Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Case of the Sinister Spirit

A quick note: Richard Anderson’s book is finally out after a two-month delay! I am very excitedly waiting for my pre-ordered copy to arrive. It can be ordered here: http://www.bearmanormedia.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=802 There’s also a hardcover version, but that’s $10 more.

So last night MeTV aired an absolutely mangled copy of The Fatal Fetish that I have never seen them air before. It was so bad, it looked like one of Hallmark’s 43 minute jobs. They put back the scene where Larry Germaine barges in on Brady Duncan’s home, but they took away the scene where Hamilton watches Mignon’s dance, the bit where the nurse talks to Mrs. Duncan about magazines while Larry sneaks past her into Carina’s room, the scene where Paul goes to get Mignon from New Orleans, and it seems like there were some other cuts I’m not remembering at the moment. It was cringeworthy. Previously, MeTV has aired a copy that was almost complete, with only the scene of Larry barging in on Brady Duncan, and the bit of Hamilton’s introduction to what Perry was going to do in the courtroom, missing. I hope this other one isn’t going to be the copy they’ll air all the time now.

Following that, they aired The Sinister Spirit, one of the early Perry movies that was a lot of fun. Ghosts haunting a big old hotel? Yes, please!

David Hall was certainly one of the most sadistic and cruel characters we’ve seen in any Perry media. The things he did to those poor people, especially Robert Stack’s character! And then when the final revelation came in court, that the secretary was really David and the person who died had been the real secretary . . . wow. Not to mention that David really murdered him in cold blood, apparently mainly just because he wanted to kill “himself” off in the public eye and start over secretly. That was twisted. I suspected for some time that perhaps the “secretary” was the murderer, and that maybe the death had been an accident, so the revelation of the twist was a complete surprise to me.

The things being done to torture Susan and make her think the hotel was haunted were really freaky. Crying pictures have always been something that makes my skin crawl, and being chased by what looks like a character from a portrait would be absolutely terrifying. I think they could have made it look scarier, though, by not having the guy be solid. It could have been a ghostly hologram chasing her instead of a real person in costume. When Paul Jr. found the door behind the picture, it seemed a little hard to swallow that in reality Susan apparently saw the door open and the guy step out of there, even though it seemed to her that the guy came out of the picture.

I was slightly disappointed it was the handyman torturing her. I knew it wouldn’t be a real ghost, but I guess I thought it might be a more prominent character, one of the other guests. But it was very eerily done and enjoyable in any case. Also, the little bit where Paul Jr. removes a washer from the sink so he can call the guy to come fix it? Heh.

I loved the surreal opening of Perry wandering through a room and seeing the chandelier, which then descended. Perry promptly woke up from a nightmare induced by the book he was reading, in which that very thing happened. I think that may be about the only time a Perry character is seen having a nightmare, let alone one influenced by the last reality they were exposed to. And the dream almost seems to have been an eerie warning in some way, since the scene played out for real when Perry discovered the actual room in the hotel.

Della didn’t really have much screentime, which was disappointing. But she got to do some very cool stuff while she was there, especially saving Perry from the falling chandelier by seeing it start to come down and calling to him just in time. She and Perry also share a nice scene late in the movie when something she does inadvertently tips Perry off to the solution of the crime, just like what happens several times in the television series.

As usual, Paul Jr. managed to do something stupid. When he arrived and saw a frightened girl fleeing down the hall, why didn’t he call out to her instead of walking slowly and silently after her? He certainly could have saved a lot of headache for himself. On the up side, I liked how protective he was of Susan and how upset he was by Perry picking her apart on the witness stand when he hadn’t realized Perry was going to do that.

It was great seeing Michael Reston prosecute, as always, and as an Untouchables fan, a lot of fun seeing Robert Stack as the defendant. I did think maybe there should have been a little more about the character’s wife Carol, an earlier scene with her or something, but I loved the little bit at the end where Perry had called her and she came down to reunite with her husband at the end of the hearing.

It was really nice to have a change of scenery from the usual Perry movies. I loved the creepy old setting of the hotel and all the secret passageways and mysterious things inside them. And it was nice, for once, not to have the usual subplot of Paul Jr. chasing an uncooperative witness. That gets a little monotonous when it happens over and over. It seemed to happen more frequently in the movies than it did on the series.

Perry gave off an Ironside vibe at the end, when he teases Paul Jr. about the picture talking, but that was definitely an amusing close.

Overall, it’s definitely one of the movies I’ve enjoyed the most.

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