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They should have titled THIS episode "The Case of the Dead Ringer"
This is a good PM episode in every way, but the casting rose to the level of genius. From the start, we realize that an actor was hired to impersonate an old man. The actor was played by Paul Richards, the old man was played by Trevor Bardette, and except in the matter of age, the two men could not look more alike! Their facial bone structure, their hair, their eye color, the shape of their noses and ears--all were identical. At one point, the actor is made up to look like the old man and brought into the courtroom, and everyone stares at him. All it took was whitening of his hair, a false mustache and some dark lines on his face, and Paul Richards was transformed into Trevor Bardette. We don't doubt for a moment that even people who knew the old man well would have believed the impersonation. This courtroom scene was once chosen as interstitial programming by a popular TV arts channel, and it's no surprise that it was singled out as the exemplary PM moment.
Satan is busy scraping frost off the windows in Hell
In this episode, Hamilton Burger wants Perry Mason to get his client acquitted. There is nothing wrong with your eyes; that is what really happens.
A dear friend of Burger is the prime suspect in a murder. Burger recuses himself, assigns a deputy to prosecute the case, and asks Mason to act as defense attorney. Burger can do nothing further but watch anxiously from the gallery as the trial proceeds. The ensemble acting in this episode is good, but what really stands out is the reality inversion premise: Hamilton Burger rooting for his archenemy, Perry Mason.
I Led 3 Lives (1953)
The only episode I ever watched
This series was cancelled before I was born, so the first and only episode I ever saw ran some years later in syndication. Philbrick is given an important assignment by his Communist handlers. He is told to walk down a particular street at a particular time, during which a passerby puts something in his hand: a spring. Philbrick is then told that he will pass the spring on to another courier when the time is right.
What is the spring part of, a secret weapon stolen from a US defense laboratory? No, nothing like that--it's just the recoil spring of a 1911 pistol. The Communists have decided to murder someone in a distant city, and have arrived at the following plan. A pistol has been acquired and disassembled, and dozens of couriers will be diverted from other assignments to transport it piecemeal. When all of the parts arrive at the intended destination, the pistol will be reassembled and used to commit the murder.
I swear to God that was the plot. By comparison, the hilariously contrived plots of Dudley Do-Right were masterpieces of narrative logic. If all episodes of "I Led 3 Lives" had story lines this ridiculous, the 8.1 rating given the series must be for its comedic value only.
A dissenting opinion
"Alien" isn't the masterpiece of horror so many people seem to think it is. The reason is that it has the biggest fault possible for a horror movie: an idiot plot. In any really good horror movie, the characters will fight the monster intelligently and resourcefully; they may be killed anyway, but at least they (and the filmmakers) will gain the respect of the audience. The astronauts in "Alien" are utter dorks, and have no idea how to fight the murderous alien. They do not search the Nostromo in large, well-armed parties after the alien flees the dining room. They do not get into their space suits and draw out the air in the ship (or better yet, flood it with cyanide gas, which will kill any carbon-based life, plant or animal). They do not weld bars over the openings of the air shafts when the alien goes there for refuge, making it a harmless prisoner. And on and on it goes, one stupid blunder after another. Real astronauts would have presence of mind in a dangerous situation, but the astronauts in the film have the same problem solving ability as the screenwriter--that is, none at all. Like so many Hollywood movies of the present day, "Alien" tries to redeem a poor script with high production values and star power, and achieves only middling results.
A crackerjack episode of Perry Mason
Perry Mason fans usually select their favorite episode from the first season, but I submit there is no episode better than "The Case of the Shapely Shadow" from the fifth season. A realtor is murdered and his secretary is accused. There is a mountain of physical and circumstantial evidence connecting her with the crime, as well as one eyewitness account, and the young lady is too terrified to defend herself on the witness stand. But Perry tricks Hamilton Burger into allowing new testimony--after arguments to the jury!--that establishes the guilt of someone who was never accused.
Everything works in this episode: a marvelously sinuous script from the Gardner novel, first-rate scoring, excellent acting (you have never seen Burger so flustered) and pitch-perfect direction by Christian Nyby. Best of all, "Shapely Shadow" has the transparency of an Ellery Queen mystery. The viewer is presented with all of the evidence necessary to guess the identity of the murderer...but it is doubtful that many viewers actually will.