Wendy Crewson

Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star (1986, Ron Satlof)

There’s a lot of camp value to The Case of the Shooting Star. During William Katt’s investigation scenes, his clothes get more and more absurd. At one point he’s wearing a jacket with a tiger on it. Then he gets sidekick and flirtation partner Wendy Crewson, who wears really loud eighties pants, and it becomes more about their banter.

But the camp factor is more than just Katt, it’s the plot–Joe Penny’s a hotheaded action movie actor-director (Joe Penny playing Clint Eastwood)–and it’s how they keep making a big deal out of shooting in New York when the movie was obviously filmed somewhere else (Toronto). Only it must have shot somewhere else too because the tough neighborhood set has palm trees in the background.

And Alan Thicke plays a talk show host. What’s not campy about Alan Thicke playing a talk show host.

Even without the camp value though, Shooting Star’s a pretty solid diversion. Katt’s likable, especially with Crewson. Thicke’s good, Penny’s good enough. There are a lot of decent supporting turns–Ron Glass, Ross Petty, Mary Kane, J. Kenneth Campbell. Opposing counsel David Ogden Stiers seems a little better this time out. He pretends to take it a little more seriously. And Jennifer O’Neill is great as an old friend of Perry Mason. She gets a lot to do in the first act and she’s fantastic. The script doesn’t give her as much to do later, which is too bad, but she’s solid to the melodramatic finish.

Speaking of the script, Anne Collins does an excellent job juggling all the characters and all the expository dialogue. It’s not a great murder mystery, but it’s smooth and digestible writing.

Technically, the movie’s a bit of a disaster because of different film stocks. It’s even worse because camera setups figure into the story and so Shooting Star invites the viewer to think about how poorly the setups are working in this movie. Satlof’s direction isn’t as bad as I was expecting. He’s still weak on coverage, but he is giving his actors more space to move around here.

Oh. Yeah. Speaking of the lead actors. Burr’s good. He’s got some character stuff, not always successful but usually, he’s got the lawyer stuff, not always successful but usually, and he’s got a decent enough teleplay to get him through. Unfortunately, Barbara Hale gets nothing to do in this entry. Otherwise, it delivers on all promise a Perry Mason TV movie can offer.



Directed by Ron Satlof; teleplay by Anne Collins, based on a story by Dean Hargrove and Joel Steiger and characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner; director of photography, Héctor R. Figueroa; edited by David Solomon; music by Dick DeBenedictis; produced by Barry Steinberg; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Raymond Burr (Perry Mason), Barbara Hale (Della Street), William Katt (Paul Drake Jr.), Joe Penny (Robert McCay), Wendy Crewson (Michelle Benti), Jennifer O’Neill (Alison Carr), Alan Thicke (Steve Carr), Lisa Howard (Sharon Loring), Ross Petty (Peter Towne), Mary Kane (Kate Huntley), Ron Glass (Eric Brenner), J. Kenneth Campbell (Ray Anderson), David Ogden Stiers (D.A. Michael Reston) and Ivan Dixon (the judge).

Where’s Marlowe? (1998, Daniel Pyne)

Where’s Marlowe? is a pseudo-documentary about a pseudo-documentary about private investigators. Miguel Ferrer is the private investigator and he seems like a good fit for the role, only director Pyne and co-writer John Mankiewicz don’t actually need him for anything. The point of the film, as things move along, is getting the documentary makers (played by John Livingston and Mos Def) more involved with the private investigating.

When the film centers on Ferrer, who’s a good-natured rube who cares too much about his clients and their problems to be fiscally solvent, Marlowe at least has some charm. And as appealing as Mos Def gets in his performance, he and Livingston are still unlikable. Once Allison Dean–as Ferrer’s suffering secretary and Def’s love interest–gives up on Def (and the documentary), it’s hard to stay onboard.

The film has some good supporting performances, particularly from John Slattery as Ferrer’s partner, and also Clayton Rohner as a client. Miguel Sandoval has a nice cameo. Livingston is bad, so’s Barbara Howard in a smaller, but important role. Howard’s real bad, Livingston it might be the script’s fault.

Speaking of the script, the writers don’t pay much attention to keeping their characters consistent. It really hurts Ferrer, though nowhere near as much as his unexplainable absence during some of the second act hurts the film. It’s a messy script, which Slattery overcomes because he’s not the lead. Poor Ferrer stops getting character development after twenty minutes.

Marlowe’s a misfire.



Directed by Daniel Pyne; written by John Mankiewicz and Pyne; director of photography, Greg Gardiner; edited by Les Butler; music by Michael Convertino; production designer, Garreth Stover; produced by Clayton Townsend; released by Paramount Classics.

Starring Miguel Ferrer (Joe Boone), John Livingston (A.J. Edison), Yasiin Bey (Wilt Crawley), John Slattery (Kevin Murphy), Allison Dean (Angela), Clayton Rohner (Sonny ‘Beep’ Collins), Elizabeth Schofield (Monica Collins), Barbara Howard (Emma Huffington), Kirk Baltz (Rivers), Miguel Sandoval (Skip Pfeiffer) and Wendy Crewson (Dr. Ninki Bregman).

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