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The Case of the Stuttering Bishop
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Index 13 reviews in total 

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

An entertaining but convoluted Perry Mason murder mystery.

6/10
Author: Arthur Hausner (ahausner16@gmail.com) from Pine Grove, California
8 December 1998

Donald Woods and Ann Dvorak were fine as Perry Mason and his secretary, Della Street, but it took me a while to get used to not seeing Raymond Burr in the Mason role. The complicated plot involves two women named Janice who claim to be the heir to the fortune of Douglas Wood, and an Australian bishop who asks Mason to see Mira McKinney, who can prove which one is the real one. But Wood is killed going to the rendezvous with McKinney, who is charged with murder. In customary Perry Mason style, there is a final courtroom scene (in this case only a hearing) where Mason flushes out the killer and the phony Janice. I enjoyed trying to follow the plot and the comedy that was prevalent. Tom Kennedy suddenly remembers an important item when he hears the name "Sampson," because it involves a ship called "Delilah." Woods always asking Dvorak to remind him to give her a raise when she gets a good idea (a running gag). Even the bishop, who explains he stutters only when under some emotional stress, provides some comedy at the end. He sheepishly stammers "g-g-goodness g-g-gracious" when three of the principal women kiss him goodbye.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Donald Woods is this film's Perry Mason

6/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
28 November 2007

Donald Woods stars as Perry Mason in "The Case of the Stuttering Bishop," a 1937 film that also stars Ann Dvorak as a lively Della Street. Frank Faylen is also on hand to pep things up a bit. Both of them are needed, because Donald Woods isn't terribly exciting. Of the men who played Perry Mason in the films, he is perhaps the closest rendering to the actual character. But the book Perry Mason was just that - for books - and it would take Gardner himself to not only choose Raymond Burr (the original Perry Mason was supposed to be Fred MacMurray until Gardner saw Mason at an audition for Hamilton Burger) but oversee the scripts to make the translation to the moving image.

The story concerns a mysterious bishop who asks Perry to help clear a woman accused of manslaughter many years earlier. From there, the story gets into mistaken identity - is a woman posing as an heiress or isn't she - and the solving of a murder. It's a very complicated plot, so pay attention. And Paul Drake is old. If you can sort it all out, you'll find it interesting. There's a little comedy to be had, which is helpful.

I like watching the Perry Mason movies, if only to see the different interpretations of the various roles and the emphasis put into the stories, but in the end, it's best to forget who these characters are supposed to be - because after watching the TV show for years, none of them are. So don't expect much in that department, and you won't be disappointed.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Perry Mason 6: Dull, Confusing, but Solid

5/10
Author: Henry Kujawa (hkujawa@comcast.net) from Camden, NJ (The Forbidden Zone)
5 March 2009

You can often tell when a studio is losing interest in a film series when they start replacing the entire cast. In this instance, they did it twice in 2 films-- and by the time of THE CASE OF THE STUTTERING BISHOP, we'd not only seen 3 Perry Masons in 6 films, but 5 different Della Streets! Donald Woods does his 2nd PM film, having played one of the suspects in ...THE CURIOUS BRIDE, while William Clemens directs his 2nd PM film, having already done the relatively sober ...VELVET CLAWS. Clemens would go onto quite a few series films, including a Torchy Blane, 4 Nancy Drews, a Dead Ends Kids, a Philo Vance, and 3 Falcons. There's nothing especially flashy or stylish about this film, and it starts out very confusing, but it is a solid mystery film, and gets better as it goes.

For example, you have the boastful house detective who Perry winds up hiring part-time, and as the story goes on he proves to be genuinely helpful, rather than "merely" comic relief. It seems the murder takes forever to happen in this one, but once it does, the story FINALLY kicks into gear, and the courtroom sequence at the end is probably the BEST in all 6 films. Unlike when Perry rattled off confusing info nobody but HE knew in the previous installment, the quick stream of witness testimonies actually help to pull all the threads of the story together neatly. And at last, there's the patented "blurted out confession" seen in so many PM stories-- only in this case, NOT from the person being grilled on the stand.

It's been said that sometimes casting actors very accurate to novels can lead to dull films. Some of the most popular versions of characters are quite unlike their literary sources-- good examples being Sean Connery's JAMES BOND and Stacy Keach's MIKE HAMMER. In this case, I find myself wishing Warren William had done more films like this one-- his version of Perry might not be thought of as so much of a joke then.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

It may be the truth but no jury is gonna believe it!

5/10
Author: sol1218 from brooklyn NY
7 December 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

**SPOILER*** Despite the excellent portrayal of Perry Mason by Donald Woods, considered to be the closest to the actual Perry Mason character of the Earl Stanley Gardner books, the overly complicated storyline sinks the movie before it even leaves the harbor.

Perry is contacted by this sputtering Bishop from Sidney Australia Bishop Mallory,Edward McWead about an event that happened some twenty years ago. This Bishop tells an amused Perry Mason, since when does a Bishop stutter, that he can prove that the heir to the Philip Brownley, Gordon Oliver, fortune his granddaughter Janice, Ann Nagel,is an impostor and the real Janice is actually the daughter of a woman who gave her up to him for adoption back in 1915.

After getting involved in a DWI, one of the first on record, where a man was killed Ida Gilbert, Mira McKinney,was kicked out of the Brownley mansion despite her being married to Philip Brownley's son. Alone and destitute with an infant, young Brownley's, daughter Janice the girl was later given, by the stuttering Bishop Mallory's church, to the Seaton family in Salt Lake city to raise as their own. Now some twenty years later this impostor, as Bishop Mallory calls her, Janice Alma Brownley is in line to getting the old man's, who doesn't have that long to go, money.

Murder deception as well as a number of surprises, in who did what to whom and why, keeps you as well as Perry Mason in a state of confusion during the entire movie. Brownley is told to go to the city docks by the real Jancie's, his granddaughter, mother Ida Gilbert where she'll show him a watch belonging to his son proving that her, not the fake Janice, daughter is in fact his biological offspring. Brownley ends up both shot with his car, with him in it, dumped down at the bottom of the bay with Ida Gilbert, wearing a light colored raincoat, being seen running from the murder scene.

The movie then just goes overboard in trying to fit all the clues together where the parade of murder suspects, real or imagined, in Brownleys death never seems to end. In fact when the film is finally over your still not quite sure what exactly happened since even Perry Mason is completely side-whacked in the courtroom during his famous cross-examination scene of the murder, of Old Man Brownley, suspect. ***SPOILER ALERT***Just when you, and Perry, think the the "killer" is going to break down and admit his, or her, guilt someone completely out of the blue in the audience bursts out and admits to Brownley's murder!

If that, the big and emotional outburst by the so called murderer, isn't enough to get you to go outside to the nearest bar and get yourself a stiff drink it turns out the the person who just admitted murdering Brownley didn't in fact murder him at all! In pops Bishop Mallory, with his head bandaged up and not stuttering anymore, who was supposed to be back in his native Australia after he was worked over by two hired hoods, who were to keep him from exposing the fake Janice Brownley, in his hotel room. The what seems like omnipresent Bishop Mallory also turns out to be an eye witness to who actually killed Old Man Brownley; the person who ran Mallory down on the docks with Brownley's car and left him for dead. On top of all that Brownleys killer just happens to be in the courtroom where he can easily be arrested and later booked for his crimes! Talk about surprise endings!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

On the Downgrade

4/10
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
9 July 2009

Maybe you can keep up with the plot convolutions better than I could. Finally I lost track of the yellow or pink or white raincoats and threw in the towel. Anyway, it's a mildly entertaining Mason entry, at best. As a matter of fact, it looks to me like Warner Bros. had lost interest in the series—(for example, compare the sparse production values here with the richly produced The Case of the Curious Bride {1935}). This was the last installment and features a boyish Donald Woods as the legal wizard and sleuth. Frankly, in my book, he lacks the forceful presence required to bring off the role in authoritative fashion, and was, perhaps, a last minute replacement for the more familiar Warren William. Ironically, it's this installment that more closely resembles the TV show with its first-part dramatic setup and second-part courtroom pyrotechnics. Too bad the exotic Ann Dvorak is largely wasted as a recessive Della Street— with her distinctive looks and lively personality, she should have been one of the suspects. All in all, the 70 minutes is for hardcore fans of the series and for fans of the perennially addled Tom Kennedy as the aptly named "Magooney".

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Last of the Perry Mason Films

5/10
Author: BaronBl00d (baronbl00d@aol.com) from NC
14 November 2009

Well, before Raymond Burr assayed the role of the lawyer that solved crimes and never lost a case, the Erle Stanley Gardner literary staple was a film hero - of sorts. The Mason films began in 1934 and Warren William(who I like quite a bit and think was the best Mason) played the lawyer in four films(The Case of the Howling Dog, The Case of the Curious Bride, The Case of the Velvet Claws, and The Case of the Lucky Legs). Ricardo Cortez then played Mason in The Case of the Black Cat(sans black cat) and the last film before Burr did the television role was performed by Donald Woods in this film The Case of the Stuttering Bishop. Let's start with Woods. He is not a bad actor but he has limited charm, range, and likability - certainly not on par with either William or Cortez. His performance here shows signs of good acting but more often than not he is quite "wooden." - You had to know I was going there! As others have noted, the plot in this movie is really quite messed up with the screenwriters trying to squeeze round pegs into square holes. A bishop(played nicely by character actor Edward McWade) goes to Mason mysteriously to hire him to find out the legitimacy of a millionaire's heir. Things get pretty complicated and one may not exactly know where the story is going at all all times. The acting in general is good but many actors are not fully utilized like Ann Dvorak(who could have been an interesting Della Street) as well as others. This is not a bad film but definitely a JV installment in the Perry Mason playbook.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Last in the Series

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
28 February 2008

Case of the Stuttering Bishop, The (1937)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Sixth and final film in Warner's Perry Mason series features a new guy in the lead role but the film turns out to be a rather entertaining entry. This time out, Perry Mason (Donald Woods) is visited by a bishop who asks him to investigate a manslaughter that happened twenty-two years earlier but the guilty party is still free. Perry starts to investigate, which leads him to a billionaire who eventually winds up dead and it seems the same person is behind the two cases. This is a pretty strong film that manages to be quite entertaining, although it would have benefited by a stronger supporting cast. Woods is actually very good in the role of Mason and brings his own charm and brains to the role. Ann Dvorak is entertaining as his secretary but the rest of the cast is so-so at best. The case is actually very well written and manages to be quite complicated, which ruins the ending when we get the typical easy way out and that's the guilty person getting away with it until they break down and admit everything.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Among the Best of the PM Films

6/10
Author: Breck from Colorado
27 November 2007

As someone who has read all 82 of the Perry Mason novels, I have to say that this is the best I've seen of the Warner Brothers Perry Mason films. Readers of Gardner's mysteries will appreciate how faithfully the screen writers were able to keep to the essentials of the original plot in this short 70 minute film.

This film is far superior to the turkeys WB made with Warren William (although that's not saying much.) And Donald Woods was more like the literary Mason than Raymond Burr, who was almost fat enough by the end of the TV series to play Nero Wolfe!

And, of course, there's the great 1930's atmosphere in this film, something the TV series could never hope to reproduce.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Convoluted plot makes this one difficult to watch in comfort...

5/10
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
27 November 2007

I don't mind stories about mistaken identities if the plot isn't overly complicated but this one is the reason I never cared for the Erle Stanley Gardner type of mysteries--he sets up too many complicated sub-plots and in this one there are two women named Janice, one of whom is the fake heiress that has to be exposed by Perry Mason (DONALD WOODS).

This time ANN DVORAK is Della Street and has some good-natured byplay with Perry. Woods is unable to do much in the part. He was always good looking leading man material but as bland as they come. The story concerns a Bishop Mallory, himself suspected of being an imposter because he stutters and bishops aren't supposed to stutter. He, in turn, is trying to convince Mason to clear a woman wrongly accused of manslaughter 22 years before. From there on, you're on your own trying to follow the cluttered plot assortment of names and characters that keep cropping up but are essential to get the full story.

Not recommended unless you have the patience to sort all the plot ingredients out in one sitting. The plot structure makes THE BIG SLEEP look like child's play by comparison.

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Poor script and cast for last of the early PM films

6/10
Author: SimonJack from United States
22 October 2014

As with "The Case of the Black Cat," this film has an almost completely new cast, including the lead. Some reviewers have panned the plot of this one, but I think it is an excellent story – and the only reason I give it six stars. But what the producers did to the plot is a mess. As with Black Cat, this is the case of a good actor just not fitting in the part. Donald Woods comes across as Wooden at times. And, again, the acting seems very amateurish, and the directing and editing are poor.

"The Case of the Stuttering Bishop" is one of the dozens of Erle Stanley Gardner's mysteries. All of which were made into great episodes of the Raymond Burr Perry Mason series in later years, and/or TV movies. I too enjoyed the long run of Perry Mason on TV, and the many movies through the early 1990s. But I can't agree with those reviewers who pan these early mystery films – comparing them to the later Perry Mason.

I think the first four, with Warren William, were very good and highly entertaining. Yes, they were much more comedic, and not the way Gardner wrote the character. But I enjoyed the humorous approach of those first four films. Had the makes been able to stay with William and keep the humor but refined it some, I think many more of the early Perry Mason films could have been made and would have been successes. We only have to look at other films that were hits during the rest of 1930s and into the 40s. MGM had real winner with the Nick and Nora Charles films of the Thin Man series. And, William himself was excellent in some later films as detective Philo Vance and as the Lone Wolf, Michael Lanyard.

I'm one who enjoyed the Raymond Burr Perry Mason, with the steadier cast over the years. But I also find very enjoyable and entertaining the earliest four the Perry Mason mysteries that starred Warren William. I think anyone will enjoy the first four films for themselves – if they don't try to compare them to the later films and TV series.

Unfortunately, the last two of the early films, weren't up to the standards of the sharp, crisp and witty scripts of the first four.

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