PERRY MASON MOVIE COLLECTION: VOLUME 2
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
Raymond Burr as PERRY MASON
Barbara Hale as DELLA STREET
William Katt as PAUL DRAKE JR.
Alexandra Paul as AMY HASTINGS
William R. Moses as KEN MALANSKY
Studio: CBS Video
Directed by: Christian I. Nyby II
BY KEVIN CARR
There are certain television shows that don’t quite hold up to being viewed by today’s standards, but they’ve got a certain level of nostalgia that makes them enjoyable to watch. The “Perry Mason” movies from the late 1980s and early 1990s fall into that category for myself.
Back in the days when these movies aired, I was still living at home and watched a lot of television with my family. My mother in particular was a huge fan of Perry Mason, having read many of the original Erle Stanley Gardner books. While I didn’t watch all of these movies on television with my mother, they remind me of the shows I did watch with her.
From the styles of clothing to the production value of TV movies of the time to the character actors who showed up in the mix, the Perry Mason TV movies are fun to revisit for me. They’re not tightly-written stories, and many of them follow a pretty standard formula. That’s okay. I’m happy with formula in disposable entertainment.
This is the second volume of TV movies based on the classic character, most often played by Raymond Burr. The “Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 2” DVD set includes three double features, just as the first volume did. These are at the waning edge of Burr’s career as an actor in this series, and while he was still several years from his death, his age and health had a noticeable impact on how he could play the character on screen.
Still, these are perfectly enjoyable bits of 80s formula television, and I found myself surprisingly entertained. Each of the three discs contains two movies, though there are no special features included.
“The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel”
While being sued by Perry Mason over false stories about him having an affair with Della, a tabloid publisher (Robert Guillaume) is found shot dead in his pool. The crime is pinned on one of his reporters, so Perry works to exonerate her for the murder. One of the last installments featuring William Katt (the real-life son of Barbara Hale, who plays Della), this was interesting to watch for the character’s skill at investigation as well as womanizing. Oh, and the bizarre hair style on Katt features 80s hairspray mixed with a frizzy mullet, so that’s also amazing to watch.
“The Case of the Avenging Ace”
After successfully prosecuting a man for the murder of his wife, Perry discovers new evidence and tries to overturn the conviction. However, the new witness is murdered, and the defendant is kidnapped, thought to have fled the law. Perry mobilizes his womanizing colleague Paul (Katt) to help find the kidnapper and also woo a hot helicopter pilot (Erin Gray). Again, lots of fun with this one for the guest stars like Erin Gray, whom I’ll always remember from “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.”
“The Cast of the Lady in the Lake”
Perry Mason must defend a professional tennis player (David Hasselhoff) for the murder of his wife, who went missing in a lake. Not only does this episode include a guest role from the Hoff himself, but it’s actually not a bad little mystery. Unlike some of these movies which feature more happening outside of the courtroom under Mason’s invisible hand, the resolution for this film actually comes to light in court itself, which is always fun to watch.
“The Case of the Lethal Lesson”
Perry takes the case of a law student accused of murdering a fellow student who allegedly assaulted his girlfriend. Defending him out of a family obligation, Perry ends up taking the student under his wing as a protege. Here’s where we say good-bye to William Katt and get introduced to some new sidekicks for Perry: Alexandra Paul as Amy Hastings and William R. Moses as Ken Malansky (the defendant in this episode). While a bit jarring with the cast change, this installment is intended as Amy and Ken’s origin story, which serves for the rest of the films.
“The Case of the Musical Murder”
After a caustic theater director is killed on Broadway, Perry steps in to defend a young director accused of the crime. The neat part of this episode is the guest stars, which include Debbie Reynolds as she just starts to accept her aging public persona, Jerry Orbach in one of his many television roles and Dwight Schultz, a staple of 80s and 90s television. The story is kind of all over the place, but it is nice to see the characters of Amy and Ken starting to gel.
“The Case of the All Star Assassin”
When an injured hockey player, who happens to be an old friend of Ken’s, is fingered for the murder of a sports team owner, Perry comes in to defend him and find the real killer. Perhaps it’s my inability to get excited about sports that made this episode my least favorite in the bunch. Sure, it’s got some decent guest stars (including Deidre Hall, Bruce Greenwood and Shari Belafonte), but the inside-baseball element to the show made this one a bit of a drag for me.