Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Silent Six and The Runaway Racer

So I watched The Silent Six yesterday. I saw it uncut some time back, but I’d forgotten pretty much all of those scenes!

In the cut version, we see Perry telling Steve that he doesn’t know how he can possibly take on another case right now. That looks fine by itself, but in the uncut we actually see why he’s so overwhelmed. He talks on the phone with a client who is having problems, tries to instruct a young law graduate (the same one we see in the cut version who comes out of the library), and is late for dining with a judge. His swamped tone of voice when he tells Della he’ll see Steve now makes so much more sense.

There’s also more Steve content. After speaking with Monk Coleman and Hampton Fisher, Perry and Paul join Steve and Sergeant Brice at the apartment houses. They converse for a few minutes on the sidewalk about the progression of the case and Perry’s feelings that Dave Wolfe really is innocent. Steve still isn’t convinced, although he wishes he were.

One very long missing scene is after the questioning of the people in the apartment houses. Paul comes to report that Dave needs to see Perry right away. The whole scene where they talk is absent. And that scene is very important, as Dave is going bonkers behind bars due to worrying over Susan, and he’s trying to convince Perry to plead him guilty on a lesser charge instead of going through the agony and uncertainty of trying to be found innocent. Perry refuses, saying the situation has changed since he suggested that very thing to Dave in the morning, and he won’t let Dave drag himself and the entire police department through the dirt with a false confession.

Hamilton doesn’t appear in The Silent Six very much, and I had hoped for a bit more with him in the uncut version, but his scenes are intact even in the cut print.

One thing that fascinates me about The Silent Six, in addition to its dark tones and lots of Steve, is that I just realized yesterday how many of the clues are right there to be seen. A lot of times, we don’t even find things out at all until we get to court. But in this episode, we can plainly see things like the three candlesticks in Susan’s apartment, the three phones in Mr. Jefferson’s, and the one candlestick in Linda Blakely’s. We don’t know what the significance is until we get to court, but the clues are there, laid out for us to think about. It reminds me of detective stories such as Ellery Queen, actively trying to involve the audience in putting the pieces together in ways that Perry usually didn’t. Usually the audience, like the other characters, just sits back and watches in awe as Perry fits all of the strange pieces together.

I do get my wish for more Hamilton in the uncut Runaway Racer. The scene where he first appears, in Clay’s Grill, is longer and he and Steve are both present for a little more screentime before we get to what the cut version shows us.

Overall, The Runaway Racer doesn’t have as many edits as I was expecting after seeing The Fatal Fortune, but it does have a couple of fairly large scenes gone. I’m sure that at least half the scene where the defendant is confronted by the injured man’s wife is new to me.

There’s also an entire sequence where he goes to the hospital cafeteria and converses with his partner and Perry. He and his partner are definitely at odds after what happened on the racetrack with the car malfunctioning and his friend being badly hurt. He doesn’t want to race on Saturday, feels that something shady is going on, and wonders how to get a look at their books. Perry tells him he doesn’t need a court order, since he’s one of the partners. The partner is unconcerned and tells him to go ahead and look.

You know, usually the murderer ends up being a surprise, but in The Runaway Racer it doesn’t feel like much of one, despite the alibi. Pappy Ryan is the sort of obvious suspect who could have just as easily been the innocent defendant in another version of the script. That bad temper is a staple of many Perry defendants. To see him be the murderer is a rather blatant move that feels a lot like how it goes in real-life, since the obvious suspects often really are the guilty parties.

The Runaway Racer has never been a big favorite of mine, mostly because I have no interest in car racing. But I noticed something about it this week that kind of intrigued me.

It has a feel about it similar to some of the season 5 episodes. I’m not sure exactly why; the epilogue may be part of the reason. The bit with Paul ending up in the racecar as it takes off, with Perry and Della amused, reminds me of a couple of season 5 episodes where they tease Paul and are quite entertained by it, such as The Left-Handed Liar and The Angry Astronaut.

Also, season 5 as a whole really feels like it’s taking the show in a whole new direction. They’re experimenting with a lot of topics they haven’t tried before, and for the first time, one of the people they’ve brought in as supplemental to the cast becomes a regular.

Compare that with season 9, which seems to clearly be an attempt at a facelift for the show after season 8. There’s a new regular in Steve Drumm, and actually, another in Terrance Clay. Many of the plots, as with season 5, are something very different. There’s levels of social commentary in season 9 that didn’t exist before, particularly in episodes such as The Golden Girls and The Twice-Told Twist. The latter feels, in some ways, a lot like an episode of Ironside, which is often quite socially conscious.

Season 5 is, I think, the first season to really have episodes concerning sporting activities, including a vacation gone tragically wrong in The Jealous Journalist and hunting in The Crippled Cougar. While there are some elements of hunting in season 3’s The Prudent Prosecutor, it’s never really brought to the forefront the way it is in The Crippled Cougar for at least a couple of scenes. And I don’t think sports of any kind are really ever at the forefront again until The Runaway Racer. (Well, aside from any episodes about horses, of course, which I admittedly didn't think about when originally writing this entry.)

In any case, it’s always fun to see the additional scenes in the episodes. I’m definitely enjoying the exploration.

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