Peril and Perilousness (1997 - poster) Picture

The plot of "Peril and Perilousness" essentially turned the genre on its ear. The story wasn't the slightest bit interested in romance, and its version of happily ever after was very peculiar indeed. The premise was that women of that era had little recourse when they were done wrong by a man, either fiscally or physically. As the leader of the merry band of miscreants, Cassandra Smythe-Widdershins (played by Kori Belle in her breakout role -- or, as she put it, "At the ripe old age of 36 and being a working actor for 20 years, I've become a new discovery and overnight success!"), her Anglo-Indian comrade-in-arms Sadira Watkins-Glendower (played by the mononamed Kyra) and her faithful maidservant and co-conspirator Betsy (Anna Victoria) contacted or were contacted by various women. They investigated their stories, and when warranted, wreaked havoc and awful vengeance upon the men involved. Sometimes they would recover fortunes lost by women to embezzling scoundrels; sometimes they would make men who had done worse pay. Either way, said havoc and vengeance almost invariably involved the men's financial and reputational ruin and physical peril. The perils included being tied to train tracks -- rescued by the train coming to a stop and by women walking nearby who heard his cries for help -- dangling from a cliff by a rope -- rescued by a brace of women hikers -- tied to a runaway horse -- stopped by a genteel woman riding sidesaddle, of course -- and a few other improbable perils.

Their activities were being followed and investigated by an inspector from Scotland Yard. As the film progressed, he would talk to his wife about the case, and she would make suggestions or helpful comments in such a way that it became clear that, if times had allowed, she would be a much more effective detective inspector than her husband -- as he himself noted at one point. The cases were difficult to investigate, of course, because the men neither wanted to admit their own wrongdoing, or that they had been ruined by women. He also gets more and more discouraged as he discovers, over and over, that the men more or less deserved what happened to them, and possibly worse. By the end of the film, it also becomes clear that the inspector's wife put together all the clews some time ago, had figured out who the miscreants were, and was in some sympathy with their goals. Not enough to join them, to be sure, but enough to send, via various means, notes to let them know when the police were on the wrong track altogether, when the police had figured a few things out, when it was time to close down the operation and get out of Dodge (or Kenilworth, as the case may be) because the authorities were closing in.

The poster for "Peril" was somewhat deceptive. At no time did Cassandra Smythe-Widdershins ever pull a gun on anyone -- never mind that flintlock pistols of the day were considerably longer than that shown in the poster, and seldom pearl-handled. The man tied to the train tracks was bonked on the head by Betsy and her trusty duster. Other men were incapacitated through alcohol or laudanum -- sometimes both.

After their experience with "Day Dream", Spyglass View had made no efforts in any awards season again. Therefore, it came as quite the shock when "Peril and Perilousness" started collecting nominations from various societies and organizations. The film received only two acting nominations from a small film society, one each for Kori Belle and the actress playing the inspector's wife, and didn't win, of course. The nominations came consistently for art direction and set decoration, costume design, cinematography, film editing and even a few for original screenplay. Unfortunately, this was the year of "Titanic", which swept all period pieces before it off the boards. Nonetheless, the number of nominations indicated that Spyglass View, after 70 years including a 15 year hiatus, had finally arrived.

Mainstream commercial, if not critical, success would wait for several years. Curiously, that would also involve Kori Belle, and come from a most unexpected direction.

-- I. Noah Lott, professor of current history, comparative and modern mythology and modern media studies, Serenity Falls University, Hollywood Roars, book 2: the story of one little studio and how it couldn't before it could.

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