Sally Watches…Homicide: Life on the Street

Recently, I purchased The Crow: The Movie, a book that explores the production of the 1994 film. While reading that book, I learned that Bai Ling, who portrayed Myca in the movie, guest-starred on an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. The Crow: The Movie also revealed that Jon Polito, who portrayed Gideon, was a regular on the aforementioned television show. As of November 2020, I haven’t seen much from either actor’s filmography. Until a few days ago, I didn’t even know this show existed. Fortunately, I was able to find Bai and Jon’s episode online, which is one of the reasons why I’m reviewing it. Like my other television episode reviews, I will write about what I liked about the episode, what I didn’t like about the episode, the story itself, the other factors from the episode, and my overall thoughts. But similar to my episode review of Touched by an Angel, I won’t be sharing my thoughts on Homicide: Life on the Street as a series, as I’m only focusing on one episode.

Screenshot of Homicide: Life on the Street‘s title card taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: And The Rockets Dead Glare

Season 1, Episode 7

Premiere Date: March 17th, 1993

What I liked about this episode:

As I mentioned in the introduction, I have not seen much from Bai’s or Jon’s filmography. In fact, the only projects of Bai’s I’ve seen is The Crow and the Lost episode, “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Her roles on those programs, Myca and Achara, are presented as mysterious individuals who convey a sense of mysticism. This is portrayed through the characters’ actions and choices. Because Bai’s character on Homicide: Life on the Street, Teri Chow, is not mysterious in the same way as Myca or Achara, this forces her to rely on emotion instead of actions. “And The Rockets Dead Glare” shows Bai effectively using emotion when interacting with Jon Polito’s character, Steve Crosetti, and Meldrick Lewis, Steve’s detective partner. In the beginning of the episode, Teri tearfully reveals the identity of the murder victim and the likely cause of his death. Bai’s performance not only shows how murder can affect those surrounding the victim, but the battles some people may face as well. I also found her to be the stand-out actor in this episode!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Just like The Crow, Jon and Bai share only one scene on their episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. However, a major difference is the aforementioned scene was Bai’s only scene in the entire fifty-four-minute episode. Teri is referenced by Steve and Meldrick long after her initial introduction. But aside from that first scene, she doesn’t make any further appearances. While Bai receives more lines in “And The Rockets Dead Glare” than she did in her and Jon’s scene from The Crow, her character is not as significant in the overall story as I hoped and expected. It also doesn’t help that the mystery in this specific storyline is overshadowed by Steve and Meldrick’s sightseeing adventure in Washington D.C. Because of this, the mystery remained unsolved. For almost an hour, a guilty party was not revealed, no clues were found, and there were no suspects being questioned.

The story itself:

When I first read the synopsis for “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, I felt there was too much going on in the episode’s overall story. After watching the episode, I still stand by that belief. “And The Rockets Dead Glare” features four storylines; Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery/Washington D.C. trip, another murder mystery involving drugs, a court case featuring two of the series regulars (Beau Felton and Kay Howard), and a member of Baltimore’s police unit, Frank Pembleton, receiving a promotion. With four plots competing for screen-time, all of them ended up underwhelming. Even the one story I was the most invested in, Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery, was not fully engaging because of the story’s misfocus. The plot that received the most attention, Beau and Kay’s court case, revolved around events from the show’s previous episode. Because of this and because “And The Rockets Dead Glare” is the only episode of Homicide: Life on the Street I’ve seen, I found the story to be uninteresting. Had this storyline been the main focus of a two-part episode, it might have worked better from a story-telling perspective. Every plot in “And The Rockets Dead Glare” lacked a sense of urgency. It seemed like the characters spent more time having casual conversations with one another than actually doing their jobs. This screenwriting decision takes away the suspense and intrigue that is usually found on mystery/crime shows.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Pieces of media from the past can be viewed one of two ways: as products of their time or standing the test of time. Parts of “And The Rockets Dead Glare” were reflections of the ‘90s that felt exclusive to that time period, with no room to expand beyond the decade. While waiting in the hallway at the court house, Beau asks Kay if she’d like to watch Oprah, referring to Oprah’s day-time talk show. Because that show has been off the air for almost a decade, as of November 2020, it doesn’t hold the same amount of relevance it did when “And The Rockets Dead Glare” first premiered. Another example is a conversation Steve has with a government official that has aged poorly, where Steve compliments the official for his use of English.
  • I really liked Homicide: Life on the Street’s introduction! All of the shots were filmed in black-and-white, with hints of red appearing on the screen. This reminded me of The Crow, where the film’s color palette shared similar hues throughout the story. In the introduction, mysterious music could be heard in the background. This sets a tone that indicates a suspenseful outcome of what will unfold.
  • As I said in the introduction, I had never heard of Homicide: Life on the Street before reading The Crow: The Movie. Therefore, I did not see “And The Rockets Dead Glare” when it originally aired. When I watched this episode for this review, I noticed how all of the on-screen text was backwards. I doubt this happened in March of 1993 when the episode first premiered on television. However, I’m wondering if the person who uploaded this episode online made this decision for copyright related reasons?

My overall thoughts:

Now that I have seen Homicide: Life on the Street, I understand why it isn’t well remembered. The episode I watched, “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, was one of the most mundane programs I’ve ever seen. While it had a strong start and promising potential, the stories themselves were not as interesting as they could have been. Despite having seen only one episode of this show, it felt like Homicide: Life on the Street was desperately trying to ride the coat-tails of a show like Law and Order without fully grasping what made a program like that work. Going against Homicide: Life on the Street’s favor is featuring four main storylines in the overall episode instead of one mystery case. The focus on characters having casual-style conversations with each other negatively impacted key areas of these plots. As stated in this review is how Steve and Meldrick’s trip to Washington D.C. overshadowed the murder mystery they were required to solve. If you are a fan of The Crow and are interested in seeing “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, I’d recommend watching the scenes involving Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery for Bai’s and Jon’s performance alone. Everything else can be skipped, as it’ll just lead you to disappointment.

Rating: A very low 3 out of 5

This is a screenshot I took of my copy of The Crow: The Movie. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
This is a screenshot I took from The Crow: The Movie‘s page about Bai Ling. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
This is a screenshot I took from The Crow: The Movie‘s page about Jon Polito. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Have you watched The Crow? If so, what TV show episode featuring a star of this movie would you like to see me review? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun on television!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: Hallmark’s ‘Aurora Teagarden’ and ‘Mystery 101’ series will receive a new movie!

Originally, I was going to publish my 255 blog follower dedication review. While I still plan on posting this review, I decided to publish a Word on the Street story instead. In one of last month’s Word on the Street articles, I announced two Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series, Crossword Mysteries and Chronicle Mysteries, were either filming a new chapter or were about to film a new chapter. It looks like these two series are not the only ones to receive a new movie. On Creative B.C., the filming schedule for an upcoming Aurora Teagarden Mysteries and Mystery 101 film were posted! ‘Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How To Con A Con’ will start filming on November 6th and end on November 24th. Even though the movie’s synopsis is not known at this time, I hope it is about comic conventions, based on the listed title. Meanwhile, ‘Mystery 101: Movie 6 – Killer Timing’ just started filming on November 2nd and will conclude on November 20th. Like I said about Crossword Mysteries and Chronicle Mysteries in October, these films in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries and Mystery 101 series will likely premiere in 2021, based on their filming schedules.

Female detective image created by Brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/female-detective-with-magnifying-glass_1250814.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Brgfx – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on this announcement? Are you looking forward to any of these films? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here is the link to the TV Movie ‘In Production’ page on Creative B.C.’s website (after November 20th and 24th, ‘Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How To Con A Con’ and ‘Mystery 101: Movie 6 – Killer Timing’ will be removed from the page): https://www.creativebc.com/crbc-services/provincial-film-commission-services/in-production

Word on the Street: Two New Chapters for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Series’ Are on the Way

Even though Hallmark’s Christmas season has arrived, there are two mystery movies listed on Creative B.C. that are either currently in production or will soon be in production! The first one is ‘The Chronicle Mysteries 5 – Helped To Death’, which is filming until November 4th. This is exciting news, especially since all of the movies in this series, led by Alison Sweeney, aired in 2019! The second film is ‘Crossword Mysteries: Terminal Descent’. It will start filming on October 26th and end on November 13th. I’m happy to see Crossword Mysteries receive another chapter, as I enjoyed the previous film, Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver! Based on their production schedules, both movies will likely premiere sometime in 2021.

Magnifying fingerprints image created by Balintseby at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Balintseby – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fingerprint-investigation_789253.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have you seen any movie from these series? If so, are you looking forward to the films I mentioned in this article? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here is the link to the TV Movie ‘In Production’ page on Creative B.C.’s website (after November 4th and 13th, ‘The Chronicle Mysteries 5 – Helped To Death’ and ‘Crossword Mysteries: Terminal Descent’ will be removed from the page): https://www.creativebc.com/crbc-services/provincial-film-commission-services/in-production

Take 3: Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly Review

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ “Miracles of Christmas” line-up is just around the corner! But before that television event can begin, there is one more mystery film I need to talk about. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly is the last new mystery movie to premiere until next year. Despite this, I was planning on reviewing the movie anyways, as I’ve seen this series since the very beginning. In the fourteenth film, a high school reunion is where the mystery takes place. While I did find this idea interesting, I said in a Word on the Street story that I was disappointed the story had nothing to do with Aurora’s ex, Martin. However, I didn’t let this affect my viewing experience!

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: One of the strengths of the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series has always been the acting performances, with the actors’ and actresses’ expressive natures making these performances enjoyable to watch! Candace Cameron Bure’s portrayal of the titular character was definitely a highlight for this movie! A scene that was one of Candace’s best was when Aurora discovered the murder victim. The shocked expression on her face was very convincing and added suspense to that scene. Another actress that used facial expressions well was Tegan Moss. Portraying the wife of the murder victim, Tegan put a lot of emotion into her performance. This is especially the case in the scene where she is first questioned by the police, as she can be seen crying. Speaking of the murder victim, I was glad to see Toby Levins cast in this film as Jack Larsen! Even though he was in the movie for a short amount of time, Toby brought charisma to his role. This made his performance memorable, as well as make me wish he had stayed in the story a little bit longer.

The design of the high school reunion: This isn’t the first time Hallmark has included a high school reunion into one of their stories. However, the event in the latest Aurora Teagarden movie was the most memorable one I’ve seen! This is because some of the design choices were very creative! In several areas of the hotel’s banquet space, there were displays that represented different extracurricular activities. For example, a display titled “Memories of Cheerleading” featured pom-poms, a megaphone, and pictures of cheerleaders from the reunion’s graduating class. When attendees arrived at the reunion, they were given name tags that looked like school ID cards. The name tags even featured the attendees’ senior high school photos. These design decisions showed how the film’s creative team thought outside the box when it came to this specific story concept!

Aida stands up for Aurora: For most of the series, Aurora’s mother, Aida, has discouraged Aurora from solving mysteries and participating in the Real Murders Club. In Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly, however, Aida seems to have changed her tune a little bit. When visiting the mother of the murder victim, the mother shares her doubts about her son’s murder being solved. Aida takes the opportunity to stand up for her daughter. She tells Jack’s mother that even though she doesn’t approve of Aurora’s decisions, she knows that Aurora is the best at what she does. This was so refreshing to see after the “don’t-get-involved” cliché was placed in the series for so long!

Magnifying glass and fingerprint image created by Alvaro_Cabrera at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/loupe-over-a-fingerprint_853908.htm’>Designed by alvaro_cabrera</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Alvaro_cabrera – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Details that don’t make sense: In this movie, Aurora and her friends attend their 20-year high school reunion. If this story takes place in 2020, it means that they graduated in 2000. Before the event, Aurora and Sally are looking through a memory box that Aurora put together after her graduation. When reflecting on music from their high school years, they bring up Britney Spears and Pink as their favorite artists, which makes sense from a chronological perspective. Shortly after this statement is made, Aurora takes out a Rubik’s Cube and a Walkman from the box, items that are typically associated with the ‘80s. Several scenes later, when the murder victim is discovered at the reunion, the police immediately come to the scene of the crime. During the initial investigation, the attendees of the reunion are not informed of the situation as they curiously wonder what happened to their missing friends. If a situation like this happened in real life, every attendee would be immediately notified of the crime.

No humor: Mystery films from Hallmark’s second network usually incorporate enough humor to prevent the story from becoming too dark. It also allows the actors to explore their dramatic and comedic talents. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly did not contain this component. Lack of humorous or light-hearted moments caused the movie to adopt a more serious tone than previous entries. Audience members were also not given a break from the murder mystery.

Weaker audio: In my review of JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, I mentioned how some of Hallmark’s recent films have experienced bad audio. While the audio in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly was better than the audio in the aforementioned sequel, it did have its issues. Whenever a character talked loudly, my speakers produced a cracking sound. I’m not sure if this is a movie related or entertainment system related issue. But it is something I felt needed to be addressed.

Photo by Dave Di Biase from FreeImages.

My overall impression:

This chapter in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series made me feel similar to Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death. At best, it is a fine mystery movie with strong elements. But, at worst, it seems like it just met a requirement. I did like the design of the film’s high school reunion, as well as the discussion on how people can change. However, this discussion could have served a greater importance within the overall story. One thing I didn’t like about the movie was how there was no humor to be found. Comedy is something that the mystery series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have in common, as this component helps the stories avoid being too dark. However, the overall tone in Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly was more serious because of the lack of humor. While I haven’t heard of any upcoming Aurora Teagarden Mysteries films, there was one commercial for a new Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries movie that will premiere in 2021! But if there are any new Aurora Teagarden Mysteries stories on the horizon, I hope they are stronger than Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly was.

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

Did you see any of this year’s mystery films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries? If so, which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death Review

Even though I’ve been reviewing films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries lately, I haven’t reviewed a mystery film from Hallmark’s second network since May. Because of this, I decided to review the newest movie in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series, especially since I have seen the first two installments. Like the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Picture Perfect Mysteries has been an enjoyable collection of films. The series also has a distinct identity that sets it apart from the various current offerings on this particular channel. A mystery story featuring a murder mystery stage play is not new, as the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series had a similar concept in the 2019 movie, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: A Very Foul Play. In fact, there was a play poster in the background of Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that was titled “A Very Foul Play”. However, I was curious to see how a detective and photographer duo would approach this specific type of mystery.

Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Thing I liked about the film:

The acting: In Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death, the acting ranged from fine to good. However, there were some stand-out performances I’d like to bring up. One came from series regular, Trezzo Mahoro, who portrayed Allie’s friend Noah. What I liked about his performance was how lively and expressive it was. A good example is when Noah discovers Maya has figured out the password on his laptop. The look of shock on his face truly appeared genuine. Another note-worthy performance was Willie Aames’! As one of the characters said in this movie, Neil Kahn was “mild-mannered”. While this is true, Willie made this part of his character consistent. Because Neil is a director of mystery stories, this is a different yet interesting creative choice when it comes to acting. Speaking of Neil, I also enjoyed seeing April Telek’s performance! Throughout the film, her portrayal of Neil’s wife was very natural. This is evident in the scene where she and Neil are having an argument about their personal lives.

The interior and exterior design: In some scenes, Neil Kahn’s house was featured on screen. This is certainly one of the most photogenic houses shown in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film! The exterior was pale yellow Victorian, complete with a wrap around porch. Impressive interior designs added to the grand scale that is also shown on the house’s exterior. Dark wood was a consistent component of each room shown in the movie. The living room boasted a large wood fireplace paired beautifully with green marble. Neil’s library also featured wood, as seen in bookshelves covering the walls. An eye-catching design choice was how arches outlined the shelves, an element that isn’t often found. In one scene, the living room in Allie’s house can be seen in the background. A stone fireplace was illuminated with soft lights, with a complimentary bookshelf next to it. This shows how good interior and/or exterior design came from multiple locations!

The cinematography: There was some cinematography in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that really surprised me in a good way! One notable example is when a suspect is being questioned at the police station. As the scene plays out, emphasis is placed on the clock and the suspect’s face. They were both zoomed in at various points in the scene, highlighting the suspense and fear a person might face in that situation. Another interesting use of cinematography is when Allie and Sam were having a conversation after the murder victim was discovered. When each character was speaking, they were given close-ups to help the audience focus on Sam’s or Allie’s part of the conversation. This specific area of film-making, cinematography, added intrigue to the overall project!

Masks of comedy and tragedy images created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Story points that didn’t lead anywhere: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death contained story points that ended up not leading anywhere. One of them was the robberies that were taking place in Willow Brook, the small town featured in this series. During the movie, Sam was in charge of solving the film’s murder and a string of robberies. Unfortunately, this part of the film became an afterthought, as it had little to no connection to the main plot. Another story point involved a local loan shark. While he was shown and mentioned on a few occasions, the loan shark didn’t have a consistent enough presence to be a meaningful part of the story. If this character would have been given more importance, maybe he could have been a red herring.

Allie’s relationship with Daniel: Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series usually show the male and female protagonist forming a romantic relationship over time. Even though this is only the third Picture Perfect Mysteries movie, I feel Allie and Sam will likely become a couple. Because of this, I found Allie’s relationship with Daniel, a newspaper reporter, to be pointless. When Allie’s friend, Maya, suggests that Allie go on a date with Daniel, it felt like the screenwriter was trying to force a love triangle into the story. Allie and Daniel’s departure from their date came across as awkward, like they knew their relationship wasn’t going to last. To me, it seemed like this aspect of the movie was unnecessarily shoved into the narrative.

A choppy pace: I found the overall pace in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death to be choppy. This is because there wasn’t a good flow in-between scenes. In one scene, Allie and Sam are discussing color paint samples for Sam’s house. Shortly after, one of the murder suspects is giving Allie clues. Mysteries series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries space out scenes that are not mystery related, as to not make the movie feel too dark. However, this installment in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series seemed to fill their script with as much content as possible with the intent to worrying about the overall flow later.

Tools of a writer image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/camera-and-coffee-near-notebook-and-accessories_2399437.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

At best, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death was a fine film. It definitely had its strengths, such as some stand-out acting performances and interesting cinematography. But, in my opinion, the movie felt like it just met a requirement. As I mentioned in this review, this is the third chapter in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series. By this point, the question of how the overarching story arc can move forward should be answered. This film, however, does not answer that question. What it does instead is almost put the series in a stand-still, forcing it to stay in one place. Having story points that don’t lead anywhere is just one example of how this happened. Yes, the mystery was intriguing. But this is only a part of a mystery film. If there are other parts of the story that don’t work, the movie is going to have shortcomings. While it is unknown at this time whether the Picture Perfect Mysteries series will receive a fourth film, I just hope it’s stronger than this movie was.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen the Picture Perfect Mysteries series? Would you like to see this series get a fourth film? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star Review

I am so close to publishing 200 movie reviews! Because of this, I have devoted this week to publishing my 199th and 200th movie reviews. Next week, I will publish a celebratory post to commemorate this accomplishment. Yesterday, I watched Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. When I posted my review of Perry Mason Returns last month, it ended up becoming more popular than I expected, with the article receiving nine likes! These factors are the reason why I chose to review Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. For the most part, I have enjoyed this particular series. While some films have been better than others, I haven’t come across an installment that was bad. What works in Perry Mason’s favor is having consistent elements, such as the acting performances. Because these elements have been, more often than not, strong, it has helped the memorability of the series!

While searching the internet for this film’s poster, I took a screenshot of this one, as I love the overall design! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Joe Penny is an actor I’m familiar with because of his performance in Hallmark’s Jane Doe series. What I liked about his portrayal of Robert McCay in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is how he was given more opportunities to use emotion! A great example is when Robert is being questioned by Perry Mason at the police station. For most of this scene, the sadness and concern of the situation can be seen on Joe’s face. As the scene progresses, Robert’s anger explodes. Another actor that uses facial expressions well is Jennifer O’Neill! Portraying the murder victim’s wife, Alison Carr, Jennifer used her eyes to enhance the emotions her character was feeling. Her best scene was when Alison and Perry are having a conversation at a law library event. During this conversation, Alison tries to convince Perry that despite everything she has experienced, she is fine. But because her eyes contain so much pain, it appears that Alison is falling apart at the seams. Something I enjoy about the Perry Mason TV movie series is how new, memorable characters have been introduced in each story. Michelle Benti, portrayed by Wendy Crewson, is one of these characters. A photo journalist from New York City, Michelle plays an integral part of the story. She also had a great on-screen personality! Because of these things, it makes me wish Michelle became one of the series’ regulars.

The cinematography: There are times when a mystery movie offers visually appealing cinematography to their audience. Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is one of these films, as I noticed some interesting cinematography while watching the movie! In the scene where Robert is being questioned by Perry, light is pouring into the room through the blinds of the windows. Both the light and shadows reflect off of Robert’s face, highlighting his facial expressions. Toward the beginning of the film, Robert is walking through the city at night. Smoke could be seen at various moments in that scene. This element helped add to the mysterious nature of the story!

Scenes that tricked the audience: Throughout Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, Robert McCay is filming a movie in New York City. This caused a few scenes to be presented in a way that tricked the audience. In the aforementioned beginning scene, Robert finds himself in the city at night. At one point, he is surrounded by two sets of gang members. As the scene goes on, it is revealed that Robert and the gang members are in the middle of shooting a film scene. Later in the film, Robert and one of his co-stars, Kate, are seen having a conversation with each other. At first, it seems like they are gaining a mutual understanding of the murder case. But, like the previously mentioned scene, this moment is also revealed to be a part of Robert’s movie.

New York City skyline with letters image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/new-york-skyline-typographic-silhouette_719554.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Characters with wasted potential: While each character in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star gets their moment to shine, there are a few characters that could have had a greater significance in the story. The gang members from the very first scene serve as a good example. I understand these characters were meant to be extras in Robert’s movie. However, I feel at least one of them could have been given more lines and screen time. Who knows? Maybe they would have become a series regular.

The funeral/memorial dinner: When I reviewed the Murder, She Wrote episode, ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, I mentioned how one funeral visitation felt more like a light-hearted dinner party. There was one scene in this movie that made me feel similar to the aforementioned episode. In Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, the funeral/memorial dinner for the murder victim felt more like an award ceremony. This is because of two things; the fact that some characters don’t wear black attire and how one of the murder victim’s closest friends incorporated jokes during his speech. As I said in my review of ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, funeral services are unique to the family hosting that gathering. However, the two factors I brought up prevented this scene from displaying strong feelings of sadness and grief.

An unbelievable stunt scene: I am aware how fictional stories make their audience suspend their disbelief to varying degrees. But in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, there was one scene involving a stunt that didn’t seem believable to me. The stunt itself is not what caused me to feel this way. This was brought on by the stunt coordinator’s decision to allow a civilian, Perry’s colleague Paul, to participate in a stunt without taking precautionary steps beforehand. I understand this particular scene was meant to serve as a comedic moment. But I just can’t believe any stunt coordinator would willingly overlook details like that, especially in a mystery movie that appears grounded in reality.

Magnifying glass image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/magnifying-glass-with-fingerprint-in-flat-style_2034684.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/flat”>Flat vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As the eighth movie I’ve seen in the Perry Mason TV movie series, I’d say Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is the best one! Despite its flaws, this film did contain a mystery that was not only intriguing, but also captivating from start to finish! Almost every series features at least one chapter that revolves around show business. When this creative decision is chosen, Hollywood usually serves as that chapter’s backdrop. In Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, a movie was being filmed in New York City. This allows a nice change of scenery and a different perspective to this tried-and-true plot point. While watching the film, I couldn’t help being reminded of the Brandon Lee tragedy. It is due to the murder victim also being killed by a prop weapon in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. There’s no denying the major differences between the real-life and fictional situations. But after watching Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, it does make me wonder if there would have been a heightened sense of awareness had someone working on the film or a person who knew a cast or crew member had seen the 1986 movie prior to production on The Crow?

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

What are your thoughts on the Perry Mason TV movie series? Do you have a favorite mysteries series? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: New Trailers for Upcoming Hallmark movies + Official synopsis for next ‘Aurora Teagarden’ movie revealed

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been easy finding movie news stories to discuss on 18 Cinema Lane. However, I am thankful when I come across news about Hallmark productions! While I did talk about stories revolving around Hallmark films last month, those projects were Christmas related. In this Word on the Street article, I will address Hallmark films that will premiere outside the Christmas season! With the ‘Fall Harvest’ line-up just around the corner, it’s common for viewers to see trailers rolled out as the weeks go by. My Word on the Street story will focus on the first new trailer for the line-up. Before the Christmas season begins, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries likes to air some new films during the Fall. This Word on the Street story will feature a discussion about two upcoming movies; with one receiving a trailer and the other receiving a synopsis. As I sometimes do, I will share my opinion on these pieces of movie news.

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Two new trailers have been released from Hallmark; with one for a ‘Fall Harvest’ film and the other for an upcoming movie from Hallmark’s second network! The first one represents the Hallmark Channel movie Follow Me to Daisy Hills, which currently has a release date of September 19th. In the trailer, there were three scenes that featured good cinematography! These scenes revolved around a river during the autumn season. The acting from the leads, Cindy Busby and Marshall Williams, appeared stiff to me. However, this is not a reflection of their performances in the film, as the movie has not been released yet. I am disappointed that with a project called Follow Me to Daisy Hills, there were no daisies to be found. It makes me wonder why the film’s town is even called ‘Daisy Hills’ at all?

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

The other trailer is for one of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ newest titles, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. This movie is advertised on the main page of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ official website and boasts a release date of September 27th. As I look back on this specific trailer, I noticed how this movie feels like a complete tonal shift from its predecessor. From what I remember, JL Family Ranch was a gritty, modern western that had a certain amount of adrenaline and suspense. According to the trailer, however, the sequel is a heart-felt drama that focuses on family and second chances. Even the color scheme and lighting appear brighter than the first film.

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Speaking of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, an official synopsis for Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly has been posted on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website! Below is the description for the movie:

“Aurora’s high school reunion turns deadly when a body is found in the hotel pool. Aurora and her Real Murders Club help investigate which classmate was most likely to kill.”

Even though the movie sounds interesting, I am disappointed that the “reunited” part of the film will not have anything to do with Aurora’s ex, Martin. In a Word on the Street story back in February, I wondered if Martin would return to the series, based on the film’s title. A dynamic that hasn’t been featured in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film before could have been found in this project. But I guess there’s always the next film. What I do wonder is if any mentions of Nick and Aurora’s engagement will be found within the script? Will we see any wedding planning in the film? If we do, it would continue the story’s overarching continuity.  

What are your thoughts on these pieces of movie news? Are you looking forward to any of the films I talked about? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here are the links if you want to check out each source:

https://www.hallmarkchannel.com/love-at-daisy-hills/videos/preview-follow-me-to-daisy-hills

https://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/jl-family-ranch-the-wedding-gift/videos/preview-j-l-family-ranch-the-wedding-gift

https://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/aurora-teagarden-mysteries-reunited-and-it-feels-so-deadly

Take 3: Perry Mason Returns Review + 235 & 240 Follower Thank You

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!

This is a screenshot of the poster I took from my television with my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

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.

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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.

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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!

Sally Silverscreen

Reviewing Van Johnson’s episodes of Murder, She Wrote

Reviewing episodes of Murder, She Wrote is something I occasionally do on 18 Cinema Lane. Even though this is the fourth time I’ve done this, the last time I wrote about any episode was back in February. When I discovered Van Johnson had appeared on three episodes of Murder, She Wrote, I figured it would be a good topic for my submission in the Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon. It also provided an excuse to add some variety to my content for the month of August. Out of the projects listed on Van’s filmography, the only one I’ve seen is Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. While he has appeared on several television shows, I haven’t seen his episodes of those shows. Choosing to review Van’s episodes of Murder, She Wrote has allowed me to see the versatility of his acting talents. It also showed me what his characters had to offer in Jessica Fletcher’s world!

The Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood. Image found at http://loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-fourth-annual-van-johnson.html.

Name: Hit, Run and Homicide

Season 1, Episode 6

Premiere Date: November 25th, 1984

The title card for ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

Daniel, Van Johnson’s character, is an inventor who lives in Cabot Cove. Some of his inventions made the episode seem ahead of its time. While Jessica and Daniel are riding their bikes, Daniel reveals how he created a machine that will record a rider’s heart rate and mileage. In 2020, a product that is the closest to Daniel’s creation is the Fitbit. Throughout the episode, the people of Cabot Cove are scared of a car that can drive itself. Despite its limited availability, driverless cars have been tested on and are in the prototype stage.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Dialogue plays an important role in any mystery story. But in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’, the story ended up being dialogue heavy. Even though Jessica discussed the mystery with the other characters, these discussions felt more like casual conversations than attempts to solve the case. The story was not executed as well as other episodes because of this creative decision. It also made the episode have a lower sense of urgency. I understand ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ premiered in the show’s first season. However, I can think of other episodes that didn’t heavily rely on dialogue.

The mystery itself:

As I just mentioned, the story of ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ was dialogue heavy. Since I already discussed this, I will not repeat myself. What I will say is how interesting it was to see Sheriff Tupper ask Jessica for help on a case. During the lifespan of Murder, She Wrote, Jessica voluntarily gets involved in a typical murder investigation. The police officers, detectives, and/or investigators are either annoyed by Jessica’s presence or they don’t seem to care. Up until this point, I don’t recall ever witnessing someone ask Jessica for her sleuthing expertise.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Almost every show has changed their opening credits over the course of their existence. Murder, She Wrote is no exception. In this episode’s opening credits, the theme music was longer. It also featured more footage of Angela’s character. In most of the episodes that I’ve seen, the theme music is shorter with the credits showing about five shots of Jessica Fletcher.
  • Jessica rides her bike in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ more than she did in any episode I’ve seen so far. She can be seen riding her bike in her hometown of Cabot Cove, where this episode takes place.  The scenery in Cabot Cove was very picturesque. This kind of makes me understand why Jessica chooses not to drive. However, ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ probably marks the first and only time she got behind the wheel of a vehicle.
  • There were a few surprises in this episode of Murder, She Wrote! One of them was a car chase that takes place in Cabot Cove. I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t seen ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. All I’ll say is how I wasn’t expecting a car chase on this show.

My overall thoughts:

So far, I’ve seen four episodes from Murder, She Wrote’s first season. These episodes have ranged from poor to fine. The way I feel about ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ is similar to how I feel about ‘Paint Me a Murder’. There were some interesting components within the story, such as inventions that make this episode feel ahead of its time. However, the episode as a whole could have been stronger. While dialogue is an essential part of any story, ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ relied too much on that piece of story-telling. Because of this, there was a limited number of clues presented. Something I briefly mentioned in my review is the scenery of Cabot Cove. As I said earlier, the scenery was picturesque! It successfully makes this town look inviting!

Rating: A 3.7 out of 5

The funniest scene in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ is when Jessica tells her friend, “And you wonder why I don’t drive a car”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Name: Menace, Anyone?

Season 2, Episode 20

Premiere Date: April 6th, 1986

The title card for ‘Menace, Anyone?’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

Van Johnson’s character in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ was different from his character in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. However, he did a good job making Elliot distinguishable from Daniel. This was because of two things: Van’s acting performance and the screenwriting. Speaking of acting, Murder, She Wrote has featured some future stars on their episodes. In ‘Menace, Anyone?’, two of them were Bryan Cranston and Linda Hamilton. I have not seen their most notable projects; Breaking Bad and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Based on what I do know about their roles in these projects, it seems like Bryan and Linda were given acting material that allowed them to portray a different type of character. It’s also an interesting coincidence that both actors were able to find success outside of the show.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

So far, my favorite episode of Murder, She Wrote is ‘Film Flam’! One of the reasons why I like this episode is the exploration of the movie industry. In ‘Menace, Anyone?’, the story revolved around the world of tennis. Even though this provided an interesting component to the episode, the subject of tennis could have been explored further. What’s great about ‘Film Flam’ is how educational the story was while also being entertaining. With ‘Menace, Anyone?’, I didn’t feel like I learned anything new about tennis. If anything, all the information presented in the story was content I already knew.

The mystery itself:

The mystery in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ is one of the better written stories I’ve seen from this show! It was not only compelling from start to finish, it also contained several twists and turns that left me guessing until the end. Several surprises were sprinkled into the story. There was also a satisfying number of suspects and clues. As I always do, I won’t spoil this episode of Murder, She Wrote. However, I will say the reveal of the guilty party was different from other episodes I’ve seen.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I was surprised to see how seriously the athletes were taking the charity tournament in ‘Menace, Anyone?’. In a charity event involving sports, such as a tournament or a golf outing, the cause itself is what brings people together. I’m assuming these events don’t place a large emphasis on an athlete’s ability to perform, but, instead, on an athlete’s notoriety to raise awareness for the cause. Because of this, I thought the athletes would have some pressure lifted from their shoulders.
  • Fashion from the ‘80s can be hit or miss. However, there are some outfits that are memorable for better or worse. Cissy’s dress in this episode is a great example of this. I don’t know if this dress was a part of a trend from that time period or if the show’s costume designer was trying to be ambitious. But I’ll include a picture of the outfit in this review so you can decide for yourself.
  • As I’ve said before, I will not spoil this episode. However, I was not expecting to see mental health brought up in ‘Menace, Anyone?’. Though it was brief, it was interesting to see Murder, She Wrote incorporate a real-life topic like mental health into one of their episodes. This kind of storytelling is something the show is not known for. It reminded me of episodes like “The Legacy of Borbey House”, ‘Paint Me a Murder’, and “The Days Dwindle Down”.

My overall thoughts:

This is definitely one of the stronger episodes I’ve seen from Murder, She Wrote! Both the story and acting were solid, which made ‘Menace, Anyone?’ engaging to watch! The mystery was also interactive, providing the audience with enough suspects and clues to help Jessica solve the case. While I wish the subject of tennis was explored to its fullest extent, it did add interest to the episode. The more episodes of Murder, She Wrote I watch, the more I prefer the ones where Jessica travels abroad. The story in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ takes place in Boston, Massachusetts. Despite well-known landmarks being absent from this episode, the tennis court and banquet hall gave the show some interesting locations.

Rating: A 4.2 out of 5

In my opinion, the worst parts about this dress is how there’s too many ruffles and how the ruffles themselves are a very contrasting color. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Name: Hannigan’s Wake

Season 7, Episode 4

Premiere Date: October 28th, 1990

The title card for ‘Hannigan’s Wake’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

There were two instances in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ where flashbacks were used to enhance the story. Toward the beginning of the episode, Van Johnson’s character, Daniel Hannigan, is sharing the overarching mystery with Jessica. While he does this, a flashback of the mystery’s events is shown to the audience in order to present what happened. A second flashback appeared toward the end of the episode. This creative choice was made to reveal the guilty party. Without these flashbacks, the scenes would feel dialogue heavy. They would also lack the “show” in “show and tell”.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Even though the two scenes with flashbacks were not dialogue heavy, the majority of ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was. The mystery in this episode is a sixteen-year-old cold case. Despite this, the story put more emphasis on the characters’ conversations about the case than showing them actively solving it. This caused the mystery to feature fewer clues than a typical Murder, She Wrote episode. It also made the story have little suspense and intrigue. The limited amount of interactivity in the cold case episodes seems to be a common flaw, with ‘The Days Dwindle Down’ experiencing a similar issue.

The mystery itself:

Because I already talked about most of the components of this mystery, I will choose not to repeat myself. But what I will say is how I liked seeing a type of mystery that isn’t often featured on the show. This is something I mentioned when I reviewed the episode, ‘The Days Dwindle Down’. This helps break the series’ monotony, which gives the overall story fresher ideas.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I know funeral homes have their own styles and presentational displays for their parlors based on the preferences of their owners. However, the funeral parlor featured in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ did not look or feel like a typical funeral parlor. The walls of this episode’s parlor were bright blue, with the space featuring a lot of light. It gave off a more cheerful feeling than most funeral parlors would. I’m also aware that funeral services are unique to the family hosting that gathering. But in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, one funeral visitation felt more like a light-hearted dinner party. It almost seemed like the funeral itself wasn’t being taken seriously.
  • In this episode, the house of Stephen Thurlow, the father of the murder victim, is featured in a few scenes. Based on the exterior architecture, I recognized that house from the Murder, She Wrote episode, ‘The Way to Dusty Death’! Out of all the episodes I’ve seen so far, this is the second time where I saw an out-of-Cabot Cove location presented in more than one episode.
  • To my disappointment, Van Johnson did not appear in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ as much as he did in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ and ‘Menace, Anyone?’. In fact, he only appeared in three scenes. I know Van starred in this episode toward the end of his acting career. However, I was expecting his character to have a more consistent presence, especially since he was cast in more than one episode.

My overall thoughts:

At best, ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was an ok episode. But at worst, it was very mediocre. While it was nice to see a different kind of mystery, I was not a fan of how the story was dialogue heavy. I mentioned in this review how ‘The Days Dwindle Down’ had the same flaw. What made that episode work was the inclusion of the movie Strange Bargain. In ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, the inclusion of Irish heritage came across as a random afterthought rather than a unique component to the episode. ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was also one of the sadder episodes of Murder, She Wrote. I won’t reveal why this is the case, but I was not expecting the episode to carry this particular tone.

Rating: A 3 out of 5

I would be willing to guess that pictures and videos do not do this house justice. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What are your thoughts on Van Johnson’s filmography? Do you have a favorite Murder, She Wrote episode? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Cabot Cove!

Sally Silverscreen

Sally Watches…Walker, Texas Ranger!

For the Legends of Western Cinema Week, I was trying to decide if I should write a movie review for the 2015 film, Forsaken or create another television show review for Walker, Texas Ranger. Instead of selecting just one, I chose both options as my submissions for the blogathon! Prior to writing this post, I had never seen Walker, Texas Ranger. When I accepted my fourth Liebster Award back in July, I shared how I had never watched anything from Chuck Norris’ filmography. Hamlette and Heidi’s event gave me an excuse to not only change that, but to also expand my cinematic horizons to more westerns. Similar to last March’s review of Murder, She Wrote, I have randomly selected three episodes that happened to be airing on the INSP channel. This time, the episodes will be in the order of when I watched them, instead of chronologically. Each episode will be broken down into five categories: what I liked about the episode, what I didn’t like about episode, the story itself, other factors from the episode, and my overall thoughts. After reviewing these three episodes, I will share my final assessment of the show as a whole.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.

Episode Name: The Covenant

Season 3, Episode 11

Premiere Date: December 9th, 1995

The title card for “The Covenant”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

My favorite scene in ‘The Covenant’ takes place toward the beginning of the episode. During a karate class, Walker notices how one of his students, Ricardo, is missing their purple belt. When he asks Ricardo about the whereabouts of his belt, Ricardo tells Walker he placed the belt in his recently deceased sister’s casket so she could take it to Heaven. After his confession, Walker gives Ricardo another purple belt. When this happens, Ricardo’s face immediately lights up. The music playing during this moment sounded like a tune you’d hear when an athlete in an inspirational sports movie reaches a breakthrough. This scene was both heart-breaking and heart-warming, allowing it to stand out in this episode!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Chuck Norris’ claim to fame is his karate skills, which have become a huge draw for any of his productions. This fact is the reason why Walker is an intelligent karate master. While karate was incorporated into this episode, its presence was very limited. In fact, the story was 80% crime drama, with 20% action. Before watching ‘The Covenant’, I had expected the episode to be 50/50 when it comes to the drama and action. However, the only times karate could be seen are in a montage during a karate class and in the story’s climax.

The story itself:

When I first read the synopsis for ‘The Covenant’, it caused me to ask two “what ifs” about The Karate Kid (the original 1984 film). What if Daniel had never crossed paths with Mr. Miyagi? What if Daniel had joined Cobra Kai? I thought watching this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger would give me a basic idea of what these “what ifs” might look like. But as I reflect on ‘The Covenant’, I realize that comparing the stories of Daniel and Tommy, a student of Walker’s, is like comparing an apple pie to an Apple computer. While Cobra Kai was the villainous/antagonistic group in The Karate Kid, I don’t recall any member of that group breaking the law. Meanwhile, the gang that Tommy interacts with are comprised of legitimate criminals with violent actions and police records. This makes Tommy’s situation more dire than Daniel’s.

To me, this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger felt rushed, as the overall pace was faster than other shows of this nature. I don’t know if this is because ‘The Covenant’ was the first episode of Walker, Texas Ranger I had ever seen or if this was a legitimate creative error. But whatever caused this to happen, I found it difficult to keep up with the story. Another flaw I noticed was how context was missing in certain areas of the narrative. Even though this episode is called ‘The Covenant’, I am still confused as to what the covenant is in relation to the plot. Was it an ideology or a group? This question was never answered.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I was not expecting this episode to be Christmas-themed. However, the plot did not feel like a Christmas story. Sure, there were decorations shown in the background. But ‘The Covenant’ could have taken place in any time of year and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
  • Every television show is bound to have aspects that feel of its time. With Walker, Texas Ranger, there are elements that definitely look like it came from the ‘90s. This can be seen through the characters’ clothes, the background graffiti, and even the opening montage. These things definitely make any show feel like a time capsule.
  • Throughout my life, I’ve seen established shows include real-life topics in their episodes. Sometimes, these topics are effortlessly woven in with the episode’s plot. The anti-gang message of ‘The Covenant’ seems like a PSA was wedged into the overall story. I was given the impression the show’s creative team had chosen to write a narrative around an actual issue. There was some dialogue that sounded more like potential slogans than actual conversation. Even a message at the end of the episode revealed how the ‘The Covenant’ was dedicated to young victims of gang violence.

My overall thoughts:

 ‘The Covenant’ is the episode that inspired me to write about Walker, Texas Ranger. The “what ifs” relating to The Karate Kid are also a part of that inspiration. This episode ended up being different from what I expected, as the limited presence of karate is one reason why this is the case. Even though I liked the inclusion of karate, there was less of the sport than I had been led to believe. This is because the episode leaned more toward the criminal/police procedural part of the overall story. If anything, ‘The Covenant’ came across as part crime drama, part “after school special”, with the anti-gang message being dropped into the story rather than woven in. While this is not one of the worst television episodes I’ve ever seen, it definitely could have been stronger.

Rating: A 3 out of 5

As Walker says in ‘The Covenant’, “These belts don’t come easy. You have to earn them”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: The Juggernaut

Season 3, Episode 16

Premiere Date: February 10th, 1996

The title card for “The Juggernaut”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

In ‘The Juggernaut’, Walker has a limited presence within the story because he has to attend a weekend tournament. This creative decision allows the stakes to be raised to a higher level. It presents a scenario where the hero isn’t always readily available to save the day. It also forces the secondary characters to rely on their own skills to resolve the overarching conflict. Another component is how the episode’s villainous character posed a legitimate threat to Walker and those around him. Connie’s husband, Brad, was a terrifying character because of his realistic nature. Patrick St. Esprit’s performance added to Brad’s sinister persona as well. All of these elements helped make the episode suspenseful and it made me fear for the characters’ lives.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

As I just mentioned, Walker has to attend a weekend tournament. Because of this, Trivette steps in to host a self-defense class at a retreat for domestic violence survivors. I liked how the actual tournament was shown in the episode, as referenced events or situations aren’t always visually presented in TV episodes. But what I didn’t like was how the tournament itself seemed more like a karate clinic. This is because the referee was coaching the athletes during duels and the athletes were surrounding the ring as if listening to an instructor in a class. At the retreat, Trivette led his self-defense class in an interesting way, allowing the survivors to hit him while he was wearing multiple layers of padding. This helped the survivors become comfortable with striking an attacker. The actual lesson didn’t take place until the episode’s halfway point. In my opinion, this moment should have happened sooner in the story.

The story itself:

Unlike ‘The Covenant’, the topic of domestic violence was woven into the story of ‘The Juggernaut’. Instead of dropping this real-life subject into the plot and making it seem like a PSA, the situation presented in this episode feels like it belongs in the show’s world. It gives the message an opportunity to organically grow within the story. Because the retreat is led by Alex, a deputy district attorney and a friend of Walker’s, she’s the one who takes charge of the plot. She was also able to use her skills and expertise to save the day. I like how Alex progressed the narrative forward, as it gave one of the show’s secondary characters a moment to shine. It reminded me of The Babysitter’s Club, where each book is told from a different perspective.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I thought Alex’s cabin looked cute, despite the living room being the only interior shot shown! The green porch was not only eye-catching, but inviting as well. I also think the grounds surrounding the cabin were scenic. I don’t know if this is a real-life house or if it was a set created for the show. However, the location scout did a good job when choosing this particular spot!
  • During the retreat, C.D. tells Connie a story about a retreat participant who was able to turn her life around. After this story was told, C.D. asks Connie if she’ll write a happy ending to her own story. When Connie asks him why he wants to know, C.D. tells her how he wants to share her story with future retreat participants. To me, this was the sweetest moment of the episode!
  • Speaking of C.D., ‘The Juggernaut’ presented the second time I’ve seen C.D. become seriously injured. I’m not sure if this happened often on the show or if it’s just a coincidence. But I felt like bringing it up as a factor of this episode.

My overall thoughts:

When I first reviewed Murder, She Wrote last March, I ended up liking the second episode, ‘Film Flam’ more than the first one, ‘The Legacy of Borbey House’. The exact same thing has happened with ‘The Covenant’ and ‘The Juggernaut’, as I prefer ‘The Juggernaut’ over ‘The Covenant’. The story of the third season’s sixteenth episode contained a better written narrative. It also helped that the delivery of the domestic violence topic didn’t feel forced or preachy. With Walker in the episode for a limited amount of time, it allowed the story to have higher stakes. It also gave secondary characters more screen time and opportunities to be involved in the plot. ‘The Juggernaut’ kind of reminded me of Touched by an Angel, where the series’ regulars approached real-life topics with their wisdom in tow and kindness toward those who needed their help. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I liked ‘The Juggernaut’!

Rating: A solid 4 out of 5

This is one of the few shots of Alex’s cabin that was shown in broad daylight. I wonder how many times it was featured on the show? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: The Lynching

Season 3, Episode 8

Premiere Date: November 18th, 1995

The title card for “The Lynching”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

There were two scenes in ‘The Lynching’ where Walker interacts with Jonah, a man who is accused of killing a local woman. In the first scene, Walker is questioning Jonah about the murder. When he is asked why he ran away from the crime scene, Jonah reveals he was so afraid, that he wanted to go to “Jonah’s Island”. It is implied that “Jonah’s Island” is an imaginary world Jonah created in his mind. Another scene has Jonah stating that he’s “slow in the head”. Walker tells him how there’s nothing wrong with him and how some people get in trouble for moving too fast. These moments were emotionally touching and contained heart.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Wilma Casey, a local woman from a smaller Texas town, is killed in broad daylight. The people in this town are so upset by her death, that they form a mob against Jonah. Statements such as “Wilma was a good woman” were spoken among the members of the mob. Other than those vague statements, no explanation was given for why Wilma was so beloved. A small amount of information about Wilma is provided in this episode, revealing how she’s wealthy and how she helped Jonah after his parents died. But her influence in the town is not told. Was she a philanthropist or a former governor? These questions were never answered in ‘The Lynching’.

The story itself:

The story within the ‘The Lynching’ is a murder mystery, as Walker and other members of law enforcement come together to solve Wilma’s case. With a variety of clues and some shady characters, this plot was intriguing as well as engaging! It also made more sense for the plot to rely on the criminal/police procedural aspect of the show, as the majority of murder mysteries incorporate law enforcement officers in the story. The actions and choices of the people involved in the case did raise more questions than I expected to ask. In one scene, Walker comes across an object that could be used in court. However, he chooses not to collect this object as evidence. These questions didn’t take me out of the episode, but it happened more often than it should have.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Wilma’s house in ‘The Lynching’ was absolutely picturesque! Most of this location was captured in exterior shots, with only the kitchen and office being shown on screen. Like Alex’s cabin in ‘The Juggernaut’, I’m not sure if this is a real-life structure. But whoever was the location scout for Walker, Texas Ranger deserves recognition!
  • According to INSP’s website, Trivette “is a little less “high noon,” and more “high tech” when it comes to fighting crime”. Based on the three episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger I saw, Trivette doesn’t use technology more or less than the other characters. INSP’s description makes it seem like he is the go-to guy for technology, similar to Angela’s adopted role on Bones. After seeing this show, I think the article from INSP is a little misleading.
  • At one point, Jonah has to be transferred from the jail to another location. Instead of taking him to a second jail, the people associated with Wilma’s case take Jonah to a secret area. What surprised me was how Walker didn’t suggest Alex’s cabin as a safer place for Jonah to stay. Even though the cabin is used for Alex’s domestic violence survivor retreats, I’d like to think she wouldn’t mind allowing Jonah to temporarily stay at her cabin.

My overall thoughts:

While I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as ‘The Juggernaut’, I did like it more than ‘The Covenant’. As someone who goes out of their way to talk about mysteries from time to time, the story was interesting enough to keep me invested in the plot. It contained the components that are usually found in a mystery: a collection of clues, potential suspects, some surprises, and suspense. Having this episode lean more toward the crime drama side of the show made sense with the narrative being told. This story is not without its flaws, however. Some of the actions and choices of the people involved in the overarching case were questionable in terms of believability. The lack of explanation for Wilma’s importance also didn’t help. Similar to ‘The Juggernaut’, the situation in ‘The Lynching’ felt it belonged in the world of Walker, Texas Ranger. This episode could have easily followed the footsteps of ‘The Covenant’, placing a message in the script and writing a story around it. Instead, ‘The Lynching’ focuses on themes that the audience could relate to; such as treating others as they would like to be treated.

Rating: A 3.6 out of 5

Is is just me or does this house remind anyone of Laura’s boarding house from Little House of the Prairie? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My final assessment:

In my first review of Murder, She Wrote, I said the show as a whole, based on the three episodes I wrote about, was fine. I also said that I’d watch the show if I had nothing else to do. With Walker, Texas Ranger, I thought it was fine as well. However, the overall quality of the episodes was more consistent than the ones from my Murder, She Wrote review. Even though ‘The Juggernaut’ was the best episode of the three I chose, I did enjoy watching ‘The Lynching’. My least favorite episode was ‘The Covenant’, as I thought it was just ok. One aspect that stood out to me was how karate was only used during select moments of each episode. There was enough action in ‘The Juggernaut’ and ‘The Lynching’ to keep the plot interesting. However, I thought ‘The Covenant’ was a little light on action. While I probably don’t see myself watching Walker, Texas Ranger religiously, I wouldn’t mind checking out an episode or two if it happened to pop up on my television. But who knows? Since last March, I’ve seen more episodes of Murder, She Wrote than I originally expected.

Have you seen Walker, Texas Ranger? Are there any episodes you’d want to see me review? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Dallas, Texas!

Sally Silverscreen