Two weeks ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 235 followers! With The Legends of Western Cinema Week taking place last week, I decided to publish my blog follower dedication review this week. Shortly after the aforementioned blogathon, my blog received 240 followers! As I’ve done before, I combined both achievements into one review. It has been a while since I wrote about a mystery film for a blog follower dedication review. In fact, the last time a mystery movie was discussed in this type of review was Gaslight, when my blog received 155 followers last November. It has also been awhile since I reviewed a made-for-TV mystery film, as I wrote about Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek in May. This provided a good excuse to choose Perry Mason Returns for this blog follower dedication review!
What I liked about the film:
The acting: Even though there were good performances from the actors, it’s the performances from the actresses that steal the show! Holland Taylor’s role in Perry Mason Returns was similar to her roles in George of the Jungle and Legally Blonde. What I liked about her performance in this 1985 film was how it seemed like she was given more material to work with! My favorite scene featuring Holland’s character, Paula Gordon, was when she demanded Perry Mason to leave her house. The anger she brings forth seems genuine, allowing Paula to grace the screen with a sense of authority. Another Gordon family member whose actress gave a solid performance was Roberta Weiss! Even though her character, Laura, appeared in the movie for a limited amount of time, Roberta brought emotionality to her role. When Laura meets with Della after her father’s death, Laura can be seen bursting into tears. Similar to Holland’s portrayal of Paula, Roberta’s performance felt genuine! Like I’ve said in the introduction, I have seen some Perry Mason films, with most of them coming from the TV film series. One thing I have noticed about Barbara Hale’s portrayal of Della Street is how consistent it is. Della has a charming personality, with enough emotion to carry her from scene to scene. This is especially the case in Perry Mason Returns, where she is accused of a crime she didn’t commit. These factors make Barbara’s performance enjoyable to watch! They also make Della a likeable character!
The set design: There was some impressive set design in Perry Mason Returns! The Gordon family’s house boasts interior designs that effectively reflect a wealthier background. Two rooms that were shown on screen were the living room and Arthur Gordon’s office. They were both spacious, with their own distinct styles being presented. Wood played a consistent role throughout the office, from the hardwood floor to the wall’s paneling. Crème with touches of brown was the signature color scheme of the living room. At one point in the film, a beach house appears in the story. This location had a chic, up-scale design, with the black-and-white checkerboard floor nicely complementing the white pillars separating the living room and kitchen. Della’s house also contained photogenic set design! The kitchen featured a wrap-around window that paired well with a breakfast nook area. This space was not only charming, but inviting as well!
References to the television show: While I’ve seen some Perry Mason movies, I have never seen the original television show. Despite this, I liked the references that were included in the script! They were subtle enough not to alienate viewers like me who are not familiar with the show, but not too subtle for viewers to miss. In one scene, an assistant is talking to a judge about Perry’s decision to defend Della. She calls him ‘rusty’ and assumes he’s making a mistake. This is a reference to Raymond Burr returning to the titular role 19 years after the show ended.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Revealing the killer too early: Every murder mystery story sets aside time to reveal who killed the murder victim. However, this usually takes place toward the end of the story. In Perry Mason Returns, the murder victim’s killer was revealed within the movie’s first fifteen minutes. While this didn’t completely spoil the mystery, it would have been more surprising had this information been presented later in the film.
Perry Mason’s belated introduction: As the title of this movie suggests, the story of Perry Mason Returns revolves around Perry Mason. Even though the titular character appears in the majority of the film, Perry himself wasn’t introduced until about thirty minutes into the movie. The beginning of the story was reserved for exposition and the mystery’s set-up. But I still feel Perry should have been introduced sooner.
Paul’s missteps: I know that having Perry’s younger assistant make mistakes yet help save the day is an essential part of this particular character. Whenever Paul, Perry’s assistant in Perry Mason Returns, made a mistake, they seemed like choices most people could anticipate making. In one scene, Paul comes across a piece of evidence he can’t physically take with him. His decision to not take a picture of the evidence with a small, portable camera is one I found baffling. Samantha Kinsey, from the Mystery Woman series, brings a camera with her anytime she looks for clues and evidence. The time period Perry Mason Returns takes place in can’t be used as an excuse either, as smaller cameras existed in 1985.
My overall impression:
Prior to writing this review, I have seen some Perry Mason movies, with most of them coming from the made-for-TV film collection. Out of those movies, I feel Perry Mason Returns is one of the series’ stronger entries! The story did seem like a first chapter for this particular narrative. Despite this, I was invested in the overall project from start to finish! Even when the murder victim’s killer was revealed during the film’s first fifteen minutes, there was enough interest to keep the story going. The subtle references allowed the movie to connect with the pre-existing source material. Solid acting performances and appealing set design helped make the film engaging. Perry Mason Returns is a good introduction to the series, an enjoyable film whether or not you watched the original show. Before I end this review, I want to thank each of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers! I’m grateful for the success this blog has reached so far!
Overall score: 7.5 out of 10
Have you watched the original Perry Mason television show? Are there any mystery films from this series you’d like to see me write about? Please tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!