Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Bullied Bowler

Two posts in less than 24 hours! Well, after the long stretch of silence, perhaps it’s fitting.

I’ve had the urge to re-watch The Bullied Bowler for a while now. Tonight/this morning I decided I’d do it. I was delighted to find some odd parallels with Mannix, especially considering this episode came three years before the start of the series!

Our lawyer Mr. Kelly, a friend of Paul’s, has the first name of Joe. Thinking of Joe Mannix, it felt very familiar to hear calls of “Joe” throughout the episode.

I was terribly amused by Joe Kelly not knowing how to work a car phone and having to ask Paul how to do it. If the shows had run simultaneously, that would have been a perfect in-joke, since Joe Mannix has a car phone that he uses with ease.

Of course, the characters have some very similar facial expressions, a personal touch Mike Connors bestowed on all of his characters. And Joe Kelly has the same type of compassion and concern for the innocent and guiltless as does Joe Mannix. But Joe Kelly can be grateful he doesn’t attract as much trouble as Joe Mannix in the way of being beat up (although that rotten Jack did pretty much threaten it at one point)!

I adored seeing Paul and Joe Kelly interacting a lot, as well as Della and Joe. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to really seeing them interact with Mannix, outside of the stories I’m hoping to write with them.

Milton Selzer turns out a beautiful and bittersweet and heartbreaking performance as Dr. Max Taylor, a man tormented by his immense guilt over the death of the defendant’s wife, whom he had been trying to save as she gave birth. The girl’s mother twists him around her finger, hoping to make him do things that he really doesn’t want to do, including to shut down the defendant’s bowling alley as a health hazard before he’s finished his investigation into whether it’s really the cause of so much mysterious new illness and bacteria in the town. He persists in investigating anyway, telling his secretary that maybe this time he’s really doing the right thing, and ends up getting too close to the truth. He ends up being one of the series’ few seriously undeserving victims, being murdered for what he’s finding out.

What he’s discovering is that the bowling alley is getting its water through a line that runs too near the sewage of an oil refinery outside of town. It seems that’s been seeping into the bowling alley’s water supply. (Ugh!)

The girl’s mother, called The Duchess by most people in town, has no idea of what’s really going on with the oil refinery she owns. She’s determined to shut down the bowling alley, not just because she really believes it’s a health hazard but more because she’s bitter against the brothers who run it. She blames the one, her daughter’s husband, for the girl’s death. That unfortunately happened because of things Dr. Taylor told her that led her to believe her daughter was sick while traveling with her husband. Judging from what came out in court, however, Dr. Taylor wasn’t trying to cast blame on the husband; he just felt so horrible feeling responsible for the death himself that he tried to tell himself and others that she had already been ill in an attempt to absolve himself of at least some of the heavy burden he carried.

It still seems preposterous to me when The Duchess tries to shut down the bowling alley claiming it’s a den of hoodlums and immorality. It looks like a nice, family-friendly place when we see it. A pool hall would be more understandable as a recipient of The Duchess’s accusations, but a bowling alley?

I love that once The Duchess realizes she’s been gravely mistaken about the husband, she wants to repent of her attitude and try to make up for the heartache she caused him. She comes to him and his brother, wanting to help them keep the bowling alley running and also to see her adorable young grandson (as she did twice before in secret).

One of The Duchess’s friends, the mayor Orson Stillman, seemed very familiar to me in his facial expressions and later, in his voice. After studying him long and hard for a bit, I realized in about his second scene that he must be the same actor who played Joseph Kraft in The Bogus Books. He looked quite different without that wild white hair and those thick glasses, but he was still so distinctive that he was most recognizable. And looking at the man’s credits, I see I was right. The gentleman, Maurice Manson, appeared in three other Perry episodes, too.

This is one of the rare episodes featuring a guest lawyer in which Perry is not seen or heard at all. He’s off in Europe, and the following episode shows us the tail-end of his adventures over there. But Paul and Della keep Perry involved in the story anyway; he’s mentioned several times, including where Della recounts a telephone conversation she had with him.

When a character is absent, I love when it’s handled in this way, with the other characters thinking about and remembering them. And even without Perry, it’s a very good venture. It’s great for all Mike Connors/Mannix fans. Perhaps it’s not so compelling for those who don’t care for either, but there should be something that solely Perry fans can take away from it.

Paul and Della have some excellent amounts of screen-time, for one thing. That’s always a treat. And seeing the brilliant Milton Selzer is a very good thing. Whenever he appears in a cast, I immediately know that there will be a high-quality and immensely enjoyable performance. He was excellent in The Decadent Dean and he is excellent here as well. I just wish his poor character hadn't been so cruelly killed.

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