3 February 2004 | bob the moo
Dated and less refined that later films but still worth seeing
Father O'Neil and his assistant Sister Margaret are conducting a detailed audit of the church's financial dealings across the church and the local hospital. O'Neil quickly makes enemies among the management, who fear his cost-cutting measures will bring their gravy train to an end. With rumours of O'Neil and Margaret having an affair, a hired killer takes his chance to kill O'Neil and frame Margaret. The Archbishop calls his old friend Perry Mason to help defend Margaret and the Church.
An early Mason in the TVM series of films, this is better in some ways than the later films but not as good in others. The plot is a little more interesting than usual and is different in that we see the hired killer doing the deed, although it still goes forward without us knowing who actually hired him. The film has the usual formula but it feels less polished than later films as well as having some elements that don't work as well. The action side of the film with Drake Jnr is less entertaining than usual, it lacks the rough humour although it does have the odd try - bringing Mason in toting a gun was a bad move and felt misjudged and ill-fitting to the character.
The usual flirty bit of action between Drake and his female sidekick is kinda impossible this time with his sidekick being a nun and all! In place of this they have a melodramatic subplot where Margaret struggles with her faith; however this is a little too heavily done and the music swells up too often - it doesn't sit well with the Mason formula. In fact the wider score also felt a little bit too worthy and it didn't work that well, although it did give the impression that the film had aspirations above TVM standards.
The cast is not that great and only has a few well-known faces in there that aren't used that well. Burr is assured in the courtroom scenes but is less comfortable with the gun or having to do all the melodramatic close ups required. Hale has barely a line to say and Katt doesn't have as much fun as he does in later films (before he bowed out for Moses to replace him - frightening how similar they look!). However this film contains two good performances in reasonably important roles: the DA and the regular Detective Brock. Stiers is one of the most distinctive DA's of the series, you do feel like he could beat Mason, even if he never does. McEachin is a series regular but his role has a little bit more than the usual dialogue to it here. Greene overdoes her role while the big name in the support cast is Tom Bosley - wow!
Overall this is worth seeing as all the usual formula are here; some elements are not as refined as they would later become and don't sit very well within the film. It's isn't great for this reason but fans of the series will enjoy it nonetheless.