A priest, Father O' Neil (Timothy Bottoms), and a young nun called Sister Margaret (Michele Greene) are carrying out a full financial audit on behalf of the church, including the church hospital. Father O' Neil suspects that embezzlement on a grand scale is taking place and the church's lawyers, accountants and even the hospital's chief of medicine fear that their gravy train is about to be brought to an end. Father O' Neil is murdered at his hotel by a hitman disguised as a priest who calls himself Father Logan (Hagan Beggs). He lures Sister Margaret to the hotel where he drugs her and squeezes the knife into her hand. When she recovers and is found with the murder weapon and the body she is duly arrested and charged with Father O' Neil's murder. Rumours had been circulating around the convent that she and Father O' Neil were having an affair, and a letter supposedly written by him to her ending the so-called relationship is found in her room. Sgt Brock (James McEachin) believes it to be her motive, but Perry has his doubts and suspects that whoever is embezzling the church hired the mysterious Father Logan to murder Father O' Neil and then frame Sister Margaret...
The first sequel to the successful TVM Perry Mason Returns (1985), which was based on the classic 1950's-60's courtroom drama series. Numerous sequels followed and this stands as one of the best. There is some great entertaining chemistry between William Katt (here reprising his role as the PI Paul Drake Jnr) and Michele Greene as Sister Margaret that is a joy to watch. She and Drake fall out after she insists on helping him carry out his investigation. He traps the phoney priest Father Logan in a health club, but Sister Margaret's meddling means that he loses him. Later, Della Street (Barbara Hale), urges him to make things up with her since everyone is shunning her because she's a murder suspect and she is all alone and needs a friend. Initially, Drake is reluctant and asks "Why are you looking at me?", but he finds her praying alone in the chapel and she confides in him that she doesn't feel she can make it as a nun. She is due to take her final vows soon, and although there was no actual affair between her and the murdered man, she admits that she loved him and as a result of that feels that she cannot meet the standards required of her by the church. In a moving scene, Drake manages to convince her that she does have the strength to do it and it isn't wrong to have feelings for somebody. There is also another powerful scene in the courtroom where she takes the witness stand against Perry's wishes and the prosecutor, Michael Reston (David Ogden Stiers), predictably, goes for her and attempts to bully her into confessing to Father O' Neil's murder and into admitting to their alleged affair. In a show of strength she denies it and then speaks out defending the murdered priest's integrity and that he never once broke his vows with her and she never did with him. Drake's encouragements lead her to take the brave stand she did and their friendship is restored. This provides the emotional element in the story and it comes off well thanks to good writing, Greene and Katt's performances and Ron Satlof's skilled direction.
Raymond Burr is on top form as Mason and his courtroom scenes are in full throttle mode here as he gives the witnesses both barrels on the witness stand. As he unmasks the killer, his repetitive "Isn't it true?" line of questioning builds it up to a real crescendo as the prosecutor keeps trying to object, the public gallery is loud in astonishment and Mason keeps going on and on despite the judge's furious and futile attempts to bring his court to order. In some later episodes, the courtroom scenes did not always manage to be as dramatic and as suspenseful as they are here.
The supporting cast is excellent with the most notable being Timothy Bottoms and Michele Greene as Father O' Neil and Sister Margaret. But, Barbara Parkins, Gerald S. O. Loughlin, Jon Cypher and Edward Winter also deserve praise as the people entrusted to look after the affairs of the church and hospital, and they all look untrustworthy, devious and on the make. But, you will be hard pressed to guess which of them is the guilty party before the end. Mention should also be made of Hagan Beggs as Father Logan.
Dean Hargrove's script contains a good plot peopled with interesting characters and it plays as fair as one could wish with the audience. Ron Satlof, the series' best director, directs with aplomb exploiting the setting of wintry Denver Colorado to maximum effect.
2 out of 2 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.