Geraldo Rivera’s the gimmick in the latest Perry Mason installment, but not for long: Playing a vain, conscienceless TV host who skewers guests and who’s now penned his tell-all autobiog, the Rivera character, Ted Mayne, asking for a tough exit, gets it. Mason in the commanding personage of Raymond Burr is at the ready to defend the accused.
The case has a slew of suspects, but prime choice is TV actress Roxanne Shields (Amy Steel), whose reaction to Mayne’s account of their onetime affair brought on a harangue to aggressive TV “investigative reporter” Charley Adams (Tracy Nelson). Others betrayed are a would-be politico (Anjanette Comer), Mayne’s producer (Priscilla Barnes), his fiancee-sponsor (Mary-Margaret Humes), an oddly missing “fashion designer” (Leslie Wing) and her brother (Vyto Ruginis). And maybe the politico’s daughter (Robin Tunney)– a dumb bunny who burns evidence.
Clues involve a red dress, perfume, a ceramic bull and the cad’s book. Mason sends forth Della Street (Barbara Hale) and assistant Ken Malansky (William R. Moses). The pushy reporter Adams, wanting to solve the case on her own, runs a mean-spirited competition with Malansky.
Latest Mason chapter plants leads and situations, and the charming yesteryear byplay among Mason and his immediate staff or D.A. is sadly dropped. Even the courtroom scene misses fire: How many viewers will buy the accused sitting at the defense table disguised in dark glasses and a scarf?
Mason’s producers inevitably know ratings verdict, but writer Brian Clemens’ by-the-numbers murder case is mechanical–a missing-witness device does work–and Christian I. Nyby II’s direction routine. Acting is generally acceptable if not memorable. As for Rivera’s thesping, he limns the role well.
Burr inhabits the role with seemingly little effort and considerable detachment. The refreshing Hale remains the consummate secretary, and Moses supplies the male charm. A final scene between Hale and Burr brings back the warmth of episodes from way back; at least it’s a reminder.
Tech credits are, as usual, good.