Perry Mason: The Case of the Maligned Mobster (TV Movie 1991) Poster

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Lawyer/Client Privilege
bkoganbing6 April 2008
Television has never seen a more ethical attorney than Perry Mason, as is well known he never takes on a really guilty client. But this particular Mason television film really plays it close to the edge in the realm of lawyer/client privilege.

If I'm wrong some lawyers or law student will no doubt write and correct me, but in this particular film Raymond Burr is defending mobster Michael Nader who is charged with murdering his wife. Nader is one of the darker characters that Mason has ever defended either in the two hour films or the one hour television series from the Ffities and Sixties.

Nader's wife Gwynyth Walsh is killed when someone fires a bullet into a speeding car Walsh is driving causing her to lose control and the car hurtle over a cliff. Of course there's no lack of suspects as usual.

But in order to get at the truth, Burr actually let's it come out that his client actually did another murder some time earlier. The two crimes are indirectly linked. Maybe I'm wrong but the fact that he got his own client nailed for another murder to acquit him of the one he's defending him for seems to be stretching the lawyer/client privilege issue out of shape. I think the Bar Association might have had something to say on the issue.

Still it ends as all Perry Mason stories do with the guilty part unmasked. Not someone you would have suspected given the kind of parts this individual normally plays.
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Sub-par Mason movie
bob the moo7 September 2002
Ken Malansky has an old college acquaintance who has gone into business with reformed mobster Johnny Sorrento. When Sorrento's wife is killed all fingers point to Johnny and Mason is asked to take up the case – reasoning that everyone deserves the best defence, Mason takes the case. Mason finds the world of the mob is one of murder and threats, while Malansky investigates an old murder case that Johnny had been accused of until someone confessed.

These Mason movies are all pretty much the same – innocent client who all the clues point to. Ken investigates the rough stuff while Mason questions each suspect. It all leads to courtroom questions and the twist at the end. As a result if you like one you generally like them all. However here the film tries to be a bit rougher and have a darker edge by having a mobster as a client. Mason naturally takes the case but we never see any conflict in his heart over doing this. Also the tougher edge is only added to the normal formula as a very thin top coat – for example Mason occasionally raises his voice a little, or a few people get shot or killed etc. Really it didn't work that well as it didn't add to the formula, only took a little away instead.

Burr isn't as good as usual because he has this tough edge on a familiar character and it doesn't sit well – witness him in a sling as if nothing happened! Hale has less to do than usual but Moses is actually pretty good with the darker subject matter. The rest of the cast are really nothing more than mobster support roles from bad mobster films – they don't even reach the level of caricature! The usual `oh, look it's…..' face this time is Stephen Tobolowsky.

The courtroom looks more like a TV set than usual and the actual courtroom finale is a bit of a letdown and doesn't even manage the usual average tension. The end result is a standard Mason setup that is spoil by little extras that the formula didn't need – the darker edge didn't work. Overall a sub-par outing in the series that plays slightly above par.
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A Bad Choice of Clients
Mark-12920 April 2002
Probably the worst entry in this series. Perry Mason defends a reformed mobster framed for the murder of his wife. There's something unpleasant about Mason being involved with this type of defendant and his cronies. There has to be something wrong when Perry has harsh words for both Della Street and Ken Malansky. Even NBC chose not to screen the movie during sweeps.
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Let down by one or two weak performances, but still an admirable effort at moving away from formula.
jamesraeburn200315 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A lawyer friend of Perry Mason, Frank Halloran (Mason Adams), persuades him to defend a reformed mobster - or is he? - called Johnny Sorrento (Michael Nader) who has been accused of killing his wife. The police believe he did it because just before she died she announced her intention to divorce him, which would have cost him millions of dollars. There is also a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing towards his guilt. Mason's list of suspects includes Johnny's 21-year-old son Jeff (Sean Kanan) who despises his father for his womanising and kicking him out of their home over his past drug addiction. Then there is the Calders (Pamela Bowen and Howard McGillin) who had done a business deal with Sorrento to open a fitness centre. Under the terms of the contract, they would stand to come into a fortune if Sorrento were to be convicted. Also, a heavy called Dave Barrett (Richard Portnow) took the rap for the murder of a drug baron who some believe was really murdered by Sorrento and it transpires that he was paid $250,000 whilst he was in jail. Did somebody pay him for confessing to a crime he didn't actually commit and does it relate to current events?

A fun and largely successful attempt to vary the series formula by having Perry question his own professional ethics as he decides whether or not to defend a former gangster. He accepts the case after his colleagues, Ken Malansky (William R Moses) and Della Street (Barbara Hale), remind him about a speech he gave to a law seminar in which he said that everyone should have the right to a proper defence no matter how lowly or despised the client might be. While Della believes he should take the case, Malansky thinks he should reject it out of hand prompting Perry to ask "Well, who should we represent? Only college professors, presidential candidates or Nobel prize winners?" We are shown another side to Perry's character. Being a high powered attorney, he is entitled to ask for a lot of money for his services, but he always had a concern for the little guy and often agreed to defend people who didn't have a penny to their name. Here, to the astonishment of his friends and colleagues, he defends Sorrento, which shows that he does not simply jump to conclusions about people and is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt despite what their past might be.

In addition, Perry attempts to reconcile Johnny with his young son Jeff, which doesn't really stir our emotions that much because the performances from Nader and Kanan are not really strong enough for it to do that. But, there is a moving moment at the climax where Sorrento may be facing another possible murder charge over the drug baron for which someone else did time for. "Do you want to handle it for me?", he asks. Perry calls his son Jeff over and asks "I don't know, do we trust him Jeff?" The son says that he does not and Perry replies "You see Johnny, that's the way it is, we don't trust you" as if refusing the case. But, Perry then urges Jeff to make it up with his father suggesting that he does believe in him - room for a sequel, do you think?

It is, on the whole, a satisfying and gripping thriller, but it is a complex one and requires the audience to concentrate hard or risk losing track of what is going on. Even though one or two of the performances aren't sufficient to bring out the emotional element in the story, it is still a very good try at moving the series away from the routine formula and I would recommend anyone to see it.
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Routine murder mystery with a moralistic edge
Leofwine_draca8 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
THE CASE OF THE MALIGNED MOBSTER is a very typical PERRY MASON mystery with one nice twist: Perry's client is a real-life gangster who has a criminal career behind him and is very much a bad guy, even if he's innocent of the one particular crime he's been accused of. Thus the story has a moralistic angle usually missing from this film series, even if in every other respect it's quite ordinary.

The opening murder scene has shades of De Palma's BLOW OUT in the portrayal of a wife murdered in a car wreck, although it's dealt with rather hurriedly as the emphasis is instead on the questioning of the various gangland-related suspects. William R. Moses once again has some predictable action stuff to deal with, while Burr furrows his brow a lot to look worried. The great Stephen Tobolowsky is far too underutilised to make an impression although singer Paul Anka has a nice cameo. I did appreciate the fairly dark ending although the journey to that point is strictly routine.
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We live in the same city but have to travel to San Francisco to see each other
sol121811 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
****SPOILERS**** This turned out to be one of Perry Mason's, Raymond Burr, most heart-breaking as well as baffling cases. A case after it was finally over with Perry, as you would have expected him to, getting his client off hoped that he never had anything to do with it.

Called in by his good friend financial expert and attorney Frank Halloran, Mason Adams, to handle his client ex-mobster Johnny Sorrento, Michael Nader, capital case in the murder of his wife Maria, Swynyth Walsh, Perry is very hesitant at first in taking it. Against his better judgment and the judgment of his private secretary Della Street, Barbara Hale, and assistant an d human punching bag Ken Malansky, William R. Moses, who always,in every one of the Perry Mason mystery movies, takes a licking but keeps on ticking Perry takes the murder case that almost has him ending up being a murder victim himself! It was Maria catching her cheating husband in the arms of part-time model and aspiring actress Karen Tatcher, Beverly Leech, that had her throw a fit get herself good and drunk at the Calder Estate where her husband,now a big time and legitimate businessman,was finalizing a business deal. Jumping into Johnny's sports car Maria driving drunk ends up falling to her death, after her cars tires were shot out, down a 250 foot Rocky Mountain cliff . Being the #1 suspect in his wife's murder in him threatening her in public at the Calder Estate, as well as finding his high powered rifle at the murder scene, to kill her if she tries to devoice him Johnny is now facing life or even worse if he, with his long criminal record,is convicted.

Even though Perry did his best to get his client Johnny Sorrento off the hook Johnny himself stupidly and brainlessly did everything in getting himself convicted in his wife's murder! The not that bright Johnny goes so far as to pay a couple of hoods who once worked for him to stage a fake drive-by shooting,in order to gain sympathy, that almost had his lawyer Perry Mason killed in the process! We also get to see Johnny's estrange 23 year-old son Jeff, Sean Kanan, who want's to have nothing to do with him blaming Johnny for his mom's, Maria Sorrento, murder with Perry playing "matchmaker" in trying to get father and son back together again. This leads to a strange reunion at the conclusion of the movie where despite finding out what a low down and dirty rat his father really is and always was Jeff's somehow finds it in his hear to forgive him!

***SPOILERS*** The most shocking as well as mind boggling sub-plot in the film is the actual murderer of Maria who was in fact responsible for the murder of drug dealer Ray Dominic some three years earlier. This had to do with Jeff's then drug addiction that Johnny held Dominic, Jeff's drug supplier, responsible for. Using the same tactics and hit-man who was himself knocked off later in the film, in order to keep him from talking, had the some thing done to Maria!

A real bummer for Perry Mason who had no trouble exposing Maria's killer, who in fact hired someone to murder her,in him leaving a paper trail with his fingerprints and signatures on it that stretched as far as Seattle to Boston! The guy found out the hard way that Perry was a hell of a lot smarter then he gave him credit for.
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