|Index||3 reviews in total|
Back in the original series for the most part Perry Mason took clients
on retainer like any other lawyer. The filmed series had him more often
than not having some kind of personal relationship that gets him
involved with the case.
However in Perry Mason: The Case of the Musical Murder, Raymond Burr is in the hospital for some arthroscopic surgery and after he's taken a sedative he happens to see the accused murderer, three sheets to the wind. But because of the sedative, his alibi testimony at the arraignment hearing is impeached.
Whatever else he is Perry Mason is a man with a conscience. Since he can't get defendant Jim Metzler off with his own testimony, Burr donates his services as defense lawyer.
Metzler is the stage manager of a musical that is in out of town tryouts before reaching Broadway. He has a nasty fight with director Dwight Schultz and Schultz winds up shot to death.
Dwight Schultz in my humble opinion is one of the best actors around today. For those of you who remember him best as Murdock in The A-Team, Schultz has gone on to play an astonishing range of characters. I marvel at the man's versatility. His character as the director might be somewhat based on the late Bob Fosse.
Anyway Schultz as per usual in Mason films is one nasty skunk of a human being and more than Jim Metzler would have liked to kill him. It's up to Perry Mason, Della Street and now his new young associate Ken Malansky to find out the who, why and how.
After getting Billy Moses off in the previous film, Raymond Burr signs him on as an associate. When William Katt as Paul Drake, Jr. was in the series he was in fact a licensed private investigator. Ken Malansky is in fact now a member of the bar. Did he know it wasn't going to be the law library where he'd be spending most of his time when he went to work for Raymond Burr?
This TV film involves the musical stage and we're fortunate enough to have Debbie Reynolds in the cast doing a number. That's always a treat.
I was less impressed though with this Mason than with others. The perpetrator had a good reason for doing in Dwight Schultz. But that this person was willing to frame Metzler for the crime, lessens the audience sympathy for this individual.
Still all the elements for a good Perry Mason story are in The Case of the Musical Murder. And a musical number from Debbie Reynolds. How can you go wrong?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With modern entertainment obsessed with youth it's encouraging to see a
project involving very active characters who are in their 60's and
70's. That said, this film is a major disappointment.
Debbie Reynolds (whose name in the credits prompted me to TIVO this) plays a musical comedy actress in a Broadway bound musical about Polly Adler, who achieved a certain level of fame in the early 20th century operating a bordello in Manhattan which catered to upper crust clients. So when we first see Ms. Reynolds she's singing the title song from her show which strongly resembles MAME in music, lyrics, costumes, and choreography. The director is unhappy with the show's progress and pitches a fit, finally firing the stage manager.
Not surprisingly, the director soon finds himself on the wrong end of a handgun.
The stage manager is arrested. However, no one less than Perry Mason can provide the man an alibi. The circumstances of the alibi, in which a heavily sedated Mason happens to be looking out his Denver, Colorado, hospital room at 2:30 AM, are lame beyond belief and demonstrate sloppy writing at its worst.
Mason and his young associate take on the case since the alibi won't hold water and, of course, the actual killer confesses while on the witness stand at the end of the show.
If this had been a typical episode of the series it would have been tense and exciting. Stretched to feature length (take a 48 minute script, boil it in vinegar for half an hour, and borrow a stretching rack from the Inquisition- that's easy) it's just murky and confused. Veteran character actors try to pretend interest in the characters they're playing, but even they are disinterested.
Debbie Reynolds looks great, but even she can't save this project. I did a quick Google to refresh my memory about Polly Adler, and I'm surprised that we haven't actually seen a musical about her life, which would have Dutch Schultz, Jimmy Walker, and Fiorello LaGuardia as major secondary characters. Now that would hold our attention for two hours.
A musical show is in town but all the cast are under heavy criticism from
their director. One of the crew gets fired and leaves full of threats.
Later that night the director is murdered and the main suspect is the same
crew member. However Perry Mason witnessed the man drunk on the other
of town at the time of the murder. He stands up as a witness for the
defence but is discredited as he had taken sedatives just before. He
decides to defend the man instead and employs Ken Malansky to find out
the night watchman was doing at the time of the murder.
From the opening set-up this feels like it's going to be just the same as all the Mason films - which I don't mind as I like the formula. However soon after this the plot adds lots of things that are different, slightly, from the norm. We have Mason being the suspects' alibi in a scene where he is very rude to a nurse, we have all the other suspect's having overly complicated subplots behind them and we have Amy tagging along (again) on Ken's investigation after watching him defend a guilty pervert in a case from his new law practice.
These different things are the problem here because few of them work. The early scenes with Mason as a witness slow the film down and leaves less room for the full plot. The subplots are too complex (and depressing at times) and don't act as suspects but create other stories that it leaves untold. Mason himself is too grumpy and the final twist is even more unlikely and impossible to see than usual - it is just plain complex here and the final scene loses some impact as a result. Amy is a regular by this stage (being the sidekick for a few other movies) but she doesn't work - and suggestions that she is Ken's `Della' are laughable. And what's with the running gag that no-one can pronounce Malansky? Never had a problem before.
Burr is not his usual self - I don't know why he played it so grumpy here and got frustrated so often but it drags the film down. Hale is OK but has nothing to do. Moses and Paul don't work well at all together here. Her sidekick role has worked the odd time but here it's forced and she is very annoying. The support cast are OK and the `oh, look it's ...' face this time is Jerry Orbach from Law & Order .
Overall this has too many elements that don't work and the film takes one step too many away from the straight simple formula by adding to it unsuccessfully. As a Mason fan even I found this to be way below par for the series.
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