The Grinning Gorilla is an episode I hadn’t got around to yet. When it was on MeTV the other day, I watched it in its chopped state. I had never paid much attention to what it was about, but when I read that it involved Della finding an old diary that started Perry on a mystery concerning a mysterious death, I was intrigued. Most of the episodes without Hamilton and the local police don’t seem to have anything particularly exciting happening to the other main characters (which is another reason why I often lack interest in those episodes), and this one sounded so different from the norm, with a focus more on the main characters than the guest stars, that I really wanted to see it.
It’s definitely one of the best of the ones that’s missing Hamilton and the local police. And another reason the plot got me so enthused is that it reminded me so much of Nancy Drew mysteries. So many of those involve Nancy or one of the other characters making some fascinating or incredible discovery that starts everyone on their path to mystery and adventure. Della and the diary run a perfect parallel with those plots.
And then there’s the creepy, weird mansion filled with secrets and experiments involving primates. The scene where Perry goes in and a gorilla is on the loose is so exciting and unusual for the series. The main characters, as observed previously, are rarely in danger. And perhaps the gorilla really was harmless, as the defendant said, but it certainly didn’t seem that way for a while.
That scene put me in mind of the original version of the Nancy Drew mystery The Case of the Moss-Covered Mansion. It also concerns a creepy house where wild animals are at large. One intense scene has Nancy facing off against a vicious big cat! (I think it was a jaguar, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read it.)
For those who don’t know, quite a few of the first Nancy mysteries were revised later. Usually I’m quite happy with the revisions. They remove various descriptions and dialogues that later sounded racist or otherwise offensive. They also made other, less important changes, such as upping Nancy’s age from 16 to 18. Sometimes minor things like that were the only real changes. Other times, entire plots got altered to the point that the two versions were vastly different books! Some I really like better in their revised form, but others have just sounded silly.
The Moss-Covered Mansion is one of the installments that received a complete overhaul. I honestly detested the revised of it; it’s one of the only Nancy books I haven’t ever really liked. Among other things, it had bizarre stuff like a mention of exploding oranges in a crate. And while exploding anything is of course serious, that just came off sounding more ridiculous than anything else.
The original is absolutely nothing like that, though, so if anyone is curious and would like to read The Moss-Covered Mansion for the possible parallels with The Grinning Gorilla, it’s the original version they should look for. Applewood was republishing the original novels, but I think for some reason they stopped around #21. Pity.
I remember reading once where someone said Perry seemed grouchy in this episode. He definitely did, but honestly, if I was in his place I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same. Della suddenly shows up with this stuff she’s bought, gives Perry the package to hold for a moment, and Perry is immediately mobbed by reporters demanding to know about his “interest” in the unsolved case. Perry has no idea what they’re talking about, has no interest at that point, and is being uncomfortably put on the spot. And people keep bugging him about the case when he doesn’t have any interest or time to invest in it. I think that would be enough to make most people mad!
Victor Buono is present for his third guest-spot on the show, and as usual, he delivers a fun performance (although my favorite of his Perry characters is the modern Fagin in The Twice-Told Twist).
Lurene Tuttle is on hand as the defendant. I’m . . . honestly not sure what to make of her character again. I wasn’t terribly fond of the character and her temper and some of her actions. But Lurene is always a nice veteran actress to have onboard and never fails to give a memorable and unique performance.
All in all, it’s definitely a fun Perry episode and I intend to see it in its uncut form hopefully soon.
And speaking of uncut episodes, while pawing through my season 6 set, it seems like the episodes that received the majority of the cuts are the ones that are my special favorites! Others, such as The Unsuitable Uncle, which I don’t care for that much, weren’t cut very badly at all. Very oddly annoying. I’m thrilled to have my favorite episodes uncut, however, so I’m definitely pleased with my purchase. I hope to get the second half soon, since I think I liked a greater number of season 6 episodes on that set.