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

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Raymond Burr
PERRY MASON. Season 9. 1965.

"This is no longer a simple murder case. It's turning into a comic opera!" -- Hamilton Burger. 

"I've been on the bench twenty years and this is the longest preliminary hearing I can ever recall." -- judge

The ninth season was the final season of one of television's most memorable series. Ray Collins (Lt. Tragg) had passed away after being ill for quite some time, and his name was finally removed from the credits. Wesley Lau was replaced by Richard Anderson as Lt. Drumm. The high quality of the show was maintained until the very end. Among the most notable episodes are" "Laughing Lady," with John Dall, Constance Towers, and Allison Hayes in the story of a woman who insists another lady murdered her ex-lover; "Carefree Coronary," an unusual story in which Perry investigates possible insurance fraud involving coronary patients; "Hasty Honeymooner," in a which a man is accused of murdering the wife he found in a lonely hearts club; and "Wrathful Wraith," which begins with the charges against Perry's client being dismissed. Also: "The Silent Six," loosely inspired by the Kitty Genovese case and with a fine performance from David Macklin, has a woman beaten while her neighbors just listen. "The Fugitive Fraulein" is another unusual episode in which Perry defends a grandmother accused of murder -- in East Berlin! Perry starts out as a witness for the prosecution in "Midnight Howler" then defends the person he's testifying against. "Baffling Bug" is a suspenseful story regarding industrial espionage guest-starring Grant Williams. Other memorable episodes include "Avenging Angel:" " Tsarina's Tiara;" "Fanciful Frail;" "Bogus Buccaneers;" "Vanishing Victim;" "Positive Negative;" "Fatal Fortune;" "Candy Queen;" and "Crafty Kidnapper." "Twice-Told Twist" is worthy of mention because it's the only color episode of the series.

And those fine episodes weren't even the best of the season. The three best stories were "Dead Ringer," in which Raymond Burr plays a dual role, including a seedy limey sailor who impersonates him for cash; Burr, who is terrific, winds up cross-examining himself! "Misguided Model" is another excellent episode about a boxer accused of murder that has no trial or courtroom scenes yet still is riveting. The final episode, "Final Fadeout," has a nasty actor (James Stacy) murdered and the suspects are numerous; an excellent Estelle Winwood is also in the cast. DA Burger becomes really apoplectic in this episode and William Talman gives an especially fine performance.

And that was it. Of course Burr played Mason in several telefilms of varying quality and Monte Markham tackled the role in The New Perry Mason, which didn't last long. Now Robert Downey Jr. is set to play Perry in a theatrical film. Perry Mason was played by more than one actor in the golden age of movies, but Raymond Burr, who found the part of a lifetime and ran with it, will always be the thespian most closely associated with the role. Hats off to the many actors, fine writers, and gifted directors who together kept this show so entertaining for so many seasons.

Verdict: Simply a sublime series. ****.

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