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Della Street bumps into an old friend, Tony, who tells her of his happy
recent marriage to Susanne. Next time they meet he is accused of her
and the police have found papers in his car about Susanne's past that
to motive. As a favour (and for the money) Perry takes Tony's case and
begins to investigate, uncovering shady business partners that Susanne had
put in difficult positions. Meanwhile Paul Drake searches for a woman who
was at Susanne's house during an important business meeting.
As this is an early one of the Mason TVM's it looks dated more than some of the ones made in the early nineties, however this is only really a visual problem usually and not so bad. In this film however, part of the plot has dated quite badly, with the surveillance equipment that holds the key to the killer's identity looking so basic it's almost funny - compare that to the technology you could buy now for the same sort of household use and it really pales. Despite this the plot still hangs together as well as in all the other films. Mason interviews the suspects one by one to give us red herrings galore until the courtroom scene while Drake chases a girl (who is involved in the murder somehow). It isn't anything new, but this film does have some nice comic touches (a sprinkle going off and an unintentional dig at Drake's hairstyle - which must have looked dated even then!).
The cast are reasonable but no more. Burr is comfortable enough in the role but is strangely immobile here; the script puts it down to an ankle injury but I'm sure that was added to cover his health problems. Hale has some nice moments with Burr but is really just a shadow in the story. Katt is OK but his storyline is just the same old same old and he looks like he's tired of it at times. The support cast has only famous cameo that will stand out - Rkys-Davies, he of LOTR and Indiana Jones fame (here in his first of two Mason appearances). Stiers is usually a good DA but has no good scenes here, and the new black detective looks to have been cast solely due to his resemblance to the usual actor.
Overall this is par for the course and will keep fans such as myself happy. For others it is very basic, not exploring the `past' of the madam very far or in any detail for fear of censors and not having any real characters among all the red herrings. It is as good as the usual Mason films but even I have to accept that that isn't saying a great deal.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Perry Mason, Raymond Burr,just out of the hospital from
knee surgery ends up defending a family friend from Della Street's,
Barbara Hale,side of the family the hot headed Tony Domenico, Vincent
Baggetta,in the murder of his newly wed wife Suzanne, Ann Jillian.
Whoever did Suzanne in made sure that her husband Tony would take the
rap for it by leaving an envelope, just for the police to find, in the
back seat of his car with newspaper clippings about Suzanna's past as a
big time madam of a major whorehouse in Chicago.
As we've already seen Suzanne was not only a former madam but was also blackmailing a number of bankers of the Danver Crestmoore Bank by secretly recording their conversations at her and Tony's home. What they were planning was an elaborate computer system that would rip off hundreds of thousands of dollars from the banks depositors transactions straight into their secret Swiss Bank accounts! Perry with the help of his new private investigator in fact Della Street's,or Barbara Hale, real life son William Katt in the part of the late Paul Drake's son Paul Jr tracks down the bankers in order to find out which one of the string quartet was the person who murdered Suzanne!
It's Paul who really gets a workout in the movie by being maced and almost killed by built like a German Leopard Tank, especially in the legs department, Miranda Bonner, Daphne Ashbrook, and her former pimp Harry Long, Richard Portnow. As it turned out Long was long on talk and short on action with Paul mopping the floor with him every time he tried to pull his what looked like crackerjack prize pen knife, which looked like it couldn't peal an orange, on him.
***SPOILERS*** The immobile Perry Mason, because of his knee injury, does a bit of leg work on his own in finding out which of the bankers were secretly working with the late Suzanne in not only ripping the bank disposers but his fellow scheming bankers off. Perry doesn't have much to work with or against in exposing Suzanne's murderer who convicted himself by her getting him to admit his embezzling plan on her secret voice activated audio tape recorder. Badgered by a rejuvenated Perry, from his knee injury, the killer collapses like a house of cards under his blistering cross-examination not only admitting his guilt but showing us in the audience as well as his fellow banker bank embezzlers how stupid he was in inviting Perry Mason, by him trying to frame Tony Domenico, to get on the or his case!
Yet another of the numerous TV movies starring television's original Perry
Mason Raymond Burr and his secretary Della Street played by Barbara Hale.
Both of them look their age in this telefilm which tries to explain away
Raymond Burr's weight-encumbered locomotion as due to his character's knee
surgery. Nobody would be fooled, however.
"Murdered Madam" has a good plot. Unfortunately, the script-writers make no good use of it. One expects some startling revelation would actually come out of the recording equipment which Suzanne Domenico, played adequately by Ann Gillian, installs in her house. But nothing does. Suzanne's colorful past is never explored even briefly in this film. It is just touched upon, making her character one-dimensional. The bankers' reason for their rendezvous at Suzanne's house, when revealed by Perry's cross-examination at the end of the movie, may have sounded high-tech when this movie was made, but is now well-known to people who are interested in such things.
Once again, Paul Drake is shown to be an inept detective who lets his quarry slip away from him more than once. In contrast, the Paul Drake of Erle Stanley Gardner's books was even more adroit than Perry Mason himself.
"Murdered Madam" will appeal to an older audience who grew up watching Perry Mason. I do not want to sound politically correct but such folks may not mind the stereotyped portrayals of the black maid, gay hairdressers with long pink hair and the general bowdlerizing of the madam character. However, those who grew up reading Gardner's books as opposed to watching his creation on TV will not be impressed by this telefilm or its over-the-hill stars.
Vincent Baggetta is the Perry Mason client in this television feature
film and it's Barbara Hale who brings him in. Turns out that back in
the day if you can picture Della Street as a teen she babysat Baggetta.
Now Baggetta is accused of killing his second and trophy wife Ann
Worse than being arrested for murder Baggetta learns that back in the day before he knew here Jillian was the madam of a high class brothel in Chicago. That gave her access to the rich and powerful and when she invited some old friends over to discuss a deal involving a bank that they are on the board of directors and then tapes the meeting for blackmail purposes that is what gets her killed.
This plays more like an Agatha Christie than a Perry Mason mystery. We have a closed ring of suspects that include Anthony Geary, James Noble, Bill Macy, and John Rhys-Davies. One in fact is guilty of something else than murder which fact gets revealed in court.
A good story, but not one of the better Mason feature films.
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