Craig Carlson (Raymond Burr) is an attorney. He buys a gun at a pawn shop and puts it in his desk. He turns on a tape recorder and begins to leave a message to District Attorney Ray Willis (John Dehner). He says that in fifty-five minutes he will be murdered. He then begins to relay his reasons for his claim.
His story begins with his best friend Joe Leeds (Dick Foran). Joe saved his live in the war and they became like brothers from then on. Joe met and married a beautiful woman named Myra (Angela Lansbury). In flashback Craig relays how he confronted Joe one day telling him that he and Myra have fallen in love. He asks Joe to give her a divorce. Joe is quite shocked. He leaves the room saying he needs to think about what Craig just told him.
A few days later Joe is writing a letter when his partner Lou Kazarian (Robert Griffin) comes into the office. He gives the letter to his partner to mail and goes home. When he gets home his wife shoots him. Myra calls Craig. Craig calls the police. Lieutenant Bradley (Denver Pyle) takes charge of the case. The forensics team goes over the room and they arrest Myra for first degree murder.
Myra claims that Joe was furious and attacked her. She says she killed Joe in self defense. Craig defends her. The state mounts a good case. Craig likewise mounts a good defense. In closing arguments Craig sways the jury by telling them that Joe wanted to kill Myra because she was seeing another man. Craig admits to being that other man. The jury finds Myra not guilty.
At a reception after the verdict Lou shows up and gives Craig the letter that Joe had written. He says he had forgotten to mail it when Joe was alive. In the letter Joe tells Craig that Myra was not in love with either of them. She was really in love with an artist she met in college named Carl Holt (Lamont Johnson). He says that Myra only married him for his money.
Craig meets Carl and finds out that he knew nothing about Craig and Myra. He thinks Craig made it up to help Myra. Craig also finds that he likes Carl. He knows that Myra is a user. She married Joe for his money and had an affair with Craig to help her in case she needed him. Now that she is free she plans on marrying Carl. Craig has other plans for Myra.
“Please Murder Me” was released in 1956 and was directed by Peter Godfrey. It is film noir.
If you are used to seeing Raymond Burr as Perry Mason or as Steve Martin in “Godzilla” you should know that Burr did quite a few noir films. His larger than life size yet sphinx-like face made him the perfect villain. He could speak volumes with either a look or a change in the hardness of his voice. In “Please Murder Me” he is once again a lawyer.
The film is low budget, like most noir films, and it’s not as polished as a lot of the better known films but it is an enticing little forgotten movie. It could also do with a little restoration. The film starts a little slow but once it gets to the courtroom climax things get much better and quite interesting. There are some seasoned actors here and their performances are solid. If you can forgive the picture quality and are patient enough to get to the halfway mark you will be rewarded with some decent plot angles. Angela Lansbury as a femme fatale is unusual. She ends up being quite good at the fatale part of things. This is one of those films that I would love to see restored. There are so many good reasons why it should be.
Burr, for most of his film career played bad guys. He was the worst of the worst. Pimps, killers, drug smugglers, communists etc. etc. At least up till then. “Please Murder Me” was released in March 1956. The “Perry Mason” TV series began September 1957. Many thought he couldn’t make the transition from really bad guy to good guy. No one really knows how he managed to get the role, but from then on whenever anyone thought of Perry Mason, in their mind they see Raymond Burr.
Raymond Burr was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. He was a lounge singer before he started acting. He claimed to have been married three times and had a child. He also claimed two of his wives and his child had died. He had been married briefly but that ended in divorce. Everything else was fiction. In reality Burr was gay and met his long time partner Robert Benevides in 1957 on the set of “Perry Mason”.