PERRY MASON – Review by Susan Granger

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Originally in Earle Stanley Gardner’s pulpy detective novels (1933-1973), Perry Mason was a Los Angeles-based crime-solving lawyer. Burly actor Raymond Burr embodied Perry in a formulaic CBS-TV series (1957-1966), portraying him as a criminal defense attorney, with Barbara Hale as loyal Della Street.

This edgier, re-imagined version is set during the Great Depression in the early 1930s, and Perry Mason has become a seedy, boozy, cynical private detective, played by wiry Matthew Rhys (The Americans).

“He lives and dies by his mantra: ‘There’s what’s legal and there’s what’s right,’” says Rhys. “The one thing that elevates him is his sense of justice. In his past, he was dealt such a huge blow by a betrayal of justice. It kind of becomes his North Star. So regardless of his means, ultimately, if what he does is right, it’s warranted.”

Created by Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald, it’s directed by Tim Van Patten & Deniz Gamze Erguven. Unlike usual episodic mysteries, they’ve latched onto one particularly violent murder case for the entire eight-episode season, evoking memories of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and revivalist preacher Aimee Semple McPherson.

Suspicions surround both parents (Nate Corddry, Gayle Rankin) and their ties to the Radiant Assembly of God evangelical church, run by inscrutable Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) and her mother, Birdy (Lili Taylor).

Supporting characters include defense attorney E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow); conflicted Paul Drake (Chris Chalk), one of the few African-American officers in the corrupt Los Angeles Police Department; Perry’s Latina lover, the aviator Lupe (Veronica Falcon); and diligent Della Street (Juliet Rylance), who yearns for more than just secretarial work.

What most impressive are John Goldsmith’s period-perfect settings and Emma Potter’s impeccable costumes. Disheveled Perry Mason has a perpetual five-o’clock-shadow and sports a signature fedora.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Perry Mason is a grim, gruesome, gritty 4. Take it or leave it.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.