|Index||4 reviews in total|
I am not a big Perry Mason fan, but this is the movie that got me hooked more on the movie series than the tv series. It starts out with a pretty good ghost story which I wanted to know a lot more about than the murder. We don't even see much of this spooky old edifice that the plot revolves around, but what we do see has a wonderful shadowy "Dark Shadows" Collinwood kind of feel. The murder mystery, don't get me wrong, is excellant; it has more twists and turns than a politician in a confessional booth. Raymond Burr and Barbera Hale fit into their old roles very well, but William Katt will always remind me of "The Greatest American Hero." Robert Stack emotes a great character just a few shades away from his character of Elliot Ness and Dwight Schultz plays a nervous and slightly shady character not that far unlike Lt. Barclay of Star Trek. Kim Delaney's acting reminds me too much of too many other actresses, particularly that of Joanna Going, but it may be because of too many Dark Shadows parallels: the spooky location, the ghosts, the painting, hidden rooms and the squirrely maintenance man who is almost too similar to John Karlen's Willie Loomis. In short, if it hadn't been for my fondness for ghosts and that series, I might never have seen this movie at all.
Jordan White is in the process of consulting his lawyer Perry Mason
about the potential to sue writer David Hall over similarities to him
in Hall's new book when he is called to visit Hall's mansion. When he
arrives White finds he is just one of several guests but still there is
no Hall. Each guest is given a copy of Hall's new book which apparently
has characters very closely modelled on all of them and secrets in
their pasts. That night each guest gets a sinister practical joke
played on them and they confront White, full of threats and anger. At
midnight that night White is called to the building's tower by Hall but
just before he gets there someone seems to throw Hall off the building
and the witnesses to the fall only see White in the tower. The police
arrest White, who immediately turns to Perry Mason for defence and,
while Perry starts the trial, Paul Drake investigates strange goings-on
within the hotel.
It has been some time since I have watched a Perry Mason film simply because I have seen almost all of them. So when this one came onto television I moved quickly to take the chance to see one of the few I have yet to watch. Having seen so many of them I knew just what I was getting into and, aside from a ghostly element to Drake's thread, this pretty much sticks to the formula that made the series achieve an uninspiring if enjoyable standard. The set up to the mystery is slightly different and it does use the ghost element well to make the investigation side more interesting (Drake almost always teams up with a young woman and gets punched at least this time it feels a bit different). The court case does the usual thing with some nice "objections" etc and the usual last minute revelations; it is never anything that special but it is on formula for the series and as such Perry Mason fans should enjoy it.
The cast are pretty good. Burr hardly sets the screen alight but I always liked him as Mason and he has a good presence in the court scenes. Hale has a small role but is comfortable with it while Katt does his usual stuff to introduce a bit of action into the story. Stack is solid enough but I cannot hear his voice without seeing him in his Airplane character so that undermined the early scenes a bit for me. The support include Schultz, Delaney, Lipscomb and a few others turn in good performances, or at least good for this type of film.
Overall an enjoyable Perry Mason film that takes a slightly different tact but generally sticks closely to formula and will please fans as a result. Nothing too special or dramatic and will certainly not win over those viewers left cold by the series in other films but it is worth a look if you like this sort of thing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perry Mason defends publisher Jordan White whom has been accused of
killing famed horror novelist David Hall by pushing him off the bell
tower at a creepy and supposedly haunted hotel in Denver Colorado.
White was about to sue Hall because in his last bestseller, "The
Resort", a character resembled him and detailed the unpleasant
circumstances surrounding the tragic death of his young son. It
transpires that Hall had invited Jordan to spend a weekend with him at
the hotel along with three other people who all had good reason to hate
him. They are a psychic, a horror film star and an astrologer all of
whom Hall had exposed things about in his book that they would rather
not have people know. On the night of the murder, Hall played a series
of tasteless practical jokes upon his guests and it is clear to Perry
that any of them apart from his client had strong motives to kill him.
In addition, certain actions taken by Hall lead Mason to believe that
either he committed suicide or anticipated his own death. For instance
he took out a large insurance policy, allowed his car insurance to
lapse and recently changed his will leaving everything to his loyal
personal assistant Andrew Lloyd. But why did he invite four people who
all had reason to hate him to stay with him? "It is almost as if he
wanted to be killed" as Mason says. Meanwhile, Mason's PI Paul Drake
has developed a friendship with the hotel manager Susan Warrenfield. It
becomes apparent that somebody is trying to drive her out of her mind
because a series of sinister happenings have occurred such as a
painting seemingly coming to life and chasing her down the hall. Drake
vows to solve this mystery because as she witnessed Hall falling to his
death, it could well be something she saw or heard and forgot about on
that night that could be the motive for somebody trying to get her out
of the way...
Between 1985 and 1993 Raymond Burr returned to his most famous TV role as Erle Stanley Gardner's top defense attorney Perry Mason no less than 26 times in a series of feature length made-for-TV movies with considerable success. The Case Of The Sinister Spirit was the fifth entry in the series and on the whole despite its flaws is quite an enjoyable one.
The customary twist ending works better here than in some of its successors and to those seeing it for the first time it will come as completely unexpected. Burr's courtroom scenes are more engaging than usual thanks to the excellent battle between Burr's Mason and David Ogden Steirs' prosecuting attorney Michael Reston who was arguably the best successor to William Talman's DA Hamilton Burger in the original fifties and sixties Perry Mason series. Reston gets to put in quite a few objections here amid the stunned gasps of the spectators in the public gallery shocked at Mason's latest revelation. But this time the judge is more sympathetic to Mason. For instance, Mason puts a psychiatrist on the stand whom he had hired to study Hall's books and life history as to give a professional opinion as to David Hall's state of mind. When he reveals that it seems likely that Hall was about to take his own life Reston objects as it is speculation only to be overruled by the judge. But he then boxes clever by putting Hall's secretary, Andrew Lloyd, on the stand and as he was the person who had the most contact with Hall he asks him if he ever once talked about committing suicide and he replies "never". Having shot Mason's case down in flames he turns to Mason with a look of triumph. Sadly after the first dozen or so episodes, Steirs was replaced by a succession of less interesting attorneys who were played by actors who had little to do but merely fill their poorly written roles and the battle between the defense and prosecutors was sorely missed draining the courtroom sequences of a lot of suspense.
The main flaw with the film is its emphasis on old haunted house clichés such as paintings coming to life, dummies emerging from coffins in candlelit rooms and chandeliers crashing down make it seem like a tired rip off of practically every old horror movie in the book even though the creepy atmosphere in the hotel scenes is fairly well cranked up. Good performances from Burr as Mason and Stiers in one of his best turns as the prosecuting attorney while guest star Robert Stack is suitably assured in his role as the man framed for the crime. Dwight Schultz scores in his role as the murdered man's loyal secretary and Kim Delaney is suitably vulnerable and fragile as the haunted Susan Warrenfield. Katt is okay as Paul Drake but it isn't his best turn as Mason's right hand man by a long way and Barbara Hale has very little to do as Della Street. But aside from these flaws this is still a very entertaining entry in this long running series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS**** The very out of shape, with him using a cane, and
overweight, between 250 to 275 pounds, Raymond Burr as defense attorney
Perry Mason has some workout in this movie dodging falling chandeliers
as well as ghosts and goblins in trying to get his client, the former
Elliot Ness of the Untouchables, Robert Stack as book publisher Jordan
White off on a trumped up murder charge. White was set up to take the
fall for the murder of mystery writer David Hall, Matthew Faison, who
fell or was pushed to his death off the top of the Briarcliff Hotel
outside Denver Colorado.
In fact White who was threatening to sue Hall was one of a number of persons who hated Hall's guts who were invited for dinner at the Briarcliff to talk things over about his new book "The Resort". It's in the book that Hall is to bring out all the dirty laundry about White as well as famed astrologist and psychic Michael Light, Dennis Lipscomb, and Donald Sayer, Jack Bannon, and floozy movie scream queen Maura McGuire, Leigh Taylor-Young. with all four angry as hell in what Hall is planning to do anyone of them had a real good reason to knock him off! But it was only Jordan White who was at the scene of his "downfall", some ten floors to his death from the tower of the Briarcliff Hotel, who was charged with Hall's murder!
As all this is going on at the hotel the place's assistant manager Susan Warrenfield, Kim Delaney, is being driven insane by the strange events that she encounters there. This includes her ghostly grandfather who founder the Briarcliff and has been haunting it ever since some 70 years after his death! Kim who happened to be an eye witness in Hall's death can prove, under hypnosis, that White didn't really push him off the edge, or hotel tower, to is death. That's why the real killer of David Hall is tying to drive her nuts so she wouldn't be a creditable whiteness at White's upcoming murder trial!
****SPOILERS**** Perry for once seems to be up against it in finding Hall's killer and just about gives up on the whole thing as well as his client Jordan White until he checks out the late David Hall's private secretary Andrew Lloyd, Dwight Schultz. Lloyd is something right out of one of the mystery novels that the late David Hall wrote in his weirdness and fanatical devotion to his former boss!
Perry never encountering any one close to someone like Llyod in his entire legal career knows that there's something about him that just isn't quite right but can't put his finger on it! It's not in that he may have murdered Hall but certainly knows who did but doesn't want the world as well as Perry Mason to know who that person is! ***MAJOR SPOILER ALERT***like in one of his murder mystery novels Hall was literately killed off to make room for another character to take his place! Someone conjured up by the very imaginative mind of David Hall himself!
|Plot summary||Ratings||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|