Having recently watched all 26 of the 1980s-90s Perry Mason Revival movies, I’ve decided to make a list of the best of them.
While these movies are not the equals of the original series, Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale’s talents still made the films worthwhile and entertaining through each of the 26 installments.
Without any further adieu, here’s my top 10 list:
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 into 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 finds himself defending reformed mobster Johnny Sorento (Michael Nader) who has apparently settled down in legitimate business. There are quite a few red herring 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 news anchor is on a power trip and kills the story, prompting an angry confrontation with his co-anchor. When the anchor turns up dead and the co-anchor is charged, Perry leads in the defense.
If there’s one theme that does recur in these movies, it’s talented people who become the top dog and step on everyone else around them. 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 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 bonkers, 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 clinets. 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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Funny, much as I always liked William R. Moses, I stopped watching the movies soon after he took over for William Katt. Thought William Katt had much more charm and charisma and chemistry with the cast, and liked the wink-nudge conceit of Paul Drake Jr. being played by Barbara Hale’s real-life son. Especially made me smile remembering the way Paul Drake always flirted with Della in the original series.
I like Ken but I think Paul Drake Jr. was more badass and I love that it was as if Perry and Della were surrogate parents to him after Sr.’s death. But tbh nobody can truly replace William Hopper as Paul Drake. The movies are amazing but I do miss Hopper as Drake alongside Burr and Hale. I wish Case of the Silenced Singer and Scandalous Scoundrel were on this list. Those two are very great cases with exceptional endings.