You could call it "The Case of the Dogged Defender." Truly devoted mystery buffs may welcome a four-film run of "Perry Mason" movies airing Sunday on WNUV-Channel 54.
Beginning at noon, the films include "Perry Mason Returns," "The Case of the Notorious Nun," "The Case of the Shooting Star," and "The Case of the Lost Love."
So here are some trivia items from the case file on writer Erle Stanley Gardner's famous defense attorney:
* The first movie came out in 1985, with Raymond Burr returning to the role 10 years after his successful 1967-75 run as wheelchair-bound police detective "Ironside." (Movie-length mysteries are still airing periodically on NBC.)
In the revival plot, legal assistant Della Street (Barbara Hale, from the original series) is accused of murder and Mason, now a judge, steps down from the bench to defend her. In cute casting, investigator Paul Drake Jr. is played by Hale's real-life son, William Kaat.
* The original "Perry Mason" series premiered in September 1957, and ran for nine seasons on CBS, through May 1966. Did you know that Mason creator Gardner appeared as the judge in the last regular episode, "The Case of the Final Fade-Out"?
* An unsuccessful one-season revival, "The New Adventures of Perry Mason," came to CBS in 1973 with a different cast, including Monte Markham as Mason, Sharon Acker as Della and Harry Guardino as prosecutor Hamilton Buger. Only 14 episodes were seen.
* The broadcast drama originally ran on radio, and Burr reportedly was not among the top candidates for the TV role. Others considered included movie star Fred MacMurray (who later would jump to TV in "My Three Sons"), Richard Carlson (another '40s movie star), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (who would star on TV in "The FBI") and William Hopper (who did get the part of Paul Drake).
* Burr, a movie heavy who had played in "Godzilla" (actual full title: "Godzilla, King of the Monsters"), originally tested for the role of prosecutor Burger (subsequently filled by William Talman).
ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* Got those dancin' feet? WJZ-Channel 13 this weekend is holding open auditions for a revival of the dance program "Shakedown."
The show, which ran for 44 weeks in 1986, is scheduled to premiere April 25 in a weekly 11:30 p.m. Saturday slot.
Would-be regulars should be 18 to 25 years old. Tryout sessions are scheduled at 7 o'clock tonight at White Marsh Mall, and at noon tomorrow at Owings Mills Mall. For information, call the station at 466-0013.
* Schedule change: An "Orioles Report" special noted in this space yesterday as airing at noon Sunday on Channel 13 will not be seen. The program, with host Tom Davis, has been rescheduled to premiere as a weekly series on Sunday, April 12.