This episode gets knocked for its use of color, with such statements as: looks like it was colorized, the crew didn't have experience with color, etc. However, I disagree. I find it's use of color above average for TV of the period.
If one were to look at other color programs from the 1960s, one will see that, in general, colors were rather bright, use of contrast or shadows was not great, and there was not much concern over subtlety of shading. This was in particular due to the color TV sets of the time that lacked the significant details and color variations of film, and of what we see with modern TV. This was true until finally in the early 70s some thought was given to increase contrast and color variation in TV sets, as was done with black matrix and trinitron screens.
The idea of color on TV then was to show it bright and brightly lit, and to prompt sales of color sets, quite different from film production. Take a look at the original Star Trek for an example. In fact, for those like myself who can remember this period, TV and Film were entirely two different worlds, and they rarely met except when somebody was able to make the jump from TV to film. It's not like that today.
In regards to this episode, I'd suggest that in fact it used more shading than was common to other color programs of the time, and was actually a better example of good use of color in a medium that lacked such. To the one who thinks it looks colorized, I'd think that was more a product of your own bias that Perry Mason ought to be B&W and not in color, as you know the colorized films ought to be.
To the one who feels the crew lacked experience, well, that's just a big laugh for me because the one thing the Perry Mason crew did not lack was cinematography experience. That's like telling a veteran artist doing a charcoal that he or she probably can't do the same in color, basically an ignorant comment.
William Hopper as Paul Drake got in some action sequences as befit his role as Raymond Burr's personal private eye. The story was not so loosely based on Oliver Twist with Victor Buono running a ring of juvenile car thieves and being paid off in art objects for his collection. One of Buono's epicene villains and a good one, but not one you see in Perry Mason.
The villain really is Bill Sikes and if you remember Bill Sikes and Nancy meet a bad end in the Dickens novel. Here Scott Graham and Lisa Seagram also meet a bad end and it's the Oliver Twist character Kevin O'Neal that gets hung with the rap.
Burr, Hopper, and the ever present girl Friday Della Street save O'Neal's bacon. And in color too.
Beale's life gets ruined anyway as he's charged in a murder after a home burglary and Perry comes on to defend him. Another weak entry in the show's cannon of bad episodes that were done to appeal to a younger, "hipper" demographic. The acting seems pretty bad all around, the story annoying, and the only noteworthy thing about this is that its the only episode filmed in color.
A seventeen year old juvenile, Lennie Beale, is caught with stolen property from Perry's car. Perry, feeling like he should help the teenager, refuses to prosecute. But unknown to Perry, Lennie is part of a teenage gang that strips cars for a man named Ben Huggins (Victor Buono).
When Lennie is charged with a murder, Perry again feels led to come to the defense of the teenager that will tried as an adult. Perry will cross-examine witnesses until he finds the true murderer, in a rather poor confession, and brings down a ring of thieves that is helpful to LA Police Department.
The only bright spot of the episode is the acting ability of Victor Buono. His acting was entertaining and believable. The young actor that played Lennie, Kevin O'Neal, seemed more like reading lines than acting. At the conclusion of the show, while in the military uniform, was some of the poorest acting seen in a long time. The episode was really not that bad but it just did not have the power that previous episodes contain. Don't be fooled by the color - the color was nice it was the script that was black and white.
Considerable comic relief is provided by Victor Buono as the evil henchman Huggins (rotund and in a bathrobe) managing the 'clean-cut' boy gang. "How many pairs of bucket seats can you use?" he coos to his fetching Mexican fence, and pronounces "penchant" in the manner francais. Good thing the gang goes to an expensive prep school so they can understand things like that. Oh for the days when petty criminals wore jackets & neckties...
The exceptionally vivid color, the jazzy score and the silly 'Oliver Twist' theme separate this from most PM episodes. It's definitely not one of the strong, tight Perry Mason plots (see the early seasons for those), but it's fun and scenic.
The color photography is bad - the first time I saw it I thought it had been colorized. The photographic direction seems to be poor as well. The same techniques that usually work in the black-and-white episodes certainly don't work in this episode, but looks tacky.
For true fans, you gotta see it. Hopefully you can enjoy it for what it is - it may be bad, but it's Perry Mason.
With a heaping help of influence from Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist," we are treated to a very interesting, and VERY action packed episode. It is very watchable, and watching the great Victor Buono is a real treat, as always.
This episode would not be the reason for the show's cancellation. What killed it was its terrible time slot, Sunday at 9 a.m., directly opposite No. 1 rated "Bonanza." Had it been renewed for a 10th season, this episode gives us a good glimpse into what might have been, a color series with more action. And I think the show could have carried on through at least to 1968.
Whatever the case, this is one interesting watch!!!
It's easy to see why viewers were so shocked when they saw this episode that the series was canceled immediately.
1. The "More is Better" approach to color makes it look a bit like colorized b&w film. This is especially apparent in the faces of all the actors, looking like they were just plucked from a fruit bowl.
2. The contrast is way too great between these faces and especially their clothes, there is a feel that the conversations are between free-floating heads sometimes (on a calibrated NTSC Sony PVM monitor).
I think the DP and gaffers just didn't have enough experience with color design yet at this time. Can't help think what could have been done with today's way more subtle film stocks...
This episode is on the DVD series, would be interesting to convert it to monochrome and see what that would look like (I'm talking about a competent professional conversion, not just reducing the color saturation which looks just awful).
The back story was OK, but somehow not quite gripping in this presentation, and the lady from "Mechico" (Lisa Pera) although offering a passable performance, sounded like she had an Italian accent...
Cool to see a glimpse of the now gone L.A. Downtown funicular!
Watching this episode in color made no sense to me the first time around - I was only ten, but I liked the show back then - until I saw Ironside on TV three years later. Burr's increasing body mass over the years looked better in color. (I gotta admit, though, Barbara Hale in real color was a BABE.) This almost looked like a hidden pilot for Ironside. The plot was straight from Dickens's Oliver Twist; Buono played it straight and delightfully despicable. Too bad the rest of the cast thought they were in an episode of Mod Squad.
Three stars for the storyline, two extra stars for the late, lamented Victor Buono.
Sadly, however, they committed one of their worst scripts to this episode. Among the worst of the many problems is the fact that the murderer had already escaped Scot-free and safely far away from Burger's jurisdiction (and from Mason), but for some flimsy reason agrees to return to Los Angeles . . . to show up in court . . . to be interrogated on the stand by Mason . . . and then to be unmasked as the killer. Just ridiculous. Who would do that?
The acting was also weak. Mason's client was unconvincing in his role. And to top it off, we get an American actress playing a Mexican woman, and delivering her lines with an Italian accent.
What a mess! IMO, this episode can best be summed up as:
Come for the color; stay for the train wreck.
I always have thought that the courtroom itself lacked something, as far as visual presentation; this episode gives a good look at it, and I gotta say, I liked it. The judges' bench (desk) looks really cool. Unfortunately, all my fears about Perry's office have come home to roost in this one.
And here I think is the SPOILER.
Because it is a new format, why in the dickens didn't they take the opportunity to bring the office decor more into line with his stature and achievement? Miss Hale is beautiful, as usual, (although her hair colorist went just a little light), the wardrobe department did very well, and the actresses looked beautiful.
The episode itself, well read the other reviews; they dissect it very neatly. Vic Buono is his usual self, and he takes a lot of the weight off the shoulders of the writers; he's a great villain (I wonder if they ever came up with anything to charge him with)? Now, it resumes my effort to finish my Perry collection through Amazon. I wonder if this episode is available for individual purchase??
The story itself is a bit hard to take with these clean cut and collegiate looking teenagers being involved in car stripping in order to pay for their, I guess, collage tuition. Perry becomes a victim of the boys' crimes by getting his car stripped of everything but the kitchen sink but is very sympathetic of the young man 17 year old Lennie Beale, Kevin O'Neal, who was caught trying to pawn off Perry's camera the was stolen from out of his car.
Feeling that Lennie if convicted will lose his chance to vote get a passport or even a civil service job like in the US Post Office or city Parks Department if convicted Perry decides to drop the charges against him and give Lennie a new start in life. It's then when Perry made a deal with the D.A's office in trying to get Lennie to agree to rat out his fellow car strippers in order for him to get full immunity that things goes south! It's then when Lennie's girlfriend stripper Robin Spring, Lisa Seagram, does the ratting out for him and end up being murdered by her boyfriend and Lennie's boss in the car stripping racket Bill Sikes, Scott Graham. This was after the cops raided the home where Lennie and his gang of car strippers and now house breakers were in with Lennie getting winged,shot in the arm, while fleeing the scene.
Finding Robin dead at the strip joint's dressing room that she works in Lennie bleeding from his gun shot wound heads to Sikes' place where he's later found passed out cold with Sikes dead of stab wounds. On trial for Sikes' murder we get to see the real "Boss of Bosses" of the car stripping ring Ben "Fat Man" Huggins,Victor Buono, who claims that he's only a collector of Mexican Art and has nothing at all to do with the boys,those that are stripping cars, and the now deceased Bill Sikes.
***SPOILERS*** It's that admission by "Fat Man" Huggins that lead Perry to send his private investigator Paul Drake, William Hooper, south of the border to Mexico to check things out in what the fat guy was really into besides stuffing his face with Mexican food and car trunk with Mexican trinkets. And what he finds is enough to not only convict the "Fat Man" of running the car stripping racket in L.A but the person who in fact murdered Bill Sikes! And it wasn't for money or getting a car dealership from Toyota but it was only, isn't that enough to kill someone, for love or love alone!
The Perry Mason episode ends to the relief of everyone in it with Lennie Beale cleaning up his act and joining the US Marine Corps where he ended up finishing boot camp at Parris Island and, like they say of those who can make the grade as a US Marine, becoming one of the few good men. That's just in time for him to be sent to "Nam", South Vietnam, and with that be able to participate in the 1968 Viet-Cong & North Vietnamese Army's massive Chinese New Years Tet Offensive!
Perry Mason loses its noir inspirations, looking very different in color. Della is just as charming.
SPOILER: Perry drives a powder blue Lincoln.