Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Singing Skirt

First, some news, courtesy of This week only, through Saturday the 12th, they’re having some incredible sales on Perry DVD sets (all except part 2 of season 8)! Most are $10.99, with a few later ones at $17.99 and a couple at $24.99. This is an excellent time to start collecting, or to pick up installments you don’t yet have! If you’ve only ever seen Perry on television, you’re missing a lot of scenes that were cut out.

Speaking of cut scenes, I ordered the disc with The Singing Skirt from Netflix, as I wanted to see if anything involving H.M. Wynant’s character had been cut. The problem is, it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I couldn’t fully remember. I recognized one scene towards the beginning as being new, featuring the Ennises in their one and only scene together, but other than that I just wasn’t sure.

Is it just me or is the episode’s plot very similar to The Long-Legged Models? Both are based on books of Gardner’s, according to the opening credits, and there’s no indication that they’re based on the same book, so I have to wonder if he really wrote two books with such similar elements.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Long-Legged Models too, but from what I recall, there’s a deal over a legal gambling joint in an area either in L.A. or nearby, a girl who knows too much and is being threatened by the gamblers, and a series of identical guns admitted as evidence. Perry initially tries to confuse the issue with the guns and only makes everything worse.

That plot could describe either episode.

You know, the funny thing is, from what little I do recall, I thought Perry’s actions with mixing up the guns were more shocking in The Long-Legged Models than in The Singing Skirt, yet Hamilton never learns about what Perry did in The Long-Legged Models.

I really felt sorry for Perry in The Singing Skirt, trying so hard to help the girl by switching the guns (before any of them were used in a crime) and being so confident that everything would be alright, only to later discover that the one he put in place of the other was the (first) murder weapon. He ended up getting himself as well as the defendant into quite a mess.

H.M.’s character is quite a nasty fellow all the way along, plotting with Mrs. Ennis to take her husband’s money in a crooked poker game. And he shouldn’t have been dating her in the first place, although as far as that point is concerned, the defendant shouldn’t have been going out with Mr. Ennis. This episode is interesting for being one of the few where the defendant really isn’t just squeaky-clean and misunderstood.

I couldn’t remember how the confession scene was done, and I couldn’t imagine H.M. doing one of the really cheesy ones, so I was gratified by the intensity of it. George Anclitas, the owner of the gambling joint (and not such a nice guy either, really), suddenly realizes that H.M.’s character Slim Marcus must be the guilty one. He snaps and grabs for him, while Slim tries to get away, and ends up throttling him right there in the gallery. The bailiff struggles to separate them and finally succeeds, and in a fit of hysteria over nearly being killed, Slim blurts out, “I’ll tell you how I did it! I’ll tell you how I killed her!”

Every now and then the show does an episode where the killing is an accident, and I have to admit, I wished it would have been that way in this one. But the only thing that’s said is that Slim and Mrs. Ennis fought over control of the money and he shot her. Since there’s no mention of a specific fight for the gun, I suppose there probably wasn’t one and he just picked up the gun and did it. I think that would be Second Degree Murder, if it wasn’t premeditated and was committed in the heat of the moment.

Of course, if I really wanted, since there’s so little information, I could say that Mrs. Ennis picked up the gun and they struggled and it went off. But it wouldn’t change Slim’s nasty behavior throughout the episode or what he did to implicate the defendant. I don’t particularly have any intention of tinkering with a story to try to cast him in any kind of slightly better light.

Then again, I never intended to do that with Tobin Wade either, and that happened. In Tobin Wade’s case, however, what fascinated me most was that he apparently really had been friends with the Stuarts and then let his greed and desperation take over so that he turned against them. And I wondered if he would ever regret what he did to them.

Slim doesn’t have anyone he’s close to, unless I were to say that once upon a time he had been close to George Anclitas. And somehow I can’t picture either of them ever having been a genuine friend to the other. They were probably always in it for the money. But again, with so little information, it could likely be written any way someone wanted.

One thing that was instantly apparent to me: I could see why they wanted H.M. to play a character nicknamed Slim! He really was impressively slender and trim then, as both he and Richard Anderson have always been.

And as always, he delivers an amazing and fully believable performance. He can play any part, good or bad, to perfection.

Funny thing: I do remember that the last time I watched The Singing Skirt before this, whenever that was, I couldn’t remember who the guilty party was and I hoped it wasn’t him (even though at that time, I wasn’t really up on recognizing him whenever he popped up in something). I was disappointed that his character was guilty, despite the fellow’s nastiness. When that happens, I like to think that I’m more interested in the actor and that somehow his real goodness is coming through to me, rather than that I’m just shallowly thinking the character is cute. Although another part of it is that because I’ve found something I like in an apparently roguish character, I’m hoping he turns out to not be as bad as he seems. Sometimes it works (such as in an epically awesome episode of The Virginian I saw part of last night). Other times, such as here, it doesn’t.

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