Paramount // 1985 // 571 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // February 20th, 2014
"He's back on the case!"
Whether you praise him for giving us Raymond Burr, or blame him for giving us Johnnie Cochran, you've got to admit that Perry Mason, Erle Stanley Gardner's fictional defense attorney, is the one lawyer that Americans can't seem to spend enough time with. Nearly twenty years after the weekly series ended its nine year run, Burr reprised his most famous role for a TV-movie that proved so successful that it led to twenty five more, in a series that continued until the actor's death in 1993.
The Perry Mason Movie Collection, Volume 1 gathers the first six of these on three discs:
* "Perry Mason Returns"
Perry (Raymond Burr, Ironside), now an appellate court judge, resigns from the bench in order to defend murder suspect Della Street (Barbara Hale, The Giant Spider Invasion). Co-starring Patrick O'Neal (The Stepford Wives), and Holland Taylor (Two And A Half Men).
* "The Case Of The Notorious Nun"
Pretty young novice Sister Margaret (Michele Greene, L.A. Law) is accused of killing a handsome priest she was rumored to be having an affair with. Co-starring Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show), Tom Bosley (Happy Days), and Barbara Parkins, Valley Of The Dolls).
* "The Case Of The Shooting Star"
He didn't know the gun was loaded! Hollywood movie star Robert McKay (Joe Penny, Riptide) fatally shoots a TV talk show host -- with a gun he believed to be filled with blanks -- during a live broadcast. D'oh! Co-starring Jennifer O'Neill (The Psychic), Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), and Ron Glass (Barney Miller).
* "The Case Of The Lost Love"
Perry reconnects with an old flame (Jean Simmons, Spartacus), when her husband (Gene Barry, Burke's Law) is accused of murdering a blackmailer. Co-starring Robert Walden (Happily Divorced), Robert Mandan (Soap), and Robert F. Lyons (Getting Straight).
* "The Case Of The Sinister Spirit"
Shades of The Shining: Deadly doings at a secluded Colorado resort. Co-starring Robert Stack (The High And The Mighty), Kim Delaney (CSI: Miami), and Leigh Taylor-Young (The Big Bounce).
* "The Case Of The Murdered Madam"
Della's life-long friend Tony Dominico (Vincent Baggetta, The Eddie Capra Mysteries) arrives home one night to find his wife, slain by his own gun. Guess who the police have made their number one "Person of Interest"? Co-starrring Ann Jillian (It's A Living), James Noble (Benson), Bill Macy (Maude), and John Rhys-Davies (Raiders Of The Lost Ark).
Get out your scorecards, there have been a couple of changes made to the lineup. William Talman, who played the virtually winless D.A. Hamilton Burger, died in 1968, and William Hopper, who played Paul Drake, Perry's crack private eye, passed away in 1970. Stepping into Burger's shoes is D.A. Michael Reston (David Ogden-Stiers, M*A*S*H), while Drake's mantle is taken up by none other than Paul Drake, Jr. (William Katt, The Greatest American Hero). On the surface, it might not seem like much deep thought went into making these changes, but the casting turned out perfectly in both cases. Bonus trivia: Katt just happens to be the real-life son of Barbara Hale, and not surprisingly, their on-screen chemistry is purely magical.
Otherwise, what can I say? If you loved those black and white, hour-long Perry Mason episodes from the '50s and '60s, you're more than likely gonna be thrilled to death by these '80s updates. There's a "celebrity guest star" emphasis this time around, reflective of Murder, She Wrote, which similarly boasted weekly lineups of (mostly older) familiar TV and movie faces -- I particularly got a kick out of seeing Dwight Schultz (famous for playing "Howling Mad" Murdoch on The A-Team) fabulously chewing scenery as a prissy personal assistant in "Sinister Spirit" -- which will tickle TV addicts now as much as it did then.
Paramount has done a first-rate job of delivering the picture and sound with precious little depreciation; the films look remarkably like they did back in the day, with those turbo-neon '80s colors popping, and ladies shoulder pads standing proudly. There are no extras, but possibly as concession to Perry's decidedly senior fan base, English subtitles have been provided.
Above and beyond all else, the primary appeal is the chance to see Perry and Della back together again, and these films bring back Burr and Hale at the top of their games. Welcome back, friends!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 571 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: Perry Mason Returns
* IMDb: The Case of the Notorious Nun
* IMDb: The Case of the Shooting Star
* IMDb: The Case of the Lost Love
* IMDb: The Case of the Sinister Spirit
* IMDb: The Case of the Murdered Madam