Friday, July 26, 2013

The Uncut Velvet Claws

Wow, what a week. I am so sorry. Sunday was rather hectic, I was ill from Sunday night through early Wednesday morning, and Wednesday was busy, too. I’m hoping I can get things steered back on track now.

It was very interesting to watch The Velvet Claws uncut. My original reason for doing that recently was in hoping to find a little more footage of Andy. I did, although the smidgen of what was cut of him puzzles me.

The very first scene that’s absent is right at the beginning, after Eva and her guy escape the joint (which seems to be the vine-covered house used as the Barkley mansion on The Big Valley). They’re stopped on the road near the house by the police and Eva has the guy hide under a raincoat so he won’t be seen and identified while she gives the officer a song and dance about being the neighbors and she’s trying to get her sick husband to the doctor. The officer is reluctant to believe her, but finally does, and lets them through.

I’m confused over why he does, too, since when he goes to look in the car it looks like all he sees is the raincoat and not any (unidentifiable) form hiding under it. I thought sure he would bust Eva when he came back and that he would say she didn’t have anyone else in the car, but instead he told her to go on through.

It’s an illogical setup. In order to make the officer think there’s someone else in the car, and ill, it seems that Eva should have told the guy to wrap the raincoat around himself and slump down towards the driver’s side of the car so he won’t be recognized. Having him get under the raincoat while it’s on the floor, so it looks like there’s no other person there at all, just doesn’t make sense considering what happens after the officer looks in the car.

It ends up being a fairly important scene for character understanding, but I wonder if it was cut both because of the illogic and also Eva’s playfulness with her guy. While he’s hiding under the raincoat, she gets back in the car and talks with him about her desire to find one good man who loves her, and how she’ll lie, cheat, or steal to have that. As she talks, she starts running her bare foot over his face. (Eww!) He responds by kissing the top of her foot.

Also cut is a scene where Perry goes to talk to the guy. He defends Eva’s erratic behavior by telling of how she’s always had a terrible life and says he loves her.

It’s very exasperating that so much of his screentime is missing from the standard version of the episode. One of the things that always baffled me about the cut version is how we don’t see much of him for the longest time and then we hear about him fleeing town after the murder. It makes him seem rather spineless, even with them keeping the later bit where he admits he shouldn’t have left and only did because Eva told him to (and that he came right back when he heard about the murder). I felt that he just wasn’t involved enough in everything that was happening and it was hard to swallow that he really cared about Eva. The uncut largely solves that problem with these other scenes and makes so much more sense—although I still don’t know if I would want someone like him to attain a high political office.

And then Andy is very puzzling. The bit missing with him seems to be when Perry goes downstairs to talk to Eva after the murder and she tells him she’s sure that he was the one arguing with her husband right before his death. Andy suddenly appears at the top of the stairs and bellows, “Goodnight, Counselor!” Perry then takes his leave.

Wow, Andy. Why so insistent? The police are currently investigating upstairs not down, Andy acted like he was through talking with Eva, and Eva is Perry’s client. (Not to mention the house is hers.) Why can’t Perry talk to her whenever he feels like it, especially when she isn’t even under arrest?

Of course, the police generally don’t like when Perry is hanging around while they’re trying to investigate a place. I imagine they don’t want him poking around through everything and Andy was concerned of that happening. But the scene would have made more sense if Perry had indeed been poking through something when Andy caught him, instead of just talking to his client.

It seems to be one more instance of Andy showing rather clipped and stressed behavior, as he does now and then in seasons 6 and 7 and in season 8 a lot more. It also seems an unnecessary bit; the scene could have easily ended, as the cut one does, with Perry staring at Eva in disbelief. Not that I’m knocking any extra footage of Andy; I’m happy to see him, but it doesn’t take away my puzzlement over the purpose of the bit.

Sometimes it seems like the writers like to slip in anything anywhere they can to show the strained feelings between Perry and the police. But it usually ends up making either one side or the other look bad, as it does here for Andy. They could have instead had Andy appear at the top of the stairs and rather casually or confusedly mention that he had thought Perry was leaving, which is his reaction in some episodes with similar scenes. Whereupon Perry could still take his leave as he does at that point in the episode.

The episode, overall, has never been a particular favorite of mine, in any form. But it is interesting, unique, and significant, considering it’s the televised version of the very first book.

Perry is always a puzzle in it; despite his insistence that he’s in it to stop Spicy Bits, it certainly seems obvious over time that he has some interest in the mixed-up, twisted Eva. If nothing else, the fact that he agrees to continue being her attorney at the end shows that he doesn’t hold the dislike for her that he does for some other clients.

I’ve heard that the plot in the book is quite a bit different, naturally, and that it also has the rather interesting ending of Della kissing Perry and Eva being upset about it. Considering that in the episode Eva’s interest is in the guy she keeps fighting to protect, I highly doubt it would have bothered her at all if Della had kissed Perry in that version.

Eva is certainly treacherous, the way she weaves Perry into her trap and threatens to make it look like he was present on the scene when her husband was killed—hence making him the prime suspect. But honestly, in the television series at least, I don’t really mind her. (I can’t say how I would feel about her book counterpart.) Aside from her nastiness in the bit about the murder, she kind of amuses me and appalls me all at once. And I do like how she really seems to love that guy so much and is so desperate to protect him. At the end she goes off with him, so the fans of the Perry/Della pairing surely don’t have to worry about her trying to break up any possible relationship between them.

Eva’s actress, incidentally, is the highly talented Patricia Barry, who often seemed to play femme fatales on Perry. She’s also the duplicitous Janet in The Frantic Flyer and the older woman luring David Gideon into a trap in The Grumbling Grandfather. Recently I saw her on Ironside, for once playing a relatively normal (by comparison) television producer—albeit she was in love with a very bad man. Her tastes certainly left something to be desired. She also toned down her usual, very distinctive voice. If not for seeing her name in the opening credits, I’m not sure I would have recognized her!

I wonder if Patricia and Raymond Burr were friends in real-life, since that seemed to be the case sometimes when actors recurred on Perry or on both series.

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