The Top Ten Perry Mason TV Movies, Part Three

A version of this article appeared in 2012.

Continued from Part One and Part Two

3) Perry Mason and the Case of the Lady in the Lake (1988)

Okay, it’s not by Raymond Chandler, but for a Perry Mason film, this one has got some nice twists. First of all, Perry’s client is an ex-tennis player, played by none other than David Hasselhoff, who is accused of killing his rich heiress wife.

This is one of Perry’s more complex cases. It’s not just a matter of this current murder, but a twenty-year-old kidnapping plays a big role as well. The movie was the last for Paul Drake, Jr. (William Katt) and Michael Reston (David Ogden Stiers) and it’s certainly a memorable one with a big twist on the usual Mason ending.

2) Perry Mason and the Case of the Sinister Spirit (1987)

A horror writer invites hosts a private party at a hotel for his friends and associates, who are suing him after he wrote a book whose characters are obviously based on them, in an unflattering way. The writer ostensibly intends to make peace with them, but he instead pulls a series of cruel practical jokes that bring up painful memories for everyone. For publisher Jordan White (Robert Stack), this includes a reminder of the death of Jordan’s son in a swimming pool.

It surprises no one when the writer turns up murdered, thrown from the top of the hotel. The publisher is accused and Perry is hired by White to defend him. Paul Drake, Jr. is investigating. A witness who heard the dead man’s last word and saw him fall to his death is seemingly beset by supernatural occurrences, apparently being haunted. In what amounts to one of the most inexplicable scenes in all the movies, Perry impeaches the poor woman’s testimony. Decency aside, there was no real reason for this and it made Drake’s job harder.

However, the solution to the mystery, the story’s dramatic conclusion, and a spell-binding performance by Dwight Schultz make up for these little wrinkles.

1) Perry Mason and the Case of the Desperate Deception (1990)

Perry Mason takes on Nazi war criminals. This is the basic plot of the story. His client is a young Marine attached to the U.S. Embassy in Paris. The young officer is searching for the concentration camp guard that devastated his family during the Holocaust. He is led to believe he found the ex-Nazi at a health club. However, when the ex-Nazi is killed, suspicion points to the young officer, who faces a court martial.

Perry Mason goes to Paris to head up the defense. He and Ken Malansky find intrigue around every corner. Mason finds ex-Nazis, traitors, and Nazi hunters roaming Paris. Perry has to sort through more than four decades of deception to find the truth, not only to acquit his client but to bring long-overdue justice to the perpetrators of heinous war crimes. A goal worthy of one Perry Mason’s top cases.

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