Aconfrontation 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 have been Raymond Burr’s final bow as Mason; too bad it couldn’t have been more memorable.
Burr 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 the characteristic climactic courtroom showdown. Problems are in the script and supporting cast.
Mark Shaw (Sean Kanan) stars in popular skein “Mile High,” but everybody on cast and crew 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 Shaw’s request.
Suspects continue to pile up as Mason’s investigator, Ken Malansky (William R. Moses) and secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale offer legwork and advice.
In celeb-driven mysteries, chief pleasure comes from watching star doing his or her thing; teasing, warm rapport between Mason and Street is another 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.
Mason knows things he’d have no way of knowing (including a power failure and a hole in a jail cell window), and Malansky is downright psychic: Spotting something that villains who had just ransacked a house managed to miss (though it’s in an obvious hiding place), he exclaims, “It’s a key! To a locker at the bus station!” To which a soap opera groupie (Arleen Sorkin) along for the ride can only gasp, “Is that a clue?” (Character is reminiscent of annoying kids producers Fred Silverman and Dean Hargrove add to “Matlock” cast to lower demos).
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.”