Saturday, June 22, 2002


I grew up in a family that loved the Perry Mason TV show, and its theme music can still make my pulse race a little. This is one of six Mason films made in the 30's and it's nothing like the show. Warren William plays Mason in a completely different fashion than Raymond Burr did. Actually, William plays him a lot like he played the Sam Spade character in SATAN MET A LADY: light, frivolous, a little loopy at times, leading to a generally fizzy atmosphere which is 180 degrees away from the TV series. Allen Jenkins is Paul Drake, here called Spudsy, and again quite unlike William Hopper. (Claire Dodd, as Della Street, isn't that far from Barbara Hale, except that she's blonde.)

The plot involves Mason helping an ex-girlfriend who is in some sort of trouble apparently involving an ex-spouse who was thought to be dead, but wasn't, but now is again. Errol Flynn, in a very small part, plays the ex-husband. Some movie guides say he plays a corpse, but strictly speaking, we never actually see him as a dead body, just as the husband in a flashback with no dialogue. Mason pulls a couple of quite illegal and even unethical shenanigans in order to get to the bottom of the case. Two very funny scenes: the opening, where William (accompanied by his cronies) takes his own seafood into a fancy restaurant to cook it his own way, and a later scene where William and Jenkins, sitting on a fire escape, are trying to have a conversation while crying due to some residue tear gas. The climax, unlike the TV show, doesn't happen in court (in fact, I don't think we ever see the inside of a courtroom) but is instead one of those Agatha Christie-like collections of suspects, at a cocktail party. Margaret Lindsay, whom I've seen quite a bit of lately, is bland in her role as the damsel in distress, but everything else about this movie was great fun.

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