Friday, September 26, 2014

The Startled Stallion

It’s been so long since I’ve seen the uncut version of The Startled Stallion, as I’m pretty sure I did once, that I can’t fully remember what’s missing from the television version. But one thing present in both versions that I always love seeing is the awesomeness of Lieutenant Tragg.

Even before he realizes that the case is murder and not death by frightened horse, he doesn’t like the idea of putting down a beautiful animal like this horse. Probably some of that is recognizing how valuable the horse is, but he just comes across as someone who appreciates animals in general and doesn’t like to see them killed unless absolutely necessary.

Also present in this episode is another element that occurred several times around season 3, that of Tragg teaching Sergeant Brice some of the clues he looks for in an investigation. The bit with determining it had to be murder because the wheelchair-bound man could not have locked himself in the barn is great. I love any scenes showing that the police are not idiots. Of course, the wrong person gets arrested, as always, but there is definite evidence against her.

I also like how Hamilton seems to be acknowledging the problem of the wrong people getting arrested when he tells Perry, “You know what we go through before we indict someone.” It doesn’t just happen at random; they are making an effort to get the right person arrested. The only reason it doesn’t work is because of the formula. And I do have to give points to the books for apparently not falling back on said formula all the time. I just don’t like that the reason they don’t is because Perry’s clients sometimes (or often) are guilty. As I said, I rather romanticize the character due to his television counterpart!

Another fun thing about The Startled Stallion episode is Elliott Reid playing the defendant’s brother. I’ve liked him for years because of his roles in Disney movies, so I was happy to see him pop up on Perry.

Of the episodes about horses, I think I like this one a lot more than the season 6 episode The Fickle Filly. I find it so sad in the latter episode when the horse goes lame. It’s sad for the horse and also for the people, since they thought they had a great racehorse. Of course, there is the bit in the epilogue where they plan to breed the horse, so it’s nice that all of their plans don’t have to just go down the drain.

What’s strange about the syndication copy of The Startled Stallion, however, is that I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever seen the first scene on television before, the part that shows the actual mock wedding and reveals in their car that the secretary didn’t really marry the old man. It seems like all the other times I’ve seen the episode on television, it’s opened with the racing horses. That is very weird if there really is a syndication episode floating around without that key opening scene, although I definitely wouldn’t put it past networks to clip it out for commercial time.

Back to Sergeant Brice, it’s fun seeing him becoming an important fixture on Perry. By season 3, he’s there almost all the time when it’s an in-town episode. According to IMDB, Lee Miller was playing Sergeant Brice, uncredited as the character, in several season 1 episodes. I don’t recall seeing him, but the broadcast prints of season 1 episodes are bad, so I should check my DVDs to see if I see him anywhere.

What I do know is that once or twice in season 2, they had a character called Sergeant Brice who was not played by Lee Miller. Even if Lee’s character in season 1 is thought to be Brice, I am quite sure he is never actually addressed as such until late in season 2, when they decided Tragg should have a steady partner instead of different ones most of the time. And instead of keeping the actor who was originally playing a Sergeant Brice character, they brought in Lee, which was a stroke of genius.

Lee is perfect as the quiet Sergeant Brice, silently observing everything and speaking when necessary. He interacts with Tragg, Perry, Hamilton, suspects and witnesses, Andy, Steve, and even Della. Those who have only seen syndication versions of the episodes won’t have seen it, but one of the good things about The 12th Wildcat is the bit where Brice wanders in and greets Della, jokingly asking if Perry and Paul are giving her a bad time. She responds by touching his arm and saying if they do, he’s her policeman. Aww. Brice has been shown to be friendly to Perry and company on several occasions, and indicates in The Careless Kitten and The Impetuous Imp that he has a lot less problems with them poking around investigating than his superiors do, but that brief and telling interaction with Della says that he must interact with them (and her) a lot more than we ever see onscreen. I still want to write a story with him and Della sometime.

Perhaps they can have some interaction if I write a Halloween story this year. I was thinking that if I did, it would be a great time to write that masquerade-themed adventure I always wanted the show to have. It will kind of be The Dodging Domino as the title made me think that episode should have been. I was thinking of setting it around season six or seven, but I might just set it after season 9 instead, as per most of my stories.


  1. I remember the moment Hamilton gets angry with Perry about that 'phony confession' and Perry says he had nothing to do with that. When Hamilton flat out tells him 'I don't believe you', Perry actually seems to be shocked, perhaps even hurt. Well, honestly, what did he expect, after all those stunts?
    Btw, I sincerely hope you will write that Halloween story, or any other. There's a sad lack of new Hamilton-themed stories on the net!

    1. Very good point! That's one angle people seem to forget, that Perry doesn't have a very good track record and it's pretty easy to think he'd pull something wild in court. I still find it strange that in spite of all the times Hamilton has found out about some of the law-bending stunts, he doesn't seem to have found out about the worst instances, such as obscuring the fingerprints in The Mystified Miner. But I guess it had to be that way because if Hamilton had learned about that, Perry wouldn't have an easy way out.

      Thank you! :) I've been trying to think how to put it together. Maybe if I watch something that has a masquerade scene, I'll get a bit more inspired for how it should work.

  2. If Hamilton had found out, I’m pretty sure he would have taken action. The way I see it, he has a very clear conception of how an attorney should behave. He himself keeps strictly to this code of conduct, and he feels any other behavior is unethical. And that is the real reason he gets angry with Perry so often – he does n o t think that the ends always justifies the means!
    Since you mentioned the ‘Dodging Domino’ before: when Perry brings the trick-and-treaters into the courtroom, Hamilton protests the ‘circus sideshow tactics’. He thinks them uncalled-for (although his expression and the comment about the dancing girls are hilarious).

    1. Indeed. And they didn't want Perry to get disbarred or whatever might happen as a result, so I imagine that is why the worst of his activities remained unknown to Hamilton. I would tend to agree with him that the end doesn't generally justify the means.

      LOL. That scene in Dodging Domino is classic.

      Always nice to find fellow Hamilton fans! I'm curious, what do you think of Deputy Sampson?

    2. Well, way back when I first watched the series, I always rooted for Perry (youth doesn’t excuse everything, I’m afraid…). Now that I watch it a second time, I have to say I’m firmly on Hamilton’s side. He has his flaws, but overall I think he’s the better guy.
      Thus said, I had concentrated on the episodes Hamilton was in. In order to answer your question I’ve just watched Loquacious Liar and Envious Editor. Hm. Sampson’s definitely clever (and not half-bad looking, if that’s a criterion, too ;-)). He is quite cynical, and he can smirk at least as good as his boss. But I think he is rather ruthless and aggressive towards the witnesses – e.g. Hamilton would never have attacked an obviously distressed Emma like Sampson did. Perhaps it is his courtroom technique to get loud, and it seems to be effective, but I find I don’t care much about it. One thing in his favour, though: he does seem to have a sense of humour (LL, about min 39:40).

    3. I always want Perry to get the person off, since they're innocent (as opposed to apparently often being guilty in the books), but I really wish he would change some of his tactics! As far as tactics go, I definitely root more for Hamilton too. :) I get irritated very fast to see lawyers behaving in shyster-ish ways, especially if they're supposed to be the good guys, and I far prefer Hamilton's honesty.

      Ah yes, H.M. Wynant is quite a looker. Purrr. Your analysis seems to mostly parallel my own when I encountered him in recent years. I didn't at all like how he railroaded some hostile witnesses yelling for them to just say Yes or No. But further viewings of his episodes showed that he did have compassion for those affected by the crimes; he tries to be gentle with the widow in Loquacious Liar. And you're right about the sense of humor. LOL.

      I'm intrigued that you would describe him as cynical, though. I usually see him as just the opposite there, fully and firmly devoted to the district attorney's office and determined to stamp out crime in Los Angeles County. He seems to me to be an eager assistant D.A., upright perhaps almost to a fault and finding it justified, for instance, to be harsh with those who are withholding evidence or not being cooperative for any reason. Sort of the Don Quixote of the D.A.'s office. I would have loved to have seen some scenes of Hamilton talking with him and perhaps trying to counsel him to not badger the witnesses.

  3. I’ve now watched The Red Riding Boots, too. Sampson was a bit less aggressive here, still I feel he was pretty harsh with Ann. I know as prosecutor he had to ask those questions, Hamilton would have too, but I think he would have been more gentle.
    I agree that Sampson is quite eager, but imo he’s willing to go quite a bit further than Hamilton ever does. I admit he is clever, though. The way he lets Perry know about Joe and Rennie being stepbrothers is remarkably slick - and he obviously enjoys it very much.
    And I’d love the idea of seeing Hamilton interact with his assistant D.A.s – it would be interesting to see how he would, well, train them, I suppose. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses he would probably have some good advice for any of them ;-) Perhaps he’d tell Sampson to tone it down a bit.
    Btw – the man’s still good-looking, but I liked the dark three-piece suit better!

    1. Yes, Hamilton likely would have been more gentle. He's always really good at trying to be kind if the witnesses are very young.

      I've debated over whether or not television Sampson would actually coach witnesses on what to say, as his book counterpart does. On the one hand, it doesn't seem out of the scope of possibility, if he felt justified enough. On the other hand, it seems more like something Bill Vincent from season 9 might have done, since Sampson is, as you and I say, clever, and Bill Vincent is ... pretty terrible at his job.

      It would have been so, so awesome. In season 9 they seemed to want to do something like that with the Bill Vincent character, but they never developed it very well. Perhaps, had the series been renewed again, they would have.

      He does look pretty amazing in that three-piece! And it suits his personality, too.

    2. Whoops. I totally wasn't thinking there. LOL.