Mason: Killer Kiss

November 29, 1993
The Hollywood Reporter
By Laurence Vittes

"I'm Perry Mason. I'm a lawyer," Raymond Burr says to one of the numerous suspects in the last murder case of his long and illustrious career. He says it simply, without visibly acting, as if that's who, in some cosmic sense, Burr had become.

It's "Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss,'' airing Monday night on NBC, serving as a beautifully produced, well-written and superbly acted tribute to the actor who helped make television a staple in the American home.

The plot starts out thick and, as always, thickens: A kiss that wasn't in the script for a popular daytime soap proves deadly for the show's leading man (Sean Kanan). Although he was hated by everyone on the show, Kanan seems to have been hated most by his former leading lady (Genie Francis) -- who also happens to be the daughter of Mason's old friends.

Fortunately, with help from longtime secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) and investigator Ken Malansky (William R. Moses), Perry not only gets to the bottom of the sordid tale but gets to participate in the apprehending of a crooked small-town sheriff's deputy (Christian LeBlanc).

Well, maybe the mystery's not so tough -- it may even be beside the point -- but the solving is delicious, particularly with the super cast recruited from real-life daytime-drama stars including Francis and Kanan, Karen Moncrieff, Arleen Sorkin (who plays a soap opera fanatic who helps with the investigation), Linda Dano, Stuart Damon, Michael Tylo and Krista Tesreau.

Not surprisingly, given that cast, the witty script by Gerry Conway is full of insider jokes and innuendoes while Christian Nyby II's direction verges on a parody when the soap is being shot.

Meanwhile, although he sounds shaky and looks drawn, it is Burr's strength and his identification with the role that provides the core and the believability of the two-hour drama. As Della Street says at the end, he's "great as always.''

And for many viewers, Raymond Burr will be forever missed but never forgotten.