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Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake finds America's most
formidable defense attorney taking on David Hasselhoff as a client who
is being accused of the murder of his wife. Hasselhoff is a retired
tennis player now just hanging on in the tennis circles and is thought
to have just married wife Doran Clark for her money. Everyone that is
but family attorney John Ireland who retains Perry on behalf of
There's another part to this story, when they were teenagers Clark and her sister were kidnapped and thrown in the lake by the suspect just before a shootout with the local sheriff and his posse. The suspect was killed, the sister drowned and her body never recovered, and Clark was traumatized. It took her years to resume a normal life. And now her body is thought to be in the same lake.
The cases are indeed connected in a complicated scheme worked out by the murderer and an accomplice. The ending is a bit of a variation on the Perry Mason format. But Mason fans can rest assured that Hasselhoff didn't kill his wife. Perry just doesn't defend the guilty.
With an intricate twist in the plot and outcome, The Case of the Lady in the Lake is one of the better Mason films. Good, but don't expect Raymond Chandler either.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite the seemingly self-explanatory title, there's a little quirk
behind this mystery.
A mild but reasonably enjoyable TVM in the Perry Mason series, this features a couple of famous faces from the 80s era in which it was filmed, including David Hassellhoff (between Knight Rider and Baywatch days) and John Beck (fomerly of Dallas and Santa Barbera, and more recently of Walker:Texas Ranger fame) in addition to the late Raymond Burr in his role of Perry Mason.
15 years earlier, twin sisters Sarah and Amy Wingate were kidnapped and boated out onto a lake near the mining federation headquarters owned by their father, and thrown into the lake by their kidnapper... The kidnapper was killed in a gun battle with the Sheriff's posse soon after, a posse which included former reserve deputy sheriff-turned-mining company president Doug Vickers (played by John Beck), and old friend of Sarah's father who took over the operations management side of the company following Sarah's father's death with the company ownership itself having been inherited by Sarah (who, unlike her sister, survived the kidnapping ordeal). After some pains as she tries to fully come to terms with the tragedy, life returns to normal for Sarah, largely thanks to her new husband, Billy Travis (Hassellhoff), a retired tennis pro now trying to set up a new ski resort, a development which sees Sarah considering the possibility of closing the mining company down, and going into partnership with Billy.
Then Sarah disappears, and the Sheriff receives an anonymous call telling him that she has been murdered and that she is lying dead in the lake. All the clues point to Billy Travis, and he is subsequently arrested and put on trial for his wife's murder - having himself received an anonymous phone call, he is found rowing a boat out of the lake with Sarah's blood and clothing in it and a napkin with his name on it inside the boat. The town, all of whom believed that Billy only married Sarah for her money in the first place, are quick to point the finger of blame at him, mainly out of convenience and dislike towards Billy, but also having seen him publicly argue with Sarah the night before.
But Billy knows that he did not murder Sarah. And and along with Perry (defending him at the trial) and sidekick Paul Drake (played for the last time by William Katt in this film) he tries to find out who really committed the crime.
There are a number of suspicious questions left unanswered following Sarah's disappearance. If Sarah really was murdered and dumped in the lake, then why is her body not there now? Why has Billy's brother Frank done a runner, and who is he running from? What was Billy's former lover, Lisa Blake, doing back in town on the night of the murder, and why has she now disappeared? Why are Doug Vickers, Sarah's cousin Skip Wingate, and Sarah's personal attendant Ms. Constance Chainey all so quick to blame Billy, and yet at the same time so reluctant to testify at Billy's trial? And is it just a horrible coincidence that Sarah has been murdered in the same waters as her twin sister was 15 years before, or is someone deliberately trying to repeat history?
As the case progresses, it soon becomes apparent to all involved that there's far more to the case than had initially met the eye. As Mason and Drake get closer to the truth, they realise that the real murderer is only not working in tandem with an accomplice, but that, as they close in, the two culprits will go to all lengths to stop them unearthing the real truth - with shocking results...
Good performances from David Hassellhoff, the very under-rated John Beck and Raymond Burr make this a watchable movie that starts off very well prior falling into mediocrity in places due to weak script and lack of plot before the film eventually reaches an intense and intriguing climax towards the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Very unusual or one of a kind Perry Mason Mystery Movie
or even Perry Mason 1957-1966 black & white TV episode in that the body
or corpse of the victim doesn't show up until the very end of the film!
Up until then your not quite sure if there was or was not a murder in
the fist place!
Perry Mason,Raymond Burr, recovering from a skiing accident and gaining some 50 to 75 pounds in the process takes his good friend and mentor's, who thought Perry everything he know, Walter,John Ireland,case in defending former tennis star Billy Travis, David Hasselhoff in the suspected murder by drowning of his filthy rich wife, who among other things owns the biggest and most productive coal mine in the sate, Sara Wingate-Travis,Dorer Clark.The fact that Sara's body was never recovered doesn't keep the local D.A from inditing Billy for her murder which is a bit unusual in real life or even in the movies!
Even though the case against Billy is weak the state prosecutor assistant D.A Michael Reston, David Odgon Stiers, who hasn't won a case yet when it comes to banging heads with Perry Mason in the courtroom gives it all he's got to prove that Billy murdered his wife Sara in order to get his hands on her million all but falls apart before the movie is even over. That's with it being proved by Billy's personal physician Dr. Everett, Michael Flynn, that with his severely injured right arm he couldn't possible have rowed a boat out in the middle of the lake and dumped Sara's body in it!
***SPOILERS*** It's in fact Perry's private investigator John Drake Jr, William Katt, who after being stymied by her at ever turn finally tracks down Billy's former girlfriend Lisa Blake, Liane Langland, who's suspected by Perry and everyone watching to be Sara's real murderer that the shocking truth finally come out to who not only "Murdered" Sara but was also behind the murder also by drowning, in the very same lake, of her twin sister Amy some 15 years ago!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
David Hasselhoff never looked or acted better. Another reviewer complained about Paul Drake "losing" suspects.It isn't the job of an investigator to apprehend only to keep surveillance and monitor activities of those assigned. Also that Perry Mason was not the Perry of the late 50,s. You will not be disappointed by a Perry Mason who has been asked by John Ireland,the man that gave Perry his first job out of law school to defend Hasselhoff,the man that married his "niece". William Katt's last appearance as Paul Drake, Barbara Hale's real life son. This is one of the better entries in the Perry Mason made-for- television movies..with no real clue as to the outcome until the final quarter hour that plays out. Anyone ever see the real resemblance between Doran Clark in this episode as well as Emerald Point NAS and the ex-girlfriend of NCIS' Tony Di Noza? Although they are two different actresses, it is uncanny. You will not be disappointed by the outcome or the performances by all involved. I really liked the judge. Check it out.
Billy is a retired tennis player who has moved into resort building with
wealthy wife Sara. When she is found drowned out in the lake, Billy is
charged as he had the most to gain and all clues point to him. Mason
to defend Billy and begins by looking into her past and a kidnapping
incident on the lake as a child. Meanwhile Drake tries to track down
Billy's old girlfriend who has quit her job and gone missing.
Boasting a `big' star role for Knight Rider and Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, this films actually is quite lacking in terms of plotting. The set up seems quite deliberately to hark back to an event in the past to the point that you know it must be tied up with what's coming. Even though this is obvious, it is still impossible to guess the killer - and Mason's `isn't it true' is quite a stretch and should have been shouted down by the DA so full was it of conjecture! Mason never really gets to grips with the characters involved and even Drake's section is dull and it's clear that we're not meant to really know what he's going to find until the very end.
The cast are pretty average. Burr is reasonable assured in the role but Katt is starting to look tired - he brings nothing to the party in this film apart from the usual stuff. Hale is underused although Hasselhoff is good in his minor role - or at least as good as he usually is (I'll leave you to your own opinion). The rest of the support cast basically fail to really make an impression and there are a handful of women with 80's clothes and haircuts who really look alike and don't stand out.
Overall this will satisfy Mason fans but will certainly not win over any new fans to the series. The plot is not great, even by the standards of the series. While it is still worth a watch if you are a fan, I must admit that I wasn't ever really totally won over by this film.
"The Lady in the Lake" starts out well. In the beginning, it records the
gentle romance between newly-married Billy (David Hasselhof) and Sara
Wingate (Doran Clark) and introduces the other main characters who have
reasons for being malicious towards the young couple. When Billy is
of murdering Sara, Perry Mason steps in to defend him. After that this
tele-film becomes quite routine. During the courtroom scenes, Perry is not
challenged much by the D.A. Even the judge is indulgent towards Perry.
Because they are not hostile enough, the dramatic value of "The Lady in the
Lake" is lessened. Paul Drake, Jr., is shown to be a rather inept private
eye who lets his suspects slip away from his clutches. His incompetence
the effect of lengthening the film by another 30 minutes.
Raymond Burr may have been a great Perry Mason in the late 1950s. However, in these tele-films of the 1980s, he is difficult to admire - the reason being his portly Falstaffian frame which impedes even his gait. It is rather painful to see his leisurely locomotion with the aid of a cane. Why didn't the producers insist that he lose some weight? Similar comments apply to Barbara Hale. But then the purpose of these made-for-TV movies is to stir up memories of the good old days. Therefore, I cannot imagine any other actors playing Perry Mason or Della Street. A young and softer-looking David Hasselhof (in his pre-Baywatch days) and the two main female characters are pleasing to the eye, unlike Burr or Hale.
(Reviewed by Sundar Narayan)
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