"Perry Mason" The Case of the Drowning Duck (TV Episode 1957) Poster

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An Unusual Undercurrent
dougdoepke19 September 2008
It's a challenge to untangle the various relationships in this early, rural episode. Nonetheless, there's one overriding reason to comment on the 60 minutes that otherwise slips by. Lodged somewhat unnoticed in the script is a rather startling development for any series of the time-- an innocent man, Deveraux, has in fact been convicted and executed for a murder he did not commit, even if it did occur 18 years earlier. Now, this is a surprising plot device especially for a series that otherwise exalts our criminal justice system. The tragedy is explained in part by Deveraux's defense lawyer, Don Beddoe, who admits he lacked the ability to mount a proper defense. But however it's sliced, execution of an innocent man remains a supreme injustice that had no chance of being used again once the series established a higher profile.

The entry itself is a good one despite the many complications. At first I thought the drowning duck trick was simply time-filler. Then I realized it serves the purpose of showing that the young defendant, Marv Adams, flirts with a possibly cruel act, thereby strengthening the prosecution's case. The acting, as usual, is quite good. Carol Kelly is affecting as the rather blowzy "other woman", along with Paula Winslowe as the wronged wife. Note Mason's almost truculent courtroom behavior, a long way from his later polished decorum, as he spars with the judge who accuses Mason of big city airs. For fans of the series, these early episodes could still take chances.
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Another great episode that should be watched.
kfo949429 November 2011
I really liked this episode. It was like getting a double scope of ice cream when you only paid for one. It was something good and it had a lot to offer.

The story starts out in a rural town called Logan City. It is a small town where everyone knows the background of everyone else. Back 18 years ago they had a murder and a Ben Devereaux was found guilty of the crime and put to death.

Now Donald Briggs (Harry Landers) has been doing some research and comes to Logan City to blackmail people he feels had something to do with the crime 18 years ago.

Marv Adams (Gary Vinson) is the son of Devereaux but he has no knowledge of his father's crime or how he was put to death. And Mr Briggs is trying to blackmail Ms Adams (Olive Blakeney) to keep the secret away from Marv.

It seems that during the trial a secret witness was used to convict Mr Devereaux and Mr Briggs had brought Ms X ,Lois Reed (Carol Kelly) to town to shake down the residence.( I thought the acting by Carol Kelly was some of the best work I have seen in a Perry episode)

During this time Mr Briggs ends up murdered and all the evidence points to Marv Adams as the killer. So Perry defends Mr Adams in this small town where big city lawyers are not welcomed.

Along the way we meet some interesting characters. And it seems all have some secret to keep and do not want old stories being brought back up some 18 years later. With the characters and the good acting the viewer is captured in the story to the point of total interest. The episode had so much going for it that the hour went by fast. I was totally caught up in the story and the goings-on in the small town.

And we get to see Perry, in this early episode, doing all he can for his client. It was very enjoyable and I am sure that you will find this episode to be all one wants in a Perry mystery.

By the end of the show, Perry has not only got his client freedom but also wrapped up a case that will haunt the town for years to come.
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Don't Duck This One
zsenorsock18 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Clyde Waters (Victor Sutherland) comes to Perry for help in dealing with a sleazy private eye. Waters had hired P.I. Donald Briggs (Harry Lander) to check up on his daughter's fiancée, chemical student Marv Adams ("McHale's Navy" co-star Gary Vinson). His daughter Helen (Carolyn Craig) went to college and came back engaged, so he was worried. The P.I. discovered Adams' father was accused of murder and executed. He discovers some unexpected information which he uses for blackmail purposes. When Briggs is killed by a combination of chemicals, Adams is suspect. But to clear him, Perry must try and clear his father and solve an 18 year old murder case.

Burr is in good form here, already less aggressive outside the courtroom, while very confrontation inside the court. He has a lot of energy in these early episodes. Vinson never got much to do on "McHale" other than be a innocent boy next door type, and he doesn't get much to do here either, although he has a nice scene doing magic tricks for a group of kids, including the "drowning duck" bit. He also has a nice moment arguing with Perry about his defense, afraid his mother will be accused if he gets off.

Though he dies in the episode, Lander went on to a successful career as spokesperson for "Taster's Choice". Not so for the happy couple. Carolyn Craig was shot to death several years later and Gary Vinson committed suicide before his 50th birthday.
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Out of the past
Paularoc13 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Eighteen years ago in Logan City, there was a murder - a murder for which Ben Devereaux is tried, convicted and executed. Donald Briggs has been investigating the case and comes to town with the intent of blackmail. He starts with Mrs. Adams, the wife of the executed Devereaux who has changed her name and kept secret from her son the fact of his father's conviction and execution. Her son Marv Adams has now returned to town and Briggs wants money from Mrs. Adams or he'll tell Marv about his father. This particular plot element makes no sense. It is simply not plausible that someone in this small town wouldn't have soon told Marv about his father. Briggs and Marv get into a tussle and when Briggs is later found dead, Marv is arrested. Mason, who is defending Marv, soon realizes that the Briggs murder and the murder for which Devereaux was convicted are connected and that the Devereaux conviction was a great miscarriage of justice in no small part because of the incredible incompetence of Devereaux' defense attorney. This is one of the episodes where Mason is the defense attorney in a small town that there is resentment against the "big city" attorney. The most memorable acting in this episode is that by Carol Kelly as Lois Reed, the Miss X of the Devereaux trial. I agree with reviewer kfo9494 that she was magnificent in the role. Evidently, her entire acting career consisted of only 24 television appearances; a shame as she was really good. There is an overall sadness in this episode, an overwhelming sadness that is rare to see in this series and that makes this one of the top tier episodes. Oh, the incident with the duck was interesting but basically cruel even though the duck lived; it was not an appropriate "trick" for children to see.
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So, the case all relies on someone incriminating themselves on the witness stand....
MartinHafer1 September 2019
"The Case of the Drowning Duck" is an odd story. This is because in order to defend a young man accused of murder, Perry must bring up an old case....one from 18 years ago in which a man was executed for murder. The reason suspicion was thrown on the old case is that the murder victim in the current case was a blackmailer who was apparently in town to blackmail SOMEONE over the old case....but who and why??

This is a decent story with one big problem....there's no proof who did any of the killing and Mason must rely on a too familiar gimmick in this show...the 'Perry Mason moment'. This is when he gets a person to admit on the stand they are guilty...something that just doesn't happen very often in real life. I've talked with lawyers who said they NEVER saw this in a real case...and I tend to believe them. After all, why would someone who killed BUT there isn't solid proof of this then admit to the killing in court?! Sloppy in an otherwise interesting episode.

By the way, the title of this show is referring to a 'magic trick' whereby a young man makes a duck sink and is unable to float. Fortunately it did NOT involve the duck drowning though it did seem like a cruel trick!
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Dear Mom...
darbski3 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
One thing that I would have wondered about is this. Here's the big-shot college kid showing off for the high dollar crowd, and their kiddies; and he can only afford one little visit to his mother? He's home from school, even sees that she's in some kind of trouble and can't take a little time to make sure she's okay? Paul and Della find the poor lady and some evidence for Perry, but even though she's gone to her final reward, nobody bats a dry eye? A little humanity would have been nice, you know?
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Dave was better off dead
sol121821 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS*** Perry Mason, Raymond Burr, gets himself involved in a double murder that covered, from 1939 to 1957, 18 years. It all started when this blackmailing creep Donald Brigg, Harry Landers, creeped into little Logan City and started opening up old wounds in bringing out that Logan City resident Wilma Adams', Olive Blakeney, dead husband was actually executed convicted murderer Ben Devereux! And to prove that Briggs brought along with him 25 year old Lois Reed to prove it! What makes things so spicy here is that Mrs. Adams son Marve, Gary Vinson, is engaged to marry Helen Waters,Carolyn Craig, who's pop Clyde,Victor Southerland,is one of the most prominent and respected men in town.

With Briggs blackmailing Clyde to pay him off or else he'll reveal his daughter is engaged to the son of an executed murderer he goes to, who else, Perry Mason all the way up in L.A some 50 miles away for help. While this is going on Briggs who got into a fight with Marve Adams who came to, after he tried to blackmail her, his mom's aid is later found dead in his hotel room. It turns out that the cause of Briggs not so unexpected demise was lethal gas! And guess what Marve who not only got into a fight with Briggs before his murder is also a chemistry major at the Logan City Collage that makes him a #1 suspect in his murder! Perry guesses right away that Lois Reed had something to do with the late Donald Briggs blackmailing efforts but just how he's not quite sure.

It's after the very ill, she had a serious heart condition, Wilma Adams is found dead from a heart attack it's discovered that she had a safe box with photos and documents that brought out the real reason for Briggs blackmail attempt on both her and Clyde Waters. It had to do with her dead husband Ben who she thought was having a secret affair with this mystery woman Lois Reed who in fact was the reason or all the trouble dug up by Briggs. And even more far out it was the person whom defended Ben in his murder trail George Norris, Don Deddoe, who's wife Martha's, Paula Winslow, first husband David Latwell was the person Ben was convicted of murdering!

***SPOILERS*** Thanks to the photos and documents as well as newspaper clippings that the late Wilma Adams saved it didn't take long for Perry to find out what not only lead to David Latwell's murder in 1939 but to Donald Briggs as well 18 years later. And what connected both of them was Lois Reed who if anything else wanted nothing to do with Briggs blackmailing scheme but was, like almost everyone in the Perry Mason episode, blackmailed into going along with it! But the one thing that Perry of all things got wrong was whom Lois Reed was really romantically involved with that somehow lead to her husband David Latwell's, Ben Devereux's rival for her affections, murder! And it was Perry's brutal and no holds bar cross examination of both Latwell & Briggs' killer that finally brought the shocking truth out at the Marve Adams murder trail!
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Cases current and past
bkoganbing26 August 2019
I believe this is the first case in the series that Perry Mason does outside Los Angeles County and the jurisdiction of Hamilton Burger. It is fictional Logan City where Mason and Paul Drake head.

The client is Gary Vinson a college kid who is a chemistry major who kills blackmailing private eye Harry Landers with a concoction of poison gas. That makes him look good to the authorities. It turns out that his father whose paternity of him was kept a secret was tried and executed for murder. Vinson's mother Olive Blakeney lives in the town something of a pariah.

Of course Vinson is not guilty, but in getting him off Raymond Burr and William Hopper do some digging and come up with the real story of the older case. The perpetrator did both.

In the trial scene the prosecution keeps trying to prevent Burr from introducing evidence of the previous crime. Takes a big of maneuvering on Burr's part to get it there.

When he does the perpetrator becomes obvious before the confession.
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