Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Candy Queen vs. The Silent Partner

I wonder a bit why the writers wanted to remake some of the older episodes. Were they running out of script ideas? Did they think they could tell the stories better? Were they fiddling around just trying to see what they could come up with?

Remakes of anything, of course, are usually not popular. I’m always surprised when I hear about one that’s really taken off, such as the recent Battlestar Galactica or Hawaii 5-0. (I still want to see the latter, out of curiosity.) When it comes to remakes of Perry episodes, my opinion varies depending on the episode itself.

As ranted about before, I found The Vanishing Victim, the remake of The Fugitive Nurse, quite terrible in many ways. There were a couple of things I liked, but overall the episode really belonged in season 1. The atmosphere even felt like season 1. It doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else, and certainly not in season 9. Had it been season 1 I would have liked it a lot better. When it appeared in season 9 it just perplexed me. I already spoke of it at length in another post, so I won't reiterate it here.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I loved season 7’s The Woeful Widower, the remake of The Fiery Fingers. I felt that it improved on the story and really threw in a dark twist. Not that The Fiery Fingers didn’t have a dark twist as well, but the remake arguably had a larger or at least a more rare one. Perry defended someone who was actually guilty? Well, it was a robbery case, and Perry was a friend of the court, but still. That woman ended up being a multiple murderer (even though she hadn't been arrested for that at the point when Perry defended her).

Others I’m left not quite sure what to make of one way or the other. The Impetuous Imp falls in that category. Overall it’s a very intriguing and intense episode. But I’m not fully sure what the writer’s intention was with some of the plot angles he threw in. And I far prefer the more serious defendant of the original Negligent Nymph to the somewhat ditzy gal we get in Imp.

But that episode will get its chance at a full-length examination another time. This time I’m thinking more of The Candy Queen, the remake of The Silent Partner.

The first time I saw the former at any recent date, I had just come from seeing the original. I found that The Candy Queen did not handle some of the key plot elements as intensely as The Silent Partner. For instance, the girl who gets poisoned in the remake is never even heard of until she calls Perry on the phone, gasping for breath. But in the original, she is seen in a couple of scenes before that, and I think that works much better.

There’s just a certain intensity and intrigue present in the way The Silent Partner is told overall that makes it a classic. Half of the episode takes place over one night. The poor defendant has a nervous breakdown and is too ill to even be brought to trial. Hence, it’s the first time the mystery is solved out of court. And Tragg, rather grumpy at being disturbed late at night when he’s just taking his groceries home (including a loaf of Wonder Bread), has some wonderful screentime.

That’s not to say that there aren’t things I don’t care as much for. Season 1 certainly presented Hamilton as an outright antagonist more than once, and that is the case here. It’s the first time one of those wild accusations goes flying, I believe. Sometimes Hamilton has a basis in fact for what he’s upset about, but the accusation he makes here (that Perry told his client to fire another, random shot from the murder gun) just seems out of left field.

On the other hand, Perry has messed around with guns himself sometimes, including in the very first episode. Strangely, it seems like the things he does that are the most off-the-wall are things Hamilton doesn’t find out about. I suppose it’s possible that he does find out, off-screen, and those things are why he gets so upset and flings around the oddball accusations. That would certainly make it make more sense.

The Candy Queen did not ignore the character development with Hamilton over the past nine seasons, the way some of the other season 9 episodes did. In fact, I think just about everyone has awesome moments in it. And due to that, there are some rather surprising and delightful tidbits along the way.

This is the episode where Paul first seems to show that he particularly likes Steve Drumm’s company. When they call the police, worried about the girl having been poisoned, Steve answers. Paul perks up and asks, “Is that you, Steve?”

Paul must be in quite a good mood. While talking with Clay later on, he even acts a bit as though he’s defending Hamilton’s prosecution of Claire Armstrong, the titular Candy Queen, co-owner of a successful candy company.

Clay’s view of the whole thing made me raise an eyebrow a bit. He doesn’t think Claire should be prosecuted, even if she did kill the victim. After all, the victim was definitely a crook and not a good fellow to have around. Paul doesn’t vocally disagree but asks, “And if you were the district attorney?” Clay says he would pay Claire a bounty and that that’s how such cases should be handled.

Clay is definitely a unique and colorful character. I think I should do a character spotlight on him. He is a very prominent fixture during the final season.

The police are awesome, just as Tragg was in the original Silent Partner. Steve shows he is both tough and compassionate. While worrying for the poisoned girl he takes the keys from the fumbling apartment manager to get the right key for the girl’s apartment. Moments later he tells her not to pick up the phone when she finds it off the hook in the room. She is disgruntled (or further disgruntled, rather, after the key incident), and Steve tries to make amends by explaining why she needs to leave things alone. He looks adorably awkward and embarrassed, not having wanted to come off too harsh.

Sergeant Brice is around and gets stuff to do! Steve has him break up the crowd that has gathered outside the girl’s old address upon seeing the police. Later, he takes a call about the homicide at the gambling joint.

And we get a guest policeman in the form of William Boyett as a hardboiled vice officer. He leads a raid into the gambling establishment and it’s he and his men who find the body there. Best line, when addressed as “friend” by one of the staff members there: “I’m not your friend.”

Hamilton has a great deal of screentime, unlike the one scene he gets in The Silent Partner. They go to court in this version; Claire doesn’t have a nervous breakdown. He handles things in a mature and calm manner. I believe the only time he really objects to something is when Perry comes across as badgering a witness. It does look that way, definitely, especially to someone who doesn’t know what’s fully going on (as Hamilton doesn’t). Although even if he knew, he would still have to object on technical grounds.

And Perry definitely has good reason to be angry at said witness, who is a complete slimeball and lies to protect himself while digging Claire deeper into a pit. And that’s after he already told Perry and Paul the truth and said he would tell it in court to help Claire. He had threatened the victim with Claire’s gun, which was how it had gotten to the gambling joint. It had then been taken from him and he had fled.

In all fairness to the creep, if he deserves fairness, he does look sickened and guilty as he lies on the witness stand. But that doesn’t change a thing about his story. Paul comments in disgust that he knew the guy couldn’t be trusted.

Said slimeball was also someone Claire seemed to have been interested in. She had tried to help him repeatedly, so his betrayal was even more of a blow. And the guy who co-owned the candy business with her had recognized what he was but Claire had refused to believe him, even planning to not renew his contract. Those around Claire had thought she was just awful for it. I imagine she felt horrible too, when the whole truth of everything came out.

Perry does do something rather jaw-dropping at the climax. To prove that the poisoned girl is lying and that she couldn’t have eaten five pieces of candy without realizing there was something wrong with them, he brings a box of chocolates to court and has some of the pieces doctored with what he later claims is a bit of the poison. The girl recognizes something is wrong on the first bite.

I was stunned by that method both times I recently saw the episode, but I don’t think I put enough stock in it. I suppose that’s because I figured Perry didn’t put in enough to do any real damage, and that he would have stopped her if somehow she hadn’t tasted the bitterness, but still. And then I’ve also wondered if Perry really did put poison in those pieces of chocolate or if he just said it to psych the girl out and he substituted something else bitter instead. If it was the poison, that does seem like one of the most appalling stunts he’s pulled in a while. Even moreso considering that the girl really was poisoned with the stuff earlier (albeit she poisoned herself on purpose). Maybe even having a small amount could have caused a negative reaction, considering the poisoning.

The poisoner being the same person as the poisonee is the same as in The Silent Partner. That person is also the murderer. But the motive was different. The original girl didn’t even know the defendant, I don’t think, save for one brief meeting. Here, they were cousins, raised as sisters. But she was jealous of Claire and felt that Claire had everything. And she wanted the formula for the candy that Claire had inherited. It reminded me of the climax of The Fiery Fingers.

The epilogue has Claire going on a cruise, after finally renewing her co-owner’s contract, and Paul being late to see her off. He makes it just in time with a gift, which Della realizes in disbelief is a box of chocolates. Just what a candy-maker doesn’t need. But Claire is sweet and gracious and tells a downcast Paul that it’s just what she needed.

All in all, my conclusion about The Candy Queen is that, while The Silent Partner might be better plot-wise, character-wise I prefer The Candy Queen. And despite their similarities, if it hadn’t said at the beginning that it was based on The Silent Partner, there wouldn’t have been much to tie them together. The Candy Queen doesn’t even have the same atmospheric feeling as the original. It’s thoroughly embedded as a later venture. The two are really quite different episodes, and perhaps overall, should be examined as such. Standing on its own, The Candy Queen will likely fair better than if it is compared to The Silent Partner.

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