The Top Ten Perry Mason TV Movies, Part One

A version of this review was posted in 2012.

I grew up watching the Perry Mason movies, with new films being released every year. The films featured bearded former Judge Perry Mason fighting for justice for his clients. I began watching when Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) had moved to Colorado along with his secretary (Della Street) because filming costs were cheaper and young lawyer Ken Malnasky (William Moses) had replaced Paul Drake, Jr. (William Katt) as Mason’s legman.

I’ve rewatched them all as an adult. Though the TV movies are not the equal of the original series, Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale’s talents still made the films worthwhile and entertaining through each of the 26 installments.

10) Perry Mason and the Case of the Reckless Romeo (1992)

Geraldo Rivera is perfectly cast as a trashy TV host who releases a memoir detailing his past escapades and dishing dirt on all of his lovers. It’s no surprise when he’s killed and suspects abound.

The mystery takes several turns with some great misdirection when Ken Malansky stumbles onto two suspects who are in the witness protection program, but everything wraps up quite nicely.

9) Perry Mason and the Case of the Maligned Mobster (1991)

Perry usually doesn’t take the case of hardcore criminals, but he finds himself defending reformed mobster Johnny Sorento (Michael Nader), who has apparently settled down in legitimate business. There are quite a few red herrings in this one that throw the viewer off the truth, but the ending has an incredible twist, as the outcome can’t be exactly what Perry’s client was hoping for.

8) Perry Mason and the Case of the Ruthless Reporter (1991)

The movie begins with Perry giving an interview with a news co-anchor. The lead news anchor is on a power trip and kills the story, prompting an angry confrontation with his co-anchor. When the lead anchor turns up dead and the co-anchor is charged, Perry defends the co-anchor.

If there’s one theme that does recur in these movies, it’s that talented people who become the top dog and step on everyone else around them had better watch their backs. It’s rarely more plainly shown than in this installment.

This telefilm also includes more than your average bit of action as Ken Malansky has to go to more extreme measures than usual to corral a key witness.

7) Perry Mason and the Case of the Lethal Lesson (1989)

Speaking of Ken Malansky, The Lethal Lesson was where his involvement with Mason began. In this episode, he ends up as Mason’s client after he’s accused of murdering a fellow law school student.

This particular installment has a fun love triangle between Ken’s girlfriend (Karen Kopins) and his an ex-girlfriend (Alexandra Paul), who is telling everyone that she’s Ken’s intended. For the first half of the movie, you think Paul’s character is unbalanced, but by the end of the film, you’re given a surprise whammy in the payoff.

The story is solid with the usual tension between Perry’s friendships and his duty to his clients. But the introduction of Malansky makes this a fascinating study. With Malansky on board, the series was on its way to capturing some real magic in the chemistry between the cast and that alone makes this a worthwhile film.

To be Continued…Next Week

 

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