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!
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 episodesof 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!
Name: Hit, Run and Homicide
Season 1, Episode 6
Premiere Date: November 25th, 1984
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
Name: Menace, Anyone?
Season 2, Episode 20
Premiere Date: April 6th, 1986
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
Name: Hannigan’s Wake
Season 7, Episode 4
Premiere Date: October 28th, 1990
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
What are your thoughts on Van Johnson’s filmography? Do you have a favorite Murder, She Wrote episode? Tell me in the comment section!
Yesterday, on June 9th, Orion Pictures/MGM Studios released an official trailer of the upcoming film, Bill & Ted Face The Music! The studio also released an official poster for the movie! I haven’t seen any of the films in the Bill & Ted series, but I really like what I’ve seen and heard about this third film so far. The poster itself adopts elements that were found in film posters from the past; artistic visuals that come together to create a singular image conveying mystery and intrigue. As for the trailer, I found it hilarious, as it had the kind of random humor that I resonate towards. This marketing campaign makes me want to watch the previous two Bill & Ted films! As of June 2020, the film has an August 21st premiere date. Bill & Ted is not the only Hollywood IP that has received sequel related news. Two weeks ago, Chris Murphy from Vulture reports how Sonic the Hedgehog will get a sequel! According to the article, “Paramount Pictures and Sega Sammy have begun development on a sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog”, which means the project is in the pre-production stage. The producers who have signed on to the film are Neal H. Moritz, Toby Ascher, Toru Nakahara, Hajime Satomi, Haruki Satomi, and Tim Miller. The first film’s director, Jeff Fowler, and screenwriters, Pat Casey and Josh Miller, are coming back for the second movie. While I haven’t seen Sonic the Hedgehog, I think this is great news for Sonic fans and for people who support studios that put their customers first. Even Chris, from Vulture, says “listening to feedback can be incredibly fruitful for everyone involved”. Hopefully, the sequel can be just as successful as its predecessor.
Months after Coronavirus forced businesses all over the world to pause their operations, steps are now being taken to reach a state of normalcy. In an article from The Hollywood Reporter, Etan Vlessing discusses how “the Quebec provincial government and health officials have given the green light for film and TV production to resume on June 8 amid the coronavirus pandemic”. Before this decision was made, Manitoba had resumed film and television production in their province of Canada. Toward the end of May, Vancouver Island said “the industry can resume shooting by June”. Robert Buffam, from CTV News, writes about the precautionary steps film and television teams will take to work as safely as possible. Ric Nesh, a television show producer, shares “We may reduce, revise, rewrite scenes without the larger crowds. No we may, we will revise scenes.” In the United States, film studios and movie theaters are making attempts to go back to work. A Hollywood Reporter article from June 8th states “anxious theater owners — and Hollywood studios — are being given the go ahead to flip on the lights later this week by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and the Department of Public Health.” June 12th is the selected date when California’s cinemas may start their operations again. Similar to the film and television industry in Canada, safety precautions will be put in place. One example is adopting a 25% capacity limit “or no more than 100 people per auditorium”.
I know this piece of news relates to television. But because it’s about Hallmark going out of their comfort zone, the story became an exception. Earlier last month, Emre Kaya from The Cinema Spot reported how Hallmark Channel is creating a new television show! The article shares that this is the network’s “first high-budget drama series”, which “is a science fiction soap drama series set on a space colony.” Emre’s post doesn’t reveal much information about the project. As of June 2020, Hallmark has not made an official statement about the show. When I first read this story, I was excited at the idea of Hallmark creating a project that is very different from their norm. On several occasions at 18 Cinema Lane, I have talked about how Hallmark should take creative risks and think outside the box. It looks like they’re starting to pay attention to these ideas. Maybe this show could be the beginning of a new era where creativity and originality reign.
Last week, AMC and Regal theaters made the bold decision to ban movies from Universal Studios. This came on the heels of an unexpected, yet successful, VOD (video on demand) run of Trolls: World Tour. Since this announcement, a debate over which side made the right choice has started on the internet. After some consideration, I thought I’d join this debate by expressing my perspectives through this editorial. As you read in the title, I have sided with Universal Studios. In my editorial, I will highlight three reasons why I think Universal is in the right when it comes to this situation. Before I begin, I would like to point out that this post is not meant to be mean-spirited and negative toward anyone. This article is created to simply express my opinion.
Universal Has More Mouths to Feed
It’s no secret that the Coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on the economy. Many industries have lost their finances as well as their employees. Because of the orders to “social-distance” and self-quarantine, businesses that attract large crowds have been forced to temporarily close their doors. Movie theaters are just one of them, with studios postponing some of their theatrical releases until it is safe for everyone to enjoy their films. Even though movie theaters have a legitimate place in communities around the world, they only offer one service: showing movies. The employees that work for any movie theater play an important role. But every job at that theater comes back to making the movie-going experience the best it can be. AMC Theatres offers a video on demand service, which means they have some more employees than a typical theater. However, Universal has different key components to their company. Besides the movie division, Universal also has a television department, with the ownership of NBC and other affiliated networks. Comcast is owned by Universal as well and they have four theme parks. Movie theaters have been financially impacted by the Coronavirus, but Universal Studios is also in the same boat.
Universal Had Always Planned on Releasing Films Theatrically
When the CEOs of Regal and AMC Theaters have been asked about their decision to ban Universal’s movies, they have made it seem like Universal intentionally tried to hurt the movie theaters. Mooky Greidinger, the CEO of Regal’s parent company, Cineworld, said “not only did Universal provide no commitment for the future window – but Universal was the only studio that tried to take advantage of the current crisis and provide a ‘day-and-date’ release of a movie that was not yet released”. Meanwhile, Adam Aron, AMC’s CEO, said “this radical change by Universal to the business model that currently exists between our two companies represents nothing but downside for us and is categorically unacceptable to AMC Entertainment”. Despite AMC and Regal’s animosity toward Universal, Universal claims they never intended to shut the theaters out. The studio said in a response to AMC that “we expect to release future films directly to theatres, as well as on PVOD when that distribution outlet makes sense”. Their recent actions seem to match these words. One of the first films that was rescheduled due to the Coronavirus was the latest James Bond installment, No Time to Die. It will get a theatrical release, but not until November 25th. Fast and Furious9 was also postponed, receiving a theatrical date next April. While Universal has released some of their titles on VOD, most of them were smaller films. One of these films was the 2020 remake of Jane Austin’s Emma. Similar to Trolls: World Tour, this movie was released around the “eye of the storm”. To make up for financial losses, Universal adapted to the global situation the best they could and tried to keep their business afloat.
The Movie Theaters Have Weak Arguments
Before writing this editorial, I read several articles and watched several videos about this subject. I have come to the conclusion that the arguments presented by the movie theaters are very weak. In an article from the website, Pirates & Princesses, Kambrea reports that John Fithian, the President and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, stated “Universal heavily marketed the title as a theatrical release, in theaters and elsewhere, for weeks on end”. As I mentioned before in this editorial, Trolls: World Tour was released around the Coronavirus’ “eye of the storm”. Universal, or any other company, did not know how bad the Coronavirus was going to get. If this had never happened and things had gone according to plan, Universal would have continued to release Trolls: World Tour in theaters. Earlier in this editorial, I also mentioned that AMC Theatres has a video on demand service. If they offered Trolls: World Tour on this service, wouldn’t AMC and Universal benefit from that decision? Even though AMC and Regal have banned Universal’s projects, the studio is not the only one to put their upcoming movies on VOD. Kambrea, from Pirates & Princesses, reported how Disney’s Artemis Fowl, which had a May 29th theatrical release, will now receive a June 12th release date on Disney+. In theory, Disney did the exact same thing Universal did. However, AMC and Regal have not announced any plans to ban Disney’s films from being shown at their theaters. This makes the theaters look hypocritical.
The 21st century has never experienced a medical situation of this magnitude before. Because of this, all divisions of the economy were forced to respond the best they could. This includes Universal, who have multiple components to their company. I don’t believe they did anything wrong by releasing Trolls: World Tour on VOD. If anything, the movie theaters’ reaction to this choice has made them appear out-of-touch with not only the digital consumer landscape, but also with how this virus has affected the financial health of the economy. I understand that movie theaters need to make money to keep the lights on. But intentionally hurting another business is not going to make the Coronavirus go away any sooner. This kind of mindset is what makes companies regress, reminding me a lot of Blockbuster’s demise. Just because we are “social-distancing” doesn’t mean we have to push each other away.