Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Case Of The Overrated Lawyer

After marveling that old TV shows like Dragnet, Have Gun Will Travel and Suspense turned out to be hipper and more interesting than I imagined I have run across one that turns out to be much less than remembered, Perry Mason.

I have been watching a disc from the recently issued first season of the show from 1957 and wow! Not exactly golden age stuff. It looks okay on the surface with Raymond Burr expertly playing the shrewd lawyer and catching murderers left and right but something goes awry. It may be that they were adapting Erle Stanley Gardner's actual Perry Mason novels at this point and losing a lot in turning a full length novel into a 45 to 50 minute teleplay. Plot ends are left maddeningly dangling. One show involves a man who seemingly has two wives but that intruging fact turns out to be completely irrelevant to the murder solution. In a couple of episodes shady characters lurk about the scene in the early going but disappear halfway through with no explanation for their behavior.

This stuff really shocked me. I vaguely remember later Mason episodes from the Sixties (presumably after they had stop using Gardner's novels for stories) that made a lot more sense. Later mystery shows like Murder, She Wrote and Law And Order, whatever their faults, were never this sloppy. This is one old series I won't be investigating any further.

Outside of that I've been watching more varied stuff like the creepy Spanish horror film, "Who Can Kill A Child", Ingmar Bergman's "Through A Glass Darkly", a strange Robert Mitchum western, "Track Of The Cat", that had family dynamics out of Eugene O'Neill and more Something Weird shenanigans, notably a "sex slasher" mystery that starred stripping legend Tempest Storm and two detectives played by a sleazy comedy team. The big deal I have to look forward to right now is Akira Kurosawa's "The Bad Sleep Well" starring one of the baddest MF's of all time, Toshiro Mifune.

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