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  • Head of a large cosmetics firm, Alana Westbrook calls a press conference to announce her new anti-aging cream and to prove it's effectiveness presents a birth certificate proving she is really 62. After a break in at her offices Alana takes her formula to her home safe, but after a party at her house Alana is confronted and killed and the formula stolen. The police suspect Alana's husband but Mason takes on her case and defends Mr Westbrook. Malansky meanwhile goes after Lauren Kent who was seen snooping around and is known to have done dirty tricks work for Alana.

    After watching a couple of the `Perry Mason Mysteries' series made after Burr was dead I was ready to return to the films that actually had the title character in the role. The plot here is the normal Mason fare and works well if that's what you're happy with, which I usually am. Malanksy's investigation is good because it has some strong twists that genuinely make you question what's going on. The story has more teeth than usual at times and it is quite dramatic occasionally. The only down side is that at one point the film looks like it's going to be a earth-shattering twist before it falls into the normal `court room confession' ending and is a little disappointing.

    Burr is a breath of fresh air after the stand-ins and he goes for it during the courtroom scenes. He is in his element and does well. Moses and Hale are both OK but Hale has little to do as always. The support cast is relatively `all-star', normally we have only one famous face but here we have a good handful. Morgan Freechild is the victim of the piece and the (once) great Tippi Hedren (The Birds) is OK. Other faces that you'll recognise are David Warner and Jonathon Banks (making his second Mason movie appearance).

    Overall this is a good entry in the Mason series and appears stronger after watching all the `Mason Mystery' series! However it could have been much better if the ending had gone the way I expected it to but despite this it is still entertaining.
  • Patrick O'Neal makes his second appearance in a Perry Mason mystery movie in The Case Of The Skin-Deep Scandal. In the first Perry Mason film, O'Neal was the victim for which Barbara Hale was arrested and Raymond Burr resigned from the bench to get back into private practice to defend his old girl Friday.

    But in The Case Of The Skin-Deep Scandal O'Neal is in fact the defendant who is charged with the murder of his wife Morgan Fairchild. Fairchild is a beautiful and ruthless cosmetics Queen who built her empire on O'Neal's money. Now she's got all kinds of people who've been trampled on the way up and they're out for blood. O'Neal looks good for it because Fairchild's been keeping a boy toy played by Scott Thompson Baker on the side. But there are a host of other suspects as is always the case.

    The Case Of The Skin Deep Scandal also marked the farewell performance of Patrick O'Neal who never failed to be good in a variety of roles he was cast in. My personal favorite with him has always been Alvarez Kelly where his performance of the unctuous Union Major stole the film from stars William Holden and Richard Widmark.

    I think I can safely say that the murder involves two other members of the cast, one of whom kills the other in order to not risk exposure on the Fairchild murder. Billy Moses is also nearly killed by the same person and of course they both don't reckon with the research and deductive powers of ace defense attorney Perry Mason.

    Some of the plot elements are borrowed from the Billy Wilder film, Fedora. This is one of the better Perry Mason mysteries, devoted fans will love it.
  • After her office safe is broken into and she takes the papers home, Morgan Fairchild announces she is marketing a new face cream and she is 62. That night, she is murdered after an apparent break-in. However, the police soon conclude that her husband, Patrick O'Neal did it. Unfortunately for them, Raymond Burr, aka Perry Mason is his old friend. So we know that there will be many red herrings dragged across the trail and the real killer will confess on the witness stand.

    Although the question of whodunnit is not as obscure as better entries into the TV Movie series, the red herrings are top notch, including Polly Bergen, Tippi Hendren and a surprisingly funny turn by David Warner. The chief red herring, however, is played by Lauren Lane as a slippery woman who seems have been a private investigator working for Miss Fairchild. It's pleasant to see some good acting, even if the mystery is not what it might have been.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Perry Mason steps into court once again to defend an old friend from his law school days, Arthur Westbrook (Patrick O' Neil), whom has been charged with the murder of his cosmetics tycoon wife Alana Westbrook (Morgan Fairchild). She had developed a revolutionary anti-ageing cream, which she claimed to have tested on herself. Although she looked as if she was only in her 20's, she produced a birth certificate at a press conference revealing her age to be 62. After a break in at her offices in which someone had unsuccessfully tried to steal her formula, she took it home for safe keeping but on the night after her birthday party she was shot dead by an intruder in her home who also stole the formula. Other potential suspects for the murder include Barbara Fox (Polly Bergen), Alana's CEO, who wanted to leave the company for a better paid job with a rival cosmetics firm, but Alana refused to let her out of her contract. Her chief chemist Dr Shell (Jonathan Banks) was devastated when Alana confiscated all of his research materials, which suggested she was going to claim the work as entirely her own and cut him out of the profits. Then there is Scott Collins (Scott Thompson Baker), Alana's executive assistant, with whom she had been having an affair, but she also kept him paying for his apartment and his clothes and Perry also discovers that he had been very well provided for in her will...

    A good if flawed attempt to vary the Perry Mason formula a little with an unusual plot involving industrial espionage and deception within the cosmetics industry with plenty of intrigue to keep murder mystery addicts happy. Raymond Burr's courtroom scenes are more effective here and the actor remains a commanding presence as the ace attorney giving the various suspects both barrels on the witness stand. In this feature, Perry and his associate, the rookie lawyer Ken Malansky (William R Moses) enlist the help of a young, attractive private eye called Lauren Kent (Lauren Lane) who isn't above extortion, blackmail and breaking and entering to win her case. All the evidence points to one Harley Griswold (David Warner), a womaniser who sponges off wealthy society women to fund his expensive lifestyle and Alana was once one of his conquests. But, they had fallen out after he had told a journalist in a society magazine about her alleged financial problems and that her cosmetics business was on the brink of going under. Alana's ditching him could have finished his lavish lifestyle and Perry considers him to be a strong suspect for murder. The lawyer puts him on the stand and confronts him with what seems to be hard circumstantial evidence against him such as a fax arranging to meet a Swiss cosmetics company plus a one way ticket to Zurich, which suggests he might have stolen the formula after murdering Alana and was about to sell it to this firm and clean up. But, Perry is left red faced when it comes out that the lovely Lauren has set him up by laying a false trail of evidence. She vanishes and Ken is despatched to find her. The way Mason's case falls apart in the courtroom allows for some breath taking suspense and the look on the prosecutor's face as he thinks his case against Westbrook is now in the bag is priceless.

    The film does tail off, however, as Malansky tracks down the double crossing Lauren to the small town of Porterville where, as it happens, the murdered woman grew up. After Lauren is murdered by a sniper in the mountains, luck falls Ken and Perry's way far too easily for my liking as a search of her house provides them with enough evidence to clear Westbrook and expose the real culprit. For an episode that started off so well I thought that the screenwriter became lazy and allowed the solution of the case to be revealed too easily and I had hoped that he would have made it harder for Perry and Ken to nail the real killer than was actually the case. But no and this affects the suspense aspect that had begun so well.

    The film has many familiar faces in the supporting cast; including the veteran British actor David Warner who is perfectly cast as Harley Griswold. You will also recognise Tippi Hedren from Hitchcock's The Birds and Marnie as Warner's society woman girlfriend Beverley Courtney, but it is a disappointing part that gives her very little to do apart from giving Griswold an alibi at the trial. Morgan Fairchild is good as Alana, but the best performance in the film comes from Jonathan Banks as Dr Shell who invokes a real depth of feeling as the chemist who had his life's work stolen by the woman he loved and who had double crossed him. Lauren Lane also deserves praise as the young derring-do private eye Lauren Kent.

    Overall, this is an interesting attempt to break away from the standard Mason formula. It is not without its faults, but it is enjoyable nonetheless and some good performances will ensure that fans will love it.