Timothy Bottoms

Perry Mason: The Case of the Notorious Nun (1986, Ron Satlof)

So Perry Mason: The Case of the Notorious Nun. It’s not good. It is not a good TV movie. Even if the writing were better, Satlof is a lousy director. And Héctor R. Figueroa’s photography is quite bad. The lighting in the courtroom finale changes between shots. The editing is already graceless–more because of Satlof’s weak composition and blocking than the editors–and the lighting just kills it.

But the real problem is something else entirely–Joel Steiger’s teleplay is bad. It’s kind of ambitious, but it’s bad at it. The design of this Perry Mason is as follows, there’s Raymond Burr doing stuff, there’s William Katt doing stuff, there’s Barbara Hale sometimes doing stuff with Burr but not really anything consequential except provide emotional support to Michele Greene (the titular Notorious Nun), and Green’s crisis about taking her final vows. Steiger gives all the character development to Greene and it’s awful. Greene tries with it too. She really does try to make this material work and maybe if Satlof weren’t terrible, it’d go better.

Then there’s the guest stars. Timothy Bottoms as an honest, priest stud. Jon Cyphers as an arrogant doctor. Tom Bosley as a sweet priest. Arthur Hill as a prick lawyer. Not much inventive casting, but sturdy acting. Of those caricatures, Cyphers does the best. He has the most to do. Decent villain in Hagan Beggs. He gets a lot of Dick DeBenedictis’s craziest thriller music. Can’t forget to talk about the music.

But real quick on the cast–David Ogden Stiers as the D.A., James McEachin as the cop. These character slots aren’t really important–McEachin does get to show some personality opposite Katt, but none in the expository-only scenes. And Stiers is competent but the material’s bad. You watch him and wonder if he knows his legal reasoning lines are stupid.

Burr’s fine, of course. Katt’s a little bit too much of a jackass this time out. And Hale really doesn’t have enough to do.

Oh, right, the music. Dick DeBenedictis does some crazy music for this thing. Slasher movie, gothic horror synthesizer music for the main cast’s theme, melodramatic tripe. It’s all over the place and occasionally awesome.

There’s not a good reveal at the end, which is all a Perry Mason needs to be a success. Steiger backloads the thrills and it ruins to momentum. It’s a TV movie, it’s got to keep you occupied through commercials, only Steiger and Stalof haven’t got any momentum. Only DeBenedictis does. And the cast could be charming with better material. But it’s still not successful, not at all.



Directed by Ron Satlof; teleplay by Joel Steiger, based on characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner; director of photography, Héctor R. Figueroa; edited by George Ohanian and Robert L. Kimble; music by Dick DeBenedictis; production designer, Richard Wilcox; produced by Barry Steinberg; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Raymond Burr (Perry Mason), Barbara Hale (Della Street), William Katt (Paul Drake Jr.), Michele Greene (Sister Margaret), James McEachin (Lt. Ed Brock), David Ogden Stiers (D.A. Michael Reston), William Prince (Archbishop Stefan Corro), Timothy Bottoms (Father Thomas O’Neil), Hagan Beggs (Richard Logan), Jon Cypher (Dr. Peter Lattimore), Gerald S. O’Loughlin (Monsignor Kyser), Edward Winter (Jonathan Eastman), Barbara Parkins (Ellen Cartwright), Tom Bosley (Father Chris DeLeon) and Arthur Hill (Thomas Shea).

Invaders from Mars (1986, Tobe Hoober)

Invaders from Mars, while it’s occasionally obvious it’s a comedy, can’t seem to decide. For a while, Hooper directs it absolutely straight–which doesn’t do the film any favors. Hooper’s composition is excellent (he and cinematographer Daniel Pearl have some great Panavision shots) but there’s no menace. Hunter Carson plays a kid convinced aliens have landed and are taking over the townsfolk, including his parents, but Carson never seems too out of it.

The other acting in those scenes is the big problem. Laraine Newman is bad as Carson’s mom, even if she is somewhat likable. Timothy Bottoms is a little better, but still no great shakes. As Carson’s evil schoolteacher, Louise Fletcher is awful. For the scenes when Fletcher has to act really crazy, she’s even worse. It’s like Hooper told her to play it as a comedic role and she just couldn’t figure out how to do it.

Karen Black’s great as Carson’s only fellow human. It’s a thankless role for her, but she’s got some excellent scenes.

Just over halfway through, when Mars is really dragging, the military comes in and things get funnier (and better). James Karen’s great as the general who Carson and Black enlist to fight the aliens. The accelerated pace even makes up for the previously unexplained Mars space shuttle mission. Hooper really should have opened with that detail.

Christopher Young’s score helps a lot, as do good supporting turns in the latter half.

Mars is confused. Its lack of commitment sinks it.



Directed by Tobe Hooper; screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby, based on a screenplay by Richard Blake; director of photography, Daniel Pearl; edited by Alain Jakubowicz; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Leslie Dilley; produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus; released by Cannon Films.

Starring Hunter Carson (David Gardner), Karen Black (Linda Magnusson), Timothy Bottoms (George Gardner), Laraine Newman (Ellen Gardner), James Karen (Gen. Climet Wilson), Louise Fletcher (Mrs. McKeltch), Eric Pierpoint (Sgt. Maj. Rinaldi), Christopher Allport (Captain Curtis) and Bud Cort (Dr. Mark Weinstein).

The Land That Time Forgot (2009, C. Thomas Howell)

It’s a Christian movie? Really? Okay….

I guess the dinosaurs confused that point. And I think there’s some gravity in there.

Being a fan of the seventies adaptation, I thought I’d see this one too. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever sat through. It’s relatively harmless, with far better acting than I was expecting. There’s some bad acting, but no worse than I expected from my first viewing of a “film” from the Asylum (who don’t even have a dot com, they have a dot cc).

I once read an interview with C. Thomas Howell where he said (paraphrasing), given all the great directors he’d worked with, he’d like to direct. And direct The Land That Time Forgot he does–a little bit less classy than a network sci-fi show from the nineties, but definitely better than their syndicated cousins.

His performance is solid too. He’s not much of an everyman (it’s unfortunate the script doesn’t recognize what yuppie flakes the main characters are), but he’s solid.

Screenwriter Darren Dalton gives a better performance than Howell and Lindsey McKeon is solid as his girlfriend. Anya Benton’s a disaster as Howell’s wife.

The best performances come from Timothy Bottoms and Scott Subiono, as a sixties burn-out captain and WWI U-boat commander (the biggest connection to the source novel), respectively. The film’s even better if you pretend Bottoms is gay (it never says he isn’t).

There isn’t, unfortunately, any reference to the first adaptation. There should have been.



Directed by C. Thomas Howell; screenplay by Darren Dalton, based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs; director of photography, Mark Atkins; edited by Brian Brinkman; music by Chris Ridenhour; production designer, Brandon Kihl; produced by David Michael Latt; released by the Asylum.

Starring C. Thomas Howell (Frost Michaels), Timothy Bottoms (Captain Burroughs), Lindsey McKeon (Lindsey Stevens), Darren Dalton (Cole Stevens), Stephen Blackehart (Lonzo), Christopher Showerman (Stack), Patrick Gorman (Conrad), Scott Subiono (Zander), Anya Benton (Karen Michaels) and David Stevens (Jude).

Scroll to Top