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#215: The Case of the
Sleepy Slayer
Original Airdate: 10/15/64

Summary Edit

From The Perry Mason TV Show Book (Revised)
When Rachel Gordon, a woman who’s been dependent on her oppressive, mean-spirited Uncle Abner’s money for years, shoots him in his sleep, it appears that she’ll beat the rap, because the police don’t arrest her. Instead, the authorities claim the old man was dead when Rachel shot him, poisoned by his male secretary who happens to be in Abner’s will. It’s up to Perry once again to straighten the cops out.

Credits Edit

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Starring Raymond Burr
Based upon characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner
Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman, Ray Collins


Directed by Jesse Hibbs
Written by Samuel Newman
Arthur Marks \ Art Seid | Producers
Gail Patrick Jackson | Executive Producer
Jackson Gillis | Associate Producer
Samuel Newman | Story Consultant

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
Barbara Hale as Della Street
William Hopper as Paul Drake
William Talman as Hamilton Burger
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg
Wesley Lau as Lt. Anderson


Phyllis Hill as Rachel Gordon
Hugh Marlowe as Doctor Lambert
Robert Brown as Tracey Walcott
Gigi Perreau as Phyllis Clover
John Napier as Bruce Jay
Karl Swenson as Charles Norman
Joan Tompkins as Sadie Norman
J. Edward McKinley as Harlan Farrell
Richard Hale as Abner Gordon
Morris Ankrum as Judge
William Woodson as Medical Examiner
Douglas Evans as Salesman
Alfred Hopson as Clark
John Rayborn as Pusher
Gilbert Frye as Chef

Uncredited Actors
Lee Miller as Sgt. Brice


Director of Photography … Howard Schwartz, A.S.C.
Art Direction … Lewis Creber
Assistant Director … Gordon A. Webb
Film Editor … Al Clark, A.C.E.
Casting … Harvey Clermont
Makeup … Irving Pringle
Hair Stylist … Annabell
Wardrobe Supervision … Ed McDermott, Evelyn Carruth
Set Decoration … Carl Biddiscombe
Properties … Ray Thompson
Production Sound Mixer … Herman Lewis
Script Supervision … Marshall Schlom
Theme Composed by … Fred Steiner
Automobiles Supplied by … Ford Motor Company

Perry Mason
Produced by the CBS Television Network in association with Paisano Productions

Trivia Edit

TCOT Curious Coffee Set: The Curious Coffee Set appears in the kitchen of the Gordon house two days in a row. A similar, but not quite identical set later turns up in a restaurant where Perry confers with the doctor. It certainly is a popular style. Submitted by gracenote, 4/1/2011.
+ I think they are identical. But ... ALAS! At the end of the show, in Perry's office, the Curious Chinaware Cups have been replaced with horrible metallic and black plastic mugs, and a carafe to match. Gone are the days .... Submitted by catyron, June 17th, 2018

At the beginning of this episode, there is a shot of mansion on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There is a thunderstorm going on. Cut to a shot of the night sky, and a bolt of lightning cuts across the screen accompanied by thunder. The scene then cuts to the outside of a mansion in the middle of pouring rain. These shots are identical to the beginning of the episode TCOT Meddling Medium, with the exception that the Meddling Medium has some close ups of two gravestones in between the scenes of the lightning and the outside of the mansion. Submitted by Charles Richmond, 1/20/13.

Sightings: Usually our recurring courtroom spectators are scattered throughout the gallery, but in this episode two sit together during the entire hearing: Distinguished Gentleman #1 and Quiet Old Man #1, in the front row. But just who are they? Submitted by gracenote, 4/1/2011. + Distinguished Gentleman #1 also appears earlier as a pedestrian walking behind Sylvia and the chauffeur at the Norman Hotel. Submitted by gracenote, 8/19/2011.

Although credited, Ray Collins does not appear. Submitted by gracenote, 4/6/2011.

After giving Rachel a sedative and treating the burn on her arm, Dr. Lambert says, "She will probably sleep the clock around." instead of "sleep around the clock." Was Hugh Marlowe improvising? Submitted by Masonite 11/27/2012
+ No, "to sleep the clock around" is another common-enough way of saying it. For example see Jack London's novel "The Sea Wolf", in Chapter XXXIX: "I did not know it, but I had slept the clock around and it was night again." An internet search will bring up other authors like Stephen King. Submitted by (the lowercase, with a comma and period) masonite, 12/11/12.
+Actually back during the early sixies when this episode was filmed and aired, the popular term was "Rock Around the Clock" a song made popular by Bill Haley and the Comets. Maybe they didn't want it to sound like that. ;-) Submitted by HamBurger 9/18/2016.

This is the second of two PM appearances for Gigi Perreau who, according to IMDb, started in films at the age of eighteen months and is still working at the age of 75...MikeM. 1/26/2017

This is the final of four PM appearances for singer/narrator/actor Richard Hale, who began his career as an opera baritone...MikeM. 2/1/2018

This is the final of 22 PM episodes for Morris Ankrum, all of them as a judge. Morris Ankrum, a graduate of the University of Southern California law school, was a lawyer before he turned to acting. Morris Ankrum passed on 2 September 1964, before this episode had aired. He was 68 years old...MikeM. 6/7/2018
+ I will miss him; he has been one of my favourite judges. Submitted by catyron, June 17th, 2018
++In 1956, Morris Ankrum played the father-in-law of Hugh Marlowe in "Earth vs the Flying Saucers," one of many 50s sci-fi flicks in which he always seemed to play a general. Submitted by VladEstragon, May 18, 2020.

This is the second of three episodes for Phyllis Hill who plays Rachel Gordon. Early in the episode, Dr. Lambert guesses the age of Rachel based on her appearance to be 40 to 45. Rachel states that she is just 35. At the time the episode was first shown, Phyllis Hill was 43 years old. Submitted by Kenmore 01/29/2022.

It's for you, Mr. Mason: Paul has a GPS tracker on Perry -- he can locate him by phone in any random restaurant, it seems. Submitted by catyron, June 17th, 2018

Comments Edit

Follow the Tracks To prove evidence of Tracey's drug use, Andy lifted up Tracey's sleeve to reveal a long scar. Unless he repeatedly dragged the needle across his arm, that scar was not from IV drug use. Even the acting of the supposed desperate drug addict was ridiculously overplayed.

Burger's Power Trip It seemed a bit high handed and probably illegal for Burger to bar Rachel's attorney from seeing her. He had no right to do that. And on what grounds did he order this? He wanted to be the only to talk to her? That is not something that should be done under a democratic system. Burger always seems to forget that he is only one party in the case. Just because he is prosecuting her does not give him the right to decide she should not have access to counsel. Even defendants who seem obviously guilty have rights and are still innocent til proven guilty. Particularly in light of the fact that it was eventually decided she was not the responsible party. She could have and should have sued. Burger's power trip is getting worse and worse with every episode. DellaMason

Stone Faces Very strange when Rachel is screaming in agony after being burned; and the reaction of everyone else in the room is to just stare at her. The overly loud crash of the pot coupled with her blood-curdling screams should have been enough to get at least one of them to rush over to try to help. DellaMason

I think this episode offers some commentary on doctors’ rather liberal use of sedatives and other powerful drugs in the 1960s, 1970s, and even today, especially on “hysterical” women. I have seen people do things in their sleep while under the influence of prescribed sedatives and hypnotics—things of which they have absolutely no memory the next day. Good for Raymond Burr (or whoever is responsible)! Submitted by gracenote, 4/1/2011.

In Perry's first office meeting with Bruce Jay, Della is lovely in a fuzzy sweater and a beautiful pearl drop necklace. jfh 26Jan2017.

I was trying to figure out just what it was about Bruce Jay that seemed odd, then it hit me - the pupil of his right eye is noticeably larger than the left. DOD 02/26/20

Backlot Set: Anybody know which studio was home to the "T" intersection and streets where the drug bust happened? I have seen that location in at least a dozen productions. Submitted by H. Mason 4/7/15
+ very noirish scene!
++ I can't identify the studio for sure, but it looks like the Warner Brother lot because of the short lamp posts. The marquee on the cinema facade when this episode was filmed read "Arcadia Theatre" -- so if you see that in an early to mid 1960s film, it would be positive identification.

The quote mentioned at the end of the episode is from the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1881 book "The Common Law", "LECTURE I. — EARLY FORMS OF LIABILITY." Some context, from the Project Gutenberg copy: "It is commonly known that the early forms of legal procedure were grounded in vengeance....The appeals de pace et plagis [of (breach of) peace and wounds] and of mayhem became, or rather were in substance, the action of trespass which is still familiar to lawyers. But as the compensation recovered in the appeal was the alternative of vengeance, we might expect to find its scope limited to the scope of vengeance. Vengeance imports a feeling of blame, and an opinion, however distorted by passion, that a wrong has been done. It can hardly go very far beyond the case of a harm intentionally inflicted: even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked." lowercase masonite, 4/12/16.

Memorable Quote: "How much is it worth to be a sick, empty creature, drained of every drop of the joy of life ??" (And it turns out to be not just rhetorical!!)Submitted by Notcom, 042216.

A very entertaining episode with a real twist. The first half has a classic country house murder atmosphere, the second half more a film noir feeling. That staircase set appears yet again - it seems pops up about every third or fourth show. In his first conversation with Tracey, Perry mentions the legal defense of "irresistible impulse". This same defense comes up in that great legal thriller "Anatomy of a Murder". DO 1/30/18
Agreed. Did not see that ending coming, along with a few other twists. This episode makes up for the horrible --IMHO-- previous episode (which I couldn't even finish watching.)-yelocab 21JUN18
+ Your "horrible opinion" of the previous episode "TCOT Scandalous Sculptor" was consistent with IMDB reviewers: they ranked that prior episode as 266/271 - fifth worst! In contrast, this episode was ranked 44th. Rick P 10-31-21

I knew what the "twist" would be as soon as she fired the bullets, because it's been used in other shows; I am wondering if this was maybe the first use of the "hiding a murder by confessing to the murder" bit. cgraul 7.9.20

Coronary insufficiency as a result of criminal human agency'. Quite an evaluation by the Medical Examiner on the witness stand. jfh 26Feb2020

IMDB tells us that Richard Hale played "roles...from kindly, but strict, priests to sinister villains." Given his four roles on PM - which ranged from cantankerous old men in the daytime to cantankerous old men in the nighttime - it's kind of hard to picture the former, isn't it ?? Queried by Notcom, 062819.
+ Richard Hale did play Gaspar, one of the three wise men--maybe the cantankerous one?--present at the Nativity, in the movie classic "Ben Hur" (1959). Submitted by BobH, 28 June 2019.
William Woodson, who played the medical examiner, was the booming voice that narrated the radio program 'This is your FBI'. Submitted by Wick 3/28/2022

Spoiler Warning! Do Not Read Below If You Have Not Seen The Episode

For only the 2nd or 3rd time in the show's history, Burger actually arrests the murderer, although he later lets them go. Submitted by PaulDrake33. 31 December 2014.
+ It's not clear that (s)he is actually arrested; maybe "in custody" would be a more precise description. Submitted by Notcom, 042216.
++When the police hold a person who thereby does not have the free will to leave, it is, in fact, an "arrest." If the person, for example, it placed in the back of a police car and told "we are going to the station," that person is owed the constitutional admonitions because this "custody" is viewed by the person as a barrier to walking away. cgraul 7.9.20
> Point taken!! Of course in this case it appears the arrestee is unconscious - she quite literally lacks present capcity to "walk away"!! - but would it have made a difference - legally - if they had taken her to other than the police hospital??hmmm.... Notcom, 071020.

The Case of the Upside-Down Law Books: In this episode, an upside-down law book actually furthers the plot. (see Comments to episode 179). jfh 26Jan2017.
+ I cannot help but wonder if the previous instances of set-decorator hanky-panky going on with the upside-down law book in Perry's office led the writer to use this element for the storyline. Submitted by catyron, June 17th, 2018

The killer's use of an "antidote" drug is eerily echoed by the use of Narcan to save opioid addicts. DO 1/30/18

The Fourth Shot we didn't hear much about this one, but it's where Rachael shot herself in the foot: for all her pains at creating a failsafe scenario, all she really succeeded in doing was establishing her uncle was murdered. Had she simply slipped him the overdose, given that he was under a doctor's care (with a known medical condition), it's likely his death would have been ruled natural causes and no autopsy. At worst she would have been one of a several suspects - altho perhaps the leading one - but with an excellent alibi. 'course it wouldn't have been much of an episode. Notcom, 072421.

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