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Ken Malansky is a law student attending a class being taught by Perry Mason. When a friend tells him that his girlfriend was assaulted by a fellow student, Ken rushes to the university's mock courtroom to confront him and finds him dead. The murder weapon was Ken's own knife. Perry is reluctant to take on his case, especially since the victim was the son of a close friend. Written by
Kevin Ackley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Solid entry in the series that serves two purposes
Perry Mason is the lead tutor for a module of a law degree set in a mock classroom. His students include Ken Malansky and the Frank Wellman Jnr - son of one of Perry's good friends. When he finds out that Frank raped his girlfriend, Ken storms into the mock courtroom (where Frank is practicing his summation) only to find him dead. Giving his state and the situation, Ken is arrested and charged. He turns to Perry for his defence, who reluctantly agrees despite the impact on his friendship with Wellman Snr. Meanwhile Ken investigates despite the `help' of his ex-girlfriend Amy.
For those who know the Perry Mason series and enjoy it, they will find that this film continues doing what it has always been doing. The formula is all in place - the investigation by Mason's sidekick, a girl involved in that investigation, Mason's interviews, the court case and the eventual twist. All this it does as well as it usually does (ie not great but reliable and familiar) but it also adds some aspects to the mix. The element regarding Mason's conflict with Frank Snr has potential but sadly it doesn't do enough with it apart from put a plot twist into the middle of the film - but it doesn't have the emotional clout that it should have had. The other thing this film does is introduce to the series that character of Ken Malansky as a replacement for Paul Drake. The film uses him quite well, even if he is less assured than he would become.
Ken, as Drake always did, is reluctantly paired with a woman as his investigative partner. Here he has his ex girlfriend, Amy, with him - as he would for 3 or 4 films after this one. However her character is annoying here - too snobbish, irritating and really difficult to like. The fact that someone is kooky can be an endearing thing but here her character is too forceful and outside of the habits of polite (not rich) society. The only thing that is good about her role is that Paul is an OK actress and is easy on the eye. She is in the shadow of Moses though, who steps up to the challenge of making his mark and securing his employment. Katt is a sad loss to the series simply due to his family connection to the show, but I enjoy Moses a little more - and he has better hair than Katt absurd perm!
Mason does well but he doesn't step up to meet Brian Keith's more emotional input. Ken's class is badly served; I'm sure the actors could have done well but I was surprised how little time they had on screen - Mason's interviews took up less time than usual. None of them really make a mark and, worse still, some of them really force their scenes, supposedly because they knew how little time they had to shine. The `oh look it's...' face this time is Mark Rolston - not a famous name but you'll recognise him from many big films including Shawshank Redemption, Rush Hour, Robocop 2 and Aliens - shame he is only given about 3 minutes of screentime!
Overall this is still a solid entry in the series (if you generally enjoy the series). It doesn't do anything new above the formula but it has an interesting (if poorly used) subplot involving Perry and it also sees Malansky take over from Drake - however I would have preferred the film to partner Malansky with Drake for this film (rather than Amy) and provide a proper handover for the fans!
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