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Perry Mason: The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel finds the famous
defense attorney almost a victim himself here of blackmail. The
blackmailer in question is the scandalous scoundrel in this case played
by Robert Guillaume.
Guillaume is the publisher of the National Informer one of the more notorious supermarket rags who's got himself a blackmail racket and the means to make good for threats of exposure.
When Perry gets retained by a potential victim, Guillaume actually goes to try and get dirt on him and Della Street. I mean, come on people, we are talking about two very consenting adults who are way past the age of consent. That part I found just a tad too ridiculous so this particular entry in the Mason film series.
But this turns to murder when Guillaume is killed with a blunt object and of course given his profession there are a lot of suspects. The police of course focus in on Susan Wilder a disgruntled former employee of the Informer and she retains Raymond Burr as all innocent folks do.
The three leading blackmail candidates seem to be General Yaphett Kotto, international banker Rene Enriquez and cheating wife Morgan Brittany and her older husband George Grizzard and all give a good account of themselves.
David Ogden Stiers is the worthy successor as DA Michael Reston to the famous Hamilton Burger. But strangely enough James McEachin who appeared in a few Mason films is cast as a caterer here. He has a key role in the homicide in fact though he's not aware of it. I think I can safely say he wasn't the culprit. I guess the writers thought he had not firmly established his presence as Lt. Brock yet.
It's one of the weaker entries in the Mason series, but still enjoyable for the devoted fans of Erle Stanley Gardner's famous lawyer/sleuth.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Trying to become a respectable journalist despite
working for a supermarket tabloid like the Confidential Informer
reporter Michelle Benti, Susan Wilder, has this big story that she's
dying to write about a major nursing home scandal that her boss the
sleazy and unethical owner of the paper Harlem Wade, Robert Guillaume,
is dead set against. It may very well be that Wade being the lowlife
creep that he is may be a silent partner in the nursing homes that
Michelle want's to report on and doesn't want the cat to come out of
the bag in implicating him as well as the nursing home owners in
bilking the old folks out of their life savings.
By not doing her job in digging up dirt on celebrities like her boss Wade wants her to and insisting to go full-tilt on reporting the nursing home scandal has Michelle get her walking papers from the Confidential Informer courtesy of her boss Harlem Wade. This later leads to an explosive confrontation between Michelle and Wade that evening outside the Wade Mansion by his swimming pool. Mchelle after giving Wade a piece of her mind and then driving away, at 70 MPH in a 50 MPH speed zone, Wade's body is later found dead by his head of security Nick Mortetti, Eugene Butler, with his skull split open floating in his swimming pool. Michelle in her being the last person to see Wade alive and not having anything good to say to him is later picked up by the police as the #1 suspect in Wade's murder.
Indited for the cold-blooded murder of Harlem Wade has Michelle's boyfriend Paul Drake, William Katt, get the person he works for as a private detective defense attorney Perry Mason, Raymond Burr, to defend in her upcoming murder trial. Perry soon finds out that whoever killed Harlem Wade deserves a medal and a ticker tape parade down Broadway not a jail sentence. Being the insensitive and ruthless creep that he was Wade hardly gets any sympathy from anyone in the movie but being that he had the goods, that he was going to publish in his rag, in his office safe on a number of important people in the news their all suspected in his murder including All-American hero the blood & guts and grab the enemy by the nuts General Sorenson,Yaphet Kotto.
As Drake is about to open, with a warrant from the court, Wade's office safe he's attacked by a guy with a silk stocking pulled over his head who's later identified as the Animal, Dennis Hayden, who works him over and then escapes with Wade's hot-file on a number of prominent people. Whoever paid the Animal to do this is obviously using that information to blackmail those in the hot-file that he stole. After being again confronted by the Animal and almost getting run over as well as getting his teeth kicked out Drake finally tracks down who hired the Anamil and it's non-other then reported Nick Connors, Dan Cooper, of the Confidential Informer the very paper that Michelle used to work for!
Rick heavily in debt hired the Animal to steal the files in order to blackmail for as much as $100,000.00 apiece each of those persons in them but only ended up getting the hell beat out of him by a group of tugs hired by international banker Oscar Otega, Rene Enriquez. Ortega was implicated in Wade's files for laundering drug and mob money through his bank. At Michelle's trial Perry Mason goes on a fishing expedition in not really knowing which of the persons that Harlem Wade was screwing was the one that did the sleaze-ball in!
***SPOILER ALERT*** It takes a while for Perry to come up, after almost being slapped with a charge of contempt by the trial judge, with someone who was not in Wade's hot-files at all but who in fact did in the gun-toting and obnoxious Wade in self-defense as he tried to shoot him the evening he was found dead floating in his swimming pool!
This is the only Perry Mason episode or TV movie where the killer was probably the real hero with him doing away someone, Harlem Wade, who really got exactly what was coming to him. In fact Wade got just what he deserved since he was about to kill his intended victim, with no provocation on his part, who ended up turning the tables on him! I for one feel that Wade's killer would have gone free, maybe he did at the conclusion of his trial, if he just stood up and told the truth about his actions which in anyone's mind who saw the movie were totally justified!
An editor in charge of a gutter tabloid (Harlan Wade) has many enemies dues
to the many rumours and secrets he has on many powerful people. When he is
killed at the end of a garden party all clues point to Marianne Clayman who
had just been fired by Wade that day. However Mason takes the case and
realises that many people had opportunities and motives, while Paul Drake
digs behind the scenes.
I have happy memories of watching Perry Mason TVM's in summer holiday weekday afternoons on BBC1 with my Dad who loves these things. I think I've seen the majority of them and they all go the same way the obvious suspect in any murder is defended by Mason who doesn't so much defend his client as go and find the real killer, eventually forcing them to confess in a courtroom with a shout of `wasn't it you etc .Wasn't it?!'. They're all the same but they're all semi-enjoyable.
The story here allows for more suspects but is a weakness of the film. Drake's investigation is sidelined more than usual as we have Mason doing the rounds instead to no real benefit to the story. The overall effect is that this drags a bit and lacks action or excitement. The usual twist is nobody you would have suspected but still doesn't make it feel exciting. However if you enjoy these films then you'll know what to expect and be happy with it as I was.
The cast has some famous faces in support. Burr is the same as ever in a role that is like a second skin, as is Hale and William Katt despite that terrible perm thing he has! Hayden is one of the terrorists from Die Hard and is one example of the many faces you'll recognise from other programmes. The biggest let down for me was Yaphet Kotto who only had a small role where he failed to show his quality in the way he can. Don't know why he did this as he was more than famous at this point and look at the wig they make him wear (please tell me that's not his real hair!). He looks absurd but at least Katt looks pleased that he hasn't got the worst hair in the place!
Overall it's average Saturday afternoon entertainment for most people. However if you like the Perry Mason films then you'll find all the usual things repeated here to good effect. If you like one you'll like them all.
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