Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Case of the Golden Fraud

As season 3 continues on my local station, I continue to be quite thrilled with it for the most part. I didn’t remember that there were so many exceptional episodes.

One I was looking forward to is The Golden Fraud. I wasn’t that crazy about it last year; I found it depressing when the solution to the mystery came out. (My goodness, the murderer’s mind is warped.) But I was anxious to see it again anyway, due to it being one of the episodes with a cat. I love cats and am always happy to see them appear in movies or television shows.

I had another reason to be interested. I remembered there was a scene in Hamilton’s office concerning the infamous tape that is at the center of everything. I wondered if Leon would be mentioned. He wasn’t, but it turned out to be one of my most favorite scenes in the episode.

It starts out with Sylvia Welles, the owner of the kitty, setting up what she claims is a prank for a friend’s 10th wedding anniversary. She wants a conversation between him and her recorded and later cut and spliced so it comes out sounding like they’re having an affair. The guy she’s hired gets the equipment ready to go and then leaves with the tape running. She proceeds to call the man she wants to see—Richard Vanaman. In reality she has been doing business with him, claiming to be a client. Although he and his wife had been going to a gathering at someone’s house, he determines that he will have to see what Sylvia wants. His wife is unhappy but doesn’t try to stop him.

During their meeting at her apartment, her Siamese cat becomes very interested in the reports they’re studying. He then jumps down and runs across the room to where the microphone is. Richard sees it and is outraged and bewildered. Sylvia claims her jealous husband must be bugging her apartment. Richard doesn’t believe it and leaves in anger.

It’s only after he’s back home that he realizes he lost a very valuable and rare coin that could be easily traced back to him. He leaves his bemused wife again and rushes to Sylvia’s apartment for the second time. He discovers in horror that she’s lying dead and the apartment manager is coming upstairs. He tries to hide, and then to run out, but he is seen.

He comes to Perry the next day, worried about a story in the paper concerning a gold coin that someone put into a parking meter. It sounds just like his coin. He asks if Perry can send someone to pick it up. It seems that he is seeking a vice president’s position at his place of work and his boss has an extreme aversion to publicity. (This boss also gave him the coin.) Perry knows his boss and agrees to have Paul go after the coin.

Along the way, Perry meets the apartment manager, who idolized Sylvia Welles and considered her an “angel”.

Paul goes to the police station to claim the coin, but a strange and flirty gal sashays in and claims the coin for herself after describing its unique features to a tee. She leaves her name and Paul overhears. Richard is told and goes to the girl’s apartment. Instead he walks into a trap set up by the apartment manager. He is then arrested by the police, who have been listening to the confrontation between Richard and the manager, at the manager’s permission.

Meanwhile, Rip Conners, who made the phony tape, calls Mrs. Petrie, the wife of the other man who wants the vice presidency in Richard’s company. She is interested in the tape and makes plans to come get it and pay him $1,000 for it. Her husband Fred comes home, however, and is horrified and appalled when she tells him that she’s going to use that tape to ensure that he becomes the vice president. He refuses to let her go get the tape. He calls Perry to tell him what’s going on.

The tape eventually falls into the hands of the police after Della tries to keep the appointment with Rip Conners. Tragg and Hamilton talk to Conners in Hamilton’s office as the tape is played. Hamilton is angry instead of grateful. He has heard a strange popping sound on the tape and has Tragg play it again, at a louder volume. With the noise clearly audible, Hamilton accuses Conner of splicing the tape and not using de-magnetized shears to do it. Conners admits it’s true but that adds that the part where Richard finds the microphone and is angry is also there and hasn’t been tampered with. Hamilton cools down and he and Tragg listen to that portion of the tape.

During the hearing Hamilton sees no reason for the phony part of the tape to be played, but wants the unchanged part heard and made part of the case. The judge agrees and it’s played.

Perry finds out that Richard’s wife didn’t go for a walk on the night of the murder, as she claimed, but she went to Sylvia’s apartment. She didn’t go inside because someone was outside the door, listening to something inside. She returned home. It’s observed that neither she nor Richard can give the other an alibi.

It finally comes out that Mrs. Petrie schemed with Sylvia Welles to make the phony tape because Mrs. Petrie wanted to get Richard involved in a scandal and discredit him from trying to obtain the vice presidency. Perry wants to hear the faux part of the tape. Hamilton is bewildered and protests, but the judge gives his consent and Hamilton goes back to his table with a bewildered shrug.

The apartment manager is on the witness stand at the time and there is a very interesting type of shot the show rarely used, where it shows the tape playing along with his stunned expression superimposed over it. Perry deduces that he is the mystery man Richard’s wife saw outside Sylvia’s apartment and that he overheard Conners playing the spliced tape. Believing it was real, his idolization of Sylvia was shattered and he killed her.

He says that his mother was the same way, and that he all but worshiped her as well, before he realized. Oh, not that he killed his mother, but he did kill Sylvia Welles.

There’s a very nice shot of the courtroom as Richard and his wife embrace.

The epilogue concerns Perry receiving one of the rare gold coins from the company president and deducing that he is going to have Richard and Fred continue to compete for the vice presidency.

Overall it’s quite an intense episode. I previously found it depressing that Sylvia was killed over something thought about her that wasn’t even true. I still do, somewhere, but she certainly wasn’t the “angel” she was thought of as being, even though she wasn’t having an affair with Richard. I think I mainly feel sorry for her poor kitty, clutching the chair and meowing in distress as he perched above her dead body. I hope he found a home with a better person.

Fred Petrie is played by Alan Hewitt, this time with much hair (a toupee?) and a good, strong set of morals. I believe Fred may be Alan’s only good guy character on Perry. He is a delight. Alan has long been one of my favorite character actors due to his roles in assorted Disney movies such as The Absent-Minded Professor and The Barefoot Executive. (Also, I see he played a district attorney in the film How to Murder Your Wife. I bet that’s fun. He would play a good D.A.)

Hamilton is wonderful throughout the episode. It was awesome that he heard the popping sound on the tape, even when the volume was low, and knew what it meant. He bawled Conners out for lying about the tape’s contents and not saying it was spliced.

And he is very congenial in court. Instead of arguing over the request of playing the phony part of the tape, he simply presents his confusion but doesn’t seem irritated when the judge decides to let Perry go ahead.

Another episode I was thrilled with is the next one, The Bartered Bikini. But it will have to be discussed next week sometime, at least. I won’t be posting on Sunday, as I need to post on Monday. This time we celebrate Raymond Burr’s birthday!

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