Bradley Thompson, a famous crime writer, is in town to collect an award for his latest book. However he is a fraud. Bradley takes information, book plots and sometimes the entire book from other people and gets them published under his own name and enjoys the credit when they become bestsellers. However most of his victims have become famous writers in their own right but Bradley, collecting his award, succeeds in rubbing all of them up the wrong way, including Perry's secretary Della and his detective/assistant lawyer, Ken. During the party after the award, Bradley is poisoned and his ex-wife framed for the crime. She calls in Perry, Della and Ken to investigate... Written by
Lee Horton <Leeh@tcp.co.uk>
Gets better towards the end but is fairly middling stuff
Bradley Thompson is one of many crime/thriller writers who are attending a conference, although he is there to collect an award for his work. During the ceremony Thompson is heckled by Ken Malansky, who accuses him of twisting the truth in a book he wrote about one of Perry Mason's cases. When someone fatally poisons Thompson's drink at the conference party, the police round everyone up as suspects, before charging Della's friend Martha when the poison is found in her room. Mason agrees to defend Martha and the investigation begins into the group of authors who all seem to have had a grudge against Thompson for one reason or another.
Despite starting in a rather unusual manner with a flashback of the suicide of one of Mason's clients followed by a potentially different link between Mason and the murder suspect, this film falls in with formula quite quickly once Della's friend becomes suspect number one in the case. The story is not as interesting as other films of the series and none of the writers/potential murderers really engaged me, however it still manages to do what the series usually does. Mason does his questioning while Ken chases a person who, although not the killer, is key in the case, and Della just floats around as various star guests ham up their brief spots with Burr. The film lacks tension and this is the fault of the material - the series itself is hardly a good example of how to make a courtroom thriller, but this one is particularly lacking in thrills or tension.
Burr is as solid as ever as Mason, even enjoying some good humour during the trial itself. Moses is not as good an actor as Katt but he seems to fit the basic action man role easier than Katt did and he is good value here. He has a few fun chases and these give him enough to do even if the material as a whole doesn't provide real excitement often enough. Hale has little to do yet again but it's nice to see McEachin in his usual jovial role as Brock. The `oh, look it's...' actors here are David Warner and Cindy Williams and both are OK, even if Warner has limited time and is only asked to be a monster of sorts. Romano is a reasonably well-known face thanks to recent role and he makes a good foil for Mason as the DA, even if he could have done with more material (this was his first of two appearances as this character). The rest of the authors are OK but none really make a big impression and Babcock's Martha is just way too weak and inconsequential to be an interesting suspect.
Overall, this is an OK entry in the Mason series but it is slightly less interesting than usual. It gets a bit better towards the end thanks to a couple of chases involving Ken and the usual twists in court, but generally the film lacks tension and involvement thanks to a script that is lacking urgency or genuine suspense. Fans such as myself should be still be happy enough with this film as it sticks to the usual formula and does it reasonably well. However this is fairly middling stuff.
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