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The Case of the Stuttering Bishop
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10 out of 11 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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11 out of 14 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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7 out of 9 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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5 out of 7 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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6 out of 9 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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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Daughters, Lovers

Author: tedg (tedg@filmsfolded.com) from Virginia Beach
24 February 2015

We had two great evolutionary paths in the 30s. One was an amazing diversity of invention to settle some basic narrative devices that have since served us well as the basic vocabulary of cinema. The other, parallel path was the pulp detective novel, a master of which was Gardner.

The traditional, Holmes form is that you are linked to the detective. You discover what he does. Christie followed this form, but it is difficult to render in film. Gardner may be the first case — since common — of the novel adopting cinematic form. His formula does seem friendly to film: we see events that Mason does not, often before he gets seriously engaged. These events give us a false impression of what happened, so we as viewers start out with a deficit.

Then we have the detection; Mason and company are detectives in act two. The third act is always a courtroom, which is why our detective has to be a lawyer. Courtroom conventions have their own evolution in film, and this instance is limited to what in Christie's stories has to be a contrived assembly of the suspects.

This format allows for more complicated mysteries than were usual in film. My own preference for 30's detection is Philo Vance because the formula was not so strict. But this is a good one in terms of allowing complexity and surprise. We have that here in this solid instance.

One of the decisions in defining the characters is how intimate to make the relationship between alpha male Mason and his pretty and competent secretary. Why this matters has to do, as Mason would say, with motive. We like the guy. He is smart, as smart as other detectives, but why he does what he does…

In some renderings of the Mason format, he just likes to win. He has his own Lestrade who he likes humiliating. Justice is incidental, and truth merely a tactic. He just like to strut.

In other renderings, he does what he does because he loves his team, his closest friend Drake and his lover Della. Both are profoundly loyal and true. He struts for her and we imagine passion after the obligatory Italian restaurant scene.

Here, a delicate balance between the two is maintained.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

one of the later Perry Mason's from the 1930s

7/10
Author: ksf-2 from southwest US
7 July 2009

Most of Edward McWade's roles were uncredited, but he certainly paid his dues in film-making; he had been making movies since 1919. Here he plays the stuttering bishop, who shows up at the office of Perry Mason (Donald Woods this time... Warren William had been playing Perry Mason for most of the 1930s.) with a case, then disappears. He makes accusations against the local rich man, Renald Brownley, played by Douglas Wood. Anne Dvorak and Joseph Crehan in supporting roles, as Mason confronts Brownley and tries to sort out the clues and what's going on. People start turning up dead, people are fighting, and then we're in the courtroom, like any good episode of Perry Mason. There are some comical moments, mostly between Mason and Della Street, and the names are a little confusing, with a Della, a Stella, TWO girls named Janice, and even an Ida. It's solid enough, with the usual court-room drama and outbursts. Directed by William Clemens, who had also directed many of the Nancy Drew and The Falcon films.

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4 out of 6 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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10 out of 19 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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Entertaining but lesser series entry

6/10
Author: csteidler from Minnesota
5 February 2016

An Australian bishop visits Perry Mason with an unusual challenge: Meet the people involved in a years-old manslaughter case, investigate the facts—and then try and find the bishop when it's time to go to court.

Intrigued, Mason looks into the case, and the plot thickens when a rich old man is shot in his car on a dark night by a woman in a white raincoat. Who did it? Was the granddaughter involved? And which granddaughter—the real heir or the fake?

A solid cast manages fairly well with a script that's passable but not great. Donald Woods is quite good as Perry-Mason-with-a-mustache; Ann Dvorak is a rather restrained Della Street; Joseph Crehan is hard-boiled, loyal Paul Drake. Tom Kennedy is also on the team as hotel detective Magooney—part comic relief, part assistant investigator.

It's fast-paced and very smooth, but somehow the picture doesn't have the spark of the best of these movies. It's entertaining—but a little bland. For example, this exchange between Perry and Della:

"Della, I cannot tell a lie. I got away from Ida's apartment this morning with the law so close it was breathing down my neck." "Chief, if you don't stop these crazy stunts...." I guess that's okay dialog—but it ain't great.

A neat courtroom montage does make for a neat climactic segment. And the cast of pros is certainly easy to watch. Maybe it's not the best of its series, but it would be sort of silly to complain.

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