Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale

The main change to this venerable series in its sixth season was the addition of actor Wesley Lau to the supporting cast. Lau played Lt. Andy Anderson, an assistant to Lt. Tragg (Ray Collins), who was still on the show but whose appearances became sporadic. Most of this seasons episodes were at least "B+" and quite a few were solid "A's."

For instance: An embezzler and his wife are caught up in surprising developments in "Double-Entry Mind" with Virginia Christine and an outstanding performance from Stuart Erwin. Lt. Anderson's cop cousin is implicated in a crime in "Hateful Hero," which features a superb turn by Jeannette Nolan. Liam Sullivan scores in "Inappropriate Uncle," in which a broke, irresponsible man inexplicably makes out a will but turns out to be wealthy after all. "The Stand-in Sister" is an excellent story of gangsters and switched babies with lots of good twists. In the excellent and unusual "Lurid Letter" -- there is no actual defendant in this episode, as such -- a school teacher is accused of making passes at her male students in an unsigned letter. "The Polka Dot Pony" answers the question of which girl is a woman's long-lost grand-daughter. Perry takes on the scandal sheet Spicy Bits as well as a lying client in "Velvet Claws" with Patricia Barry and Virginia Gregg. An excellent Robert Middleton plays an esteemed judge accused of murder in "Witless Witness."

Perhaps the single best episode of the season -- and one of the best in the entire series -- is "Weary Watchdog," in which John Dall plays a blackmailing art dealer. Perry reveals the killer -- which comes as an utter surprise -- in another courtroom  even as the jury in his own trial is still deliberating. This audacious episode may not stand up to close scrutiny but it certainly is a corker!

Raymond Burr became ill during the sixth season and in several episodes he was replaced by other stars playing defense lawyers of his acquaintance. These included Bette Davis ["Constant Doyle"], who faces Hamilton Burger in court and whose expression as she reveals the guilty party is priceless [she says to a hospitalized Perry on the phone: "I'll make a deal with you -- if you don't give me legal advice I won't take your temperature"]; Michael Rennie ["Libelous Locket"], a law professor who defends a woman accused of killing her blackmailer; and Walter Pidgeon ["Surplus Suitor"], who defends a woman with two beaus who is accused of murder. However, the best of these "substitute" episodes was "The Two-Faced Turn-A-Bout," in which Hugh O'Brian, a colleague of Perry's, not only has to defend a murder suspect but deal with the machinations of his own double.

Verdict: Perry's still going strong! ***1/2.

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