a majority of television-only storylines. But as it turned out, I didn’t find the switch too hard and heavy to handle. Actually, even as much as I enjoyed season 1 and its complex, noir-ish storylines, I welcomed the return of season 2.

I think perhaps at least part of the reason is because of season 2’s relative lack of noir-ish elements. Noir is fun and dark and shadowy, but sometimes I like things a bit more upbeat than a noir. And noirs often feel like period pieces and I often prefer a more contemporary feeling. Season 2 seems to throw off the noir atmosphere and appear brighter and cheerier in some respects, and certainly contemporary. Even with the darker elements of the first two episodes, they still don’t quite come across with that certain noir feeling. The television-only scripts might not be as deep as the early ones based on Mr. Gardner’s books, but they’re enjoyable too, and in season 2 there’s still a lot of that Core Five element, with everyone getting a good amount of screentime.

And one other thing about season 2, it can be pretty dark when it wants, both in its television-only and book-based storylines. The Romantic Rogue and The Howling Dog are both rather disturbing, the latter especially so. Bodies buried on private property and dogs howling about it . . . that’s some unsettling stuff. The Howling Dog is also particularly haunting because of the brother and sister both being killed in addition to the woman’s lover. The murderess is such a horrible person. Occasionally I could feel some pity for some of the murderers, but I certainly couldn’t for that one! She absolutely makes my skin crawl.

I wonder if The Howling Dog is also unique to the series in the respect of how many people die. Usually it’s one and very occasionally it’s two, but I’m not sure I can think of another episode off-hand where it’s three. The murderess tried to kill three people in The Empty Tin, but one of them lived, so that doesn’t count.

Season 2, also, as I recall, marks the beginning of Perry toning down many of his law-bending activities, although they’re still present now and then. I believe he pulled a stunt in The Howling Dog, for one. And then again in season 3’s The Singing Skirt. Both are book-based, so I’m assuming that is largely the reason why he’s returning to his stunts after abstaining for various lengths of time. I think his most eyebrow-raising stunts are almost always in the book-based episodes. Season 5’s The Mystified Miner remains another book-based one with shenanigans, still perhaps the most appalling in the series. Deliberately obscuring the defendant’s fingerprints on the evidential car, good grief!

One thing that amuses me about those stunts more than it probably should is when he tries to play tricks on Hamilton and the police and it totally backfires on him. I can think of at least three or four times when that happened: in The Long-Legged Models and The Rolling Bones in season 1, The Singing Skirt in season 3, and The Golden Girls in season 9. All are book-based episodes. On the one hand, I feel bad for him and his clients when the antics end up making everything look worse for them. But on the other hand, I can’t help thinking, And that’s what happens when you toy with the law, kids.

Both The Long-Legged Models and The Singing Skirt involve Perry trying to mix things up with the multiple guns and only muddling everything worse. In each case, the gun that isn’t supposed to be the murder weapon turns out to actually be the murder weapon—albeit in The Long-Legged Models the defendant deliberately switches guns because of not wanting to possibly incriminate her old crush. In The Singing Skirt, the switch is a total shock to both Perry and the client.

A gun is also the problem in The Golden Girls. Perry and Paul are trying to escape from the police with the case they think has the murder weapon in it. It’s only in court when Perry discovers the gun isn’t in the thing at all and is back at the Golden Bear Club.

The Rolling Bones is a bit more of an iffy case, since Perry has realized the office is mysteriously bugged and he naturally would want to fight against that and would really be justified in doing so. I wonder exactly what he thinks is the explanation for it, since he says outright he knows Hamilton wouldn’t bug the place illegally. (I was thrilled to finally see a print on television with that part in it! Usually it’s cut.) But so Perry tries to throw the police and Hamilton off-track with a fake telephone conversation and makes up a crazy story to tell Della as they talk. However, the bug is in the phone, so Perry’s side of the conversation is picked up anyway. And he seems to be a better detective than even he realizes. The crazy story turns out to be true and is very incriminating for his client! Uh oh.

Season 1 certainly is unique for its twists and turns and its emphasis on book-based storylines. There’s a lot of fun to be had. But the Perry experience is just beginning! I will never understand people who feel like season 1, or in some cases, seasons 1-4, are the only decent episodes to be had or that the show has to feel like a noir to be good. There’s a lot to enjoy in every season and I’m looking forward to continuing the ride with season 2.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Birthday Tribute: Richard Anderson

Today is the 88th birthday of cast member Richard Anderson! Awesome!

We are so blessed to have any of the original Perry cast still with us, and Richard is such a lovely person. I adore how he wants to do things for the fans, such as having accounts on Facebook and Blogger to post things and attending fan conventions. I wish he’d come to the convention in my approximate area sometime!

Naturally his general purpose at those conventions seems to be to represent Oscar Goldman and The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman franchises. But I wonder if anyone has ever asked him about Perry if they’ve met him there?

Last month I found an address for him and wrote him a rather rambling letter, culminating in asking for a picture. (I included a self-addressed stamped envelope, naturally.) I’d heard that Richard responds very quickly to mail sent through the post office, and he definitely does! I got a personalized picture back in less than two weeks! I immediately got it on the wall.

I heard a couple of years ago or so that Richard was writing a book. I haven’t heard anything more about it since then, but I hope it’s still something he plans to get out. I would love to read it! And, as I believe it was going to be a memoir/autobiography, there might be some fun stuff in it about his time on Perry.

Of course, I’ve spent the past year finding new and exciting things that Richard has appeared in. I’m just getting going collecting his old movies from his MGM days. Many of those are being released on DVD via Warner Archive. One I just located last week is Fearless Fagan, a cute and ridiculous story about a guy who gets drafted and takes his pet lion to the base while he looks for a home for it. Richard plays the base’s captain and has some pretty good-sized screentime. He also takes part in the most hilarious scene, where sergeant Keenan Wynn flees from the lion and drops his walkie-talkie. The lion picks it up, rolls with it, and purrs and roars into it, all while Richard is screaming for Keenan Wynn to answer him!

Richard was in several somewhat rare musicals from the era. I’m probably going to try to get hold of Hit the Deck first, as it sounds like he has some pretty good screentime in it too. He’s the aide to the colonel and they’re trying to stop the bizarre actions of the main characters.

I usually think of Richard primarily as a dramatic actor, but even in shows that are basically dramatic, he can do some really funny things. He gets such classic expressions on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman as he reacts to things his agents are saying and doing. I remember some funny looks on Perry too, especially in The Dead Ringer when Paul is imitating Perry’s double. And according to IMDB, he did comedy scenes in an early series called Lights, Camera, Action! That’s what got the interest of MGM in the early 1950s. So it’s not too much of a jump from that to appearing in actual comedies and light-hearted musicals. I kind of wish Richard had had more of a chance to be funny later on, such as by guest-starring on comedy shows. But I love seeing him in his dramatic performances; he is so excellent in dramas!

One rather amusing thing I dug up was his four-episode arc on Zorro. He plays a practical-joking friend of Diego’s, who of course has no idea of Diego’s alter-ego. He even eventually ends up challenging Zorro to a duel! (It’s a long story.) At one point both characters serenade their shared love interest, and one thing I would really like to know is if it’s really Richard singing! I kind of thought it sounded more like he was being dubbed, but it would be awesome if it really was him. I love to hear my favorites singing.

Naturally, every time Perry gets close to season 9 in its television runs, I get excited and anticipant to see Richard as a cast regular again. I’m still hoping to get the latter half of season 9 on DVD; it seems that the price is only down at points when I can’t purchase things on Amazon! But I will definitely get hold of it eventually, and it will be a delight to finally see The Sausalito Sunrise and The Fanciful Frail uncut. I hope for more Steve scenes! I do know there’s at least one I’ve never seen, which is in the epilogue of The Vanishing Victim. Steve comes in selling tickets to some charity event, which Perry promptly purchases with Paul’s money (!).

Of late, I’ve been watching Richard in some of his 1980s guest-spots as well, such as a cold-hearted murderer on Matt Houston (where he appeared with Joseph Campanella, yay!) and a publisher wanting to sign Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote. I also had the chance to watch him and Joseph bowling in the 1970s on Celebrity Bowling. That’s a very fun television series. I love the game shows with celebrity contestants, as you can really see them being themselves. Richard was very charming, good-humored, and lots of fun to watch, which is pretty much exactly what I expected from him! He bowled a pretty good game, too; his team won. I do wish that he and Joseph had been on the same team, as it made it very difficult to know who to root for when they were on separate teams. But as I joked on MeTV’s website, that much awesome on the same team might have caused the world to implode. Better to spread the awesome around a bit!

Happy Birthday, Richard! Thank you so much for the picture you signed and sent to me, and thank you so much for all the lovely things you’ve done for the fans and all the wonderful performances you’ve given us! Here’s to many more happy years!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Case of the Screaming Woman

I didn’t have the chance to see Perry Thursday night, so I decided to watch the uncut version on my DVDs. I was rather disappointed to discover that the episode aired was not The Substitute Face, but The Screaming Woman. I mixed up their placements. It’s been ages since I’ve seen the uncut Substitute Face, a favorite season 1 episode, but it’s also been ages since I’ve seen The Screaming Woman in any form, so I adapted to that and watched it.

Usually I seem to either deliberately avoid that episode or circumstances strangely crop up and prevent the watching of it. Mary K. Davis, the murder victim, is one of those who really makes me rage inside. This viewing, however, I wasn’t as bothered as in the past and it certainly made for easier viewing.

The title is one of those that makes very little sense to me. I wonder if it makes more sense in the book? Who’s screaming? The only person I saw screaming in the episode was the murderer in the climax. Perhaps that’s what it refers to, although that seems a bit odd. Usually the title refers to some occasionally obscure but always important thing that happens in the case long before the climax.

I was completely surprised by the murderer’s identity; it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I had entirely forgotten. She seemed such a sweet girl, it’s hard to imagine her being the guilty party. I wonder what happened to her. Hamilton decided to go for second-degree murder instead of first, since there was a fight. But I wonder if murder was ever intended at all and if Mary K. Davis could have instigated the fight. I wouldn’t put it past her. I wonder if the killer could end up getting off with self-defense. I kind of hope so, mostly because I felt so sorry for her boyfriend.

And this episode is certainly an eyebrow-raiser for legal-bending and even breaking. Perry and even Della do quite a bit here that is blatantly illegal, albeit they try as always to use little loopholes to get out of it, such as Della never actually saying she’s Mary K. Davis when she answers the door to accept the package.

Della’s little adventure, by the way, is certainly one of the most intense scenes involving a main character in the series. The door opening and the intruder’s silhouette on the wall, holding a gun, makes it clear that Della is in danger. Even knowing she gets out of that okay, I still tense up every time I watch that scene.

I have mixed feelings on the destruction of the record book. On the one hand, it’s good that a lot of other people won’t have to be dragged into the mess, hurting the children involved. But the book is evidence in the trial and it’s still appalling that Perry encourages the doctor to throw it in the fire, even though he doesn’t outright tell him in words to do so.

I also have mixed feelings on what the doctor was doing. I agree that there are a lot of wonderful people who should be able to raise kids, perhaps even if they don’t quite meet all the requirements that the adoption agencies set up. But getting a kid illegally doesn’t seem a very good start for parentage. At least it wasn’t done with “baby brokers” and other alarming black market criminals, but still.

I was rather glad that Perry was appalled and didn’t seem to agree with what they were doing. And I found it an intriguing element when Perry and the doctor discussed the ethics of killing Mary K. Davis. The doctor seemed to feel that it needed to be done, but that he should have done it and not his nurse, while of course Perry drew the line at any such thing being done by either one of them. “I do understand, Doctor; I just don’t agree” is one of my favorite Perry lines, especially from season 1.

And the infamous fake Dictaphone cylinder. What to say? That was one more blatantly illegal move, whether it was done just to draw a confession or not. Wouldn’t it have worked just as well for them to play the partially unbroken cylinder? Or did Perry worry that the confession wouldn’t come before it was revealed that none of the incriminating evidence had survived on the broken cylinder? Actually, there was the same gamble with the fake one they fixed up, since it only had a sentence or two more than the real one.

I wondered if there was any significance in the cylinder sticking while trying to play it, but there didn’t seem to be; it was just a slightly amusing bit of reality thrown into the scene. Alternately, I wonder if it wasn’t in the script and it really did stick, but William Talman ad-libbed and they kept it in!

It was kind of surprising to see Della so gung-ho about all of the illegal actions, although it was good that she and Perry both fretted over her having to bring the book back to the office. I was amused by Paul’s horror over their subsequent decision to write on the envelope, but at the same time I rather agreed with him. Sometimes Paul is apparently the only one in the office against doing legal-bending activities.

On reflection, I suppose even in later episodes Della is quite all for doing whatever has to be done, no matter whether it’s quite legal or not. The Weary Watchdog, and Della’s involvement in her friend’s problems, comes to mind. Even though Della wasn’t told that someone had been hurt and might be dead, she surely knew that what her friend was asking her to do in driving the car could result in a sticky problem. Her snarky, fake-innocent exchanges with the police certainly show she knew what she was doing. She got in the wrong car by mistake, ignoring the luggage, and somehow got the car started with the right key? Oh yes, how very logical. Not. I liked that Perry was so upset about her doing that, and about the friend deliberately involving Della in the disaster.

I’ve curiously wondered now and then how Perry (and now Della) would get along with Simon Templar, a.k.a The Saint. Naturally they wouldn’t agree with some of the extremes that book-Simon goes to, but as far as the basic idea of doing some rather law-bending things to achieve justice, I’m not sure they would entirely discount the ideas, especially considering some of the shenanigans they do in season 1 (and in the books). After the review of The Screaming Woman, and thinking on Della’s behavior in The Weary Watchdog, I’m especially curious as to how Della would react to Simon.

It’s very obvious throughout the series how much Della admires and looks up to Perry and yes, even loves him (although what kind of love is up to the fans to guess). In season 1, I’ve been noting how she seems to support Perry and believe that whatever he does is justified, due to his motivations. To that end, she reminds me a bit of book-Simon’s girlfriend Patricia Holm (albeit Patricia is more extreme in her views and feelings than even book-Simon, which is certainly a difference between her and Della). But it’s interesting that Della behaves that way, instead of trying to steer Perry away from law-bending activities. That is apparently Paul’s role and is something he generally has very little luck with.

The Screaming Woman has a lot of intense courtroom scenes, and while on the one hand it was a bit amusing for Perry to keep finding technical ways to object to Hamilton’s examination of Della, it was also exasperating. I really felt for Hamilton and his frustration. I love the scene after court when Perry says that he’s sure the next day Hamilton will do things right.

As always, season 1 proves interesting for seeing what the characters were up to in their younger years. And the storytelling is always so twisty and suspenseful and tight, the product of Mr. Gardner’s books in a way none of the other seasons are. I was thinking while watching the episode that it is something I miss in later seasons. But I still love how the characters mature later, so I always look forward to that when starting over.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Books that never had episode counterparts

MeTV has released some teaser trailers for their Fall schedule. I am absolutely ecstatic over some of them; among other things, we’re getting CHiPs, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Baa Baa Black Sheep! Oh my goodness. So much wonderful Simon Oakland! Plus, Mission: Impossible is returning at long last. It totally belongs on MeTV; I wish they had never tried removing it.

As of right now, I have no knowledge of how the new schedule will affect Perry, if at all. My guess is that the morning episode will not be returned, but I don’t know. I also guess that Ironside will not yet be returning. I really wish they’d bring Ironside back, especially because I’m nuts about Joseph Campanella and really want to see and record his four guest appearances.

And speaking of actors, I was definitely stunned and saddened by James Garner’s passing this past weekend. I can’t think of any connections he had with the main Perry actors, albeit he did have repeated interaction with some of the marvelous Perry guest-stars. He certainly had a talent for humor and making people laugh. I’ve heard he was also an excellent dramatic actor, but I don’t think I’ve seen any of his more serious roles recently enough to really assess them. (Unless Marlowe counts, but his interpretation of that character was a lot like Jim Rockford.) It would have been interesting to have pitted one of his characters against the Perry or even the Ironside cast. The closest we can ever come to that is the fact that I feature Steve Drumm and Sergeant Brice in my Rockford Files fanfiction story and Jim Rockford has some level of interaction with them. James Garner was definitely one of the remaining greats from a bygone era of movies and television. He will be missed.

Also, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to look through a list of the Perry books and make a tally of how many were not made into episodes, using Storrer’s fabulous site. Out of 82 books (two published posthumously), 16 were not made into episodes. The first of those sixteen, The Golddigger’s Purse, didn’t even appear until the third set of ten, published in the 1940s. The second, The Crying Swallow (hmm, intriguing title) is from the fourth set of ten, and the third, The Irate Witness, from the fifth set. Then there isn’t another episode-less book until the seventh set, with The Stepdaughter’s Secret. All of the subsequent twelve books were never made into episodes. For the record, their titles are as follows:

The Amorous Aunt
The Daring Divorcee
The Phantom Fortune
The Horrified Heirs
The Troubled Trustee
The Beautiful Beggar
The Worried Waitress
The Queenly Contestant
The Careless Cupid
The Fabulous Fake
The Fenced-In Woman 
The Postponed Murder

Some sound intriguing, while others downright amuse me. Careless Cupid?

I wonder why several of the older books were left untouched by the series and all of the later ones? The eighth set of ten were written partially while the series was still ongoing; did they not want to adapt novels written that recently? When the series first started, they were okay with adapting some of the ones written right around that time, including The Daring Decoy, The Screaming Woman, and The Long-Legged Models, all first season episodes based on books published within months of the episodes’ release dates.

Perhaps later on, they were coming up with so many ideas of their own that they weren’t as keen on adapting many more of the original novels. In 1963, they were finishing up season 6 and going on to season 7, two seasons that definitely didn’t have many book-based episodes. Season 8 continued the practice by only having minimal book involvement, and then by season 9 they decided the thing to do was to remake some of the book-based episodes they had already done, instead of adapting some of the remaining books that hadn’t been used. I can’t fully complain, as I definitely adore at least one of those remakes (The Sausalito Sunrise from The Moth-Eaten Mink), but I do wonder why they were so interested in remakes when there was still fresh source material they could have used!