Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Case of the Positive Negative: Positively Wonderful!

First, before I get to the topic of this post, I want to share a comment I received on an older post:

Hello Lucky Ladybug and fellow Masonites
My name is Bob Siler and I'm a long time Perry Mason fan, and at 53, thats really a long time. I've recently put together a list of places where the stars of the show lived, which I call "The Perry Mason Tour". Ms. Ladybug, would you or any of your viewers like a copy? If so, my e - mail address is
I'd be more than happy to send out copies.
I love this site and it would be my way of saying thanks for the great site.
Take care

I have contacted this thoughtful and generous fan and have received and enjoyed “The Perry Mason Tour.” It’s a very good resource and fun for anyone who may live or vacation near some of the locations. I want to get out to at least some of them sometime!

As Bob has kindly offered to share the list with all interested parties, I encourage readers to contact him at the provided email address. Thank you, Bob, for your wonderful and thought-out “Thank you”!

Today’s topic was just decided on yesterday. When it comes to excellent episodes from season 9, I can’t believe I mostly forgot The Positive Negative. I believe that one was the first season 9 episode I found I really liked last year. (I hadn’t quite warmed up to The Twice-Told Twist then, although I did later.)

The plot involves a small community in Los Angeles County that’s run by a shady businessman. A committee is formed to try to oust the man, consisting of two men in the community, Perry, and a retired General. But the General is being blackmailed to refuse becoming the head of the committee. His wife and his aide are both set up and thrown into an embarrassing situation which, while actually innocent, could easily be twisted around and seen as them having an affair. Pictures were taken by a mysterious party and sent to the General with a note to decline heading the committee or the pictures will be printed.

Naturally everyone thinks the crooked businessman is responsible. The aide goes to his house in a fury, demanding the pictures. But instead the gun he brought is taken from him and he’s forced to leave. The gun is later used to kill the man and the General is implicated. It’s his gun. And he was there after his aide left.

The story is twisted and intense, following Perry and the others as they try to clear the General’s name and figure out who’s responsible. The way it’s set up is very reminiscent of early Perry ventures, such as in seasons 2 or 3, which was one thing that drew me to it the first time I saw it.

Another thing that excited me was the portrayal of Hamilton. While in season 9 you never quite know what you’re going to get or what kind of hand poor Hamilton will be dealt, here it was just flawless. Hamilton is depicted with fairness and maturity. He doesn’t want to prosecute the General, who was a noted military hero during earlier wars. He expresses his reluctance in his opening statement and continues to show it in various ways throughout the hearing. His quiet voice when he first says, “Cross-examine,” tells so much, just as his agonized looks do in Paul Drake’s Dilemma. This is Hamilton Burger at his finest: torn between his personal feelings and his job, and his desire to see justice carried out. My congratulations and thanks to the writers!

I couldn’t remember who the bad guy was, but I was happy it wasn’t either the wife or the aide. Sometimes I get tired of seeing marriages or close platonic relationships falling apart on the show. Here, the General and his wife have a good marriage and truly love each other, and the aide is honestly a friend who hasn’t been mixed up in any shenanigans.

I was also pleasantly surprised it wasn’t the aide’s uncle, who runs a photo shop owned by the crooked businessman. Dabbs Greer, a very prominent recurring guest-star on the series, plays the uncle. Usually when he pops up he seems to be playing the villain, or occasionally, the murder victim. Here, he’s neither.

The solution to the mystery is very intriguing and involves one messed-up negative that a clear print can’t be taken from. However, another kind of clear print is lifted from it—a fingerprint, left by the murderer when he had held it while it was still wet.

I was honestly surprised by who the murderer actually was—one of the other two men on the committee, and the one I found least suspicious. The whole thing was, I felt, very well-done. The man was actually Mr. Big in the community, and the crooked businessman everyone had thought was running things was actually just working for the real controlling force.

I only had one quibble with the episode overall, and that was an exchange between Perry and Lieutenant Drumm. When Steve says that the General made a statement, Perry wants to know if he made it before or after he was given his rights. Steve emphasizes, “After, Perry. After.” Steve is very by-the-book and upright. Perry himself has said that Steve is an honest cop. Why would he need to ask such a question, and in such an accusatory voice? That ends up being more of a blight on Perry than Steve. And Steve handled his reply perfectly. The scene did serve one purpose; with Steve’s portrayal in it, it made me love him even more. He’s such a sadly underrated character.

My ultimate verdict on The Positive Negative is that it was one of the best of season 9, preserving many things that made the series great. There were more of those in season 9 than it sometimes may appear offhand. Sometimes that’s forgotten amid the strange things season 9 offered as well.


  1. I tend to check your entries just prior to watching an episode or just after :) So this comment is undoubtedly untimely by years...

    This was the last (of 8) appearances by the great great supporting character actor Dabbs Greer in a PM episode. I love all 8 of the episodes which Dabbs worked in & his work was always especially superb when he worked on a PM episode.

    Mr Greer appeared in hundreds of TV shows & a bunch of movies over his long & distinguished career.I always enjoy his work but never more so than his 8 PM roles.

    When Dabbs Greer was in a "show". you could count on it being a danged good "show" :) Mr Greer elevated every stage he stepped out upon & so many of his performances are so very memorable

    Don't know 'bout anybody else but I luvz me some Dabbs Greer & it says a ton about the producers of PM that they utilized his gigantic talent 8 times over :)

    1. Awesome! I'm honored. I need to get more episode-centric posts up.

      I love Dabbs Greer's work too. :) I'm always excited when I'm watching something and he pops up. There's another post idea: I don't think I've highlighted him as a guest-star yet.