Review: ‘Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss’

Filmed in Denver by Dean Hargrove Prods. and the Fred Silverman Co. in association with Viacom Prods. Executive producers, Fred Silverman, Dean Hargrove; co-executive producer, Joel Steiger; producer, Billy Ray Smith; associate producer, Robin Madden; director, Christian I. Nyby II; writer, Gerry Conway, based on characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner; A confrontation between Perry Mason and several real-life talkshow personalities earlier this year led to a similar all-star supporting cast of daytime drama thesps in "The Case of the Killer Kiss." Pic turns out to be Raymond Burr's final bow as Mason; too bad it couldn't have been more memorable.

Filmed in Denver by Dean Hargrove Prods. and the Fred Silverman Co. in association with Viacom Prods. Executive producers, Fred Silverman, Dean Hargrove; co-executive producer, Joel Steiger; producer, Billy Ray Smith; associate producer, Robin Madden; director, Christian I. Nyby II; writer, Gerry Conway, based on characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner; A confrontation between Perry Mason and several real-life talkshow personalities earlier this year led to a similar all-star supporting cast of daytime drama thesps in “The Case of the Killer Kiss.” Pic turns out to be Raymond Burr’s final bow as Mason; too bad it couldn’t have been more memorable.

Burr, of course, is fine in the role he’s defined since 1957, his physical pain not evident as he unravels the clues and unveils the guilty party in climactic courtroom showdown. Problems are in script and supporting cast.

Mark Shaw (Sean Kanan) stars in popular skein “Mile High,” but everybody on cast and crew, it seems, has reason to wish him dead. When he finally collapses after a torrid kiss, suspicion falls on co-star Kris Buckner (Genie Francis), who’s being phased into a coma at his request. Suspects continue to pile up as Mason’s investigator, Ken Malansky (regular William R. Moses) and secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale, faithful since the ’57 debut) offer legwork and advice.

As usual in celeb-driven mysteries, chief pleasure comes from watching star doing his or her thing; teasing, warm rapport between Mason and Street is another attractive feature of the Burr-Hale series.

While major physical clue is so obvious when unveiled that it might as well have a neon sign flashing “Clue!” above it, solution comes from left field: From what audience is given, there’s no way of suspecting real culprit.

There’s some backstage-type material (producer refers to “post” a couple of times for added authenticity). The level of satire, however, is a long way from “Soapdish.”

Asking daytime actors to parody their overacting is asking for trouble: To most here, “over the top” is a starting point. Best line, from Stuart Damon as a leading man whose best roles are in the receding past: “There are some people who think that I could have been the next Jeff Chandler.”

Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss

Production

NBC, Mon. Nov. 29, 9 p.m.

Crew

Camera, Robert Seaman; editor, David Solomon; sound, William Nicholson, Andrew MacDonald, Tom Meloney; music, Dick DeBenedictis, original "Perry Mason Theme" by Fred Steiner; production designer, Paul Staheli. 120 MIN.

With

Cast: Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William R. Moses, Stuart Damon, Linda Dano, Genie Francis, Richard Grove, Sean Kanan, Christian LeBlanc, Charles Maculay, James McEachin, Karen Moncrieff, Krista Tesreau, Michael Tylo, Hal Harrison, Vern Porter, Jan Waterman, Wendelin Harston, David Richards, Greg Moody, Kurt Sonderstrom, Jamie Horton, Rich Beall.
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