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    Perry Mason: Season 9, Volume 2 DVD Review

    DVD Paramount TV Reviews

    Aug 28 2013 12:59 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    The first television incarnation of Earl Stanley Gardner’s fictional defense attorney Perry Mason came to a grand and glorious end in its ninth season after 245 episodes. Though it had ceased to be a top ranked show for CBS some years earlier, Perry Mason always maintained a quality and class about the production even when episodes strained credulity a bit or stories and solutions were more predictable than in the early years. The wonderful cast never seemed to be coasting even after almost a decade of playing the same characters with little in the way of change from one season to the next.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Paramount
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 480I/MPEG-2
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DD
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 12 Hrs. 58 Min.
    • Package Includes: DVD
    • Case Type: Amray case with leaves
    • Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
    • Region: 1
    • Release Date: 08/13/2013
    • MSRP: $46.99

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    Raymond Burr’s definitive performance as Perry Mason had already garnered him two Emmys. He’s always commanding, rarely flustered, and even occasionally playful in the courtroom in a performance that’s always enjoyable to revisit. Barbara Hale’s Della Street is loyalty personified while William Hopper’s Paul Drake continues doing his sleuthing for Perry, and he usually makes the most of his limited screen time. William Talman continues as prosecuting attorney Hamilton Burger for most of the episodes but with the death of Ray Collins, these episodes feature Richard Anderson as Lieutenant Steve Drumm as the head of homicide.

    The formula is unflinchingly familiar: we’re introduced to a group of people with usually some or all having money troubles, one of whom ends up murdered, and the person accused of the crime comes to Perry for help in his defense. Usually despite overwhelming evidence against the accused person, Perry puts the evidence and courtroom testimony together to trap the guilty party in either lies or hidden information which usually leads to a confession on the stand or in the courtroom gallery. A coda finds Perry, Della, and Paul (and sometimes the innocent parties) detailing the unknown information which led Perry to his eventual solution to the puzzle. As in all of its previous seasons, Perry Mason doesn’t provide all the clues ahead of time that would allow the attentive viewer to guess the culprit before the unmasking. The most damning evidence is usually saved for a last-minute reveal in court making that revelatory coda necessary for the audience to see how Perry put it all together. Several of the second half of the last season’s cases are easier to solve than usual, and there seems to have been a concerted effort to add young people either into the stories or on the fringes of the action (in one episode, one can actually hear a boppin’ instrumental version of “Downtown” playing in a teen hangout) possibly in an attempt to widen the show’s audience. Another episode begins with a generous nod to the recent hit film Topkapi, and both Mason and Burger end up having to serve as witnesses during trials in different cases during this half of the season.

    With this being the final season of the show, the program's producers managed to create some “very special episodes” for their swan song. This box set contains “The Case of the Twice-Told Twist,” the only color episode ever produced for this incarnation of Perry Mason and a rather fun little variation of Oliver Twist even down to the murder victim being named Bill Sykes! Raymond Burr gets to play a dual role in the very entertaining “The Case of the Dead Ringer,” and he seems to be having a whale of a time playing a Cockney sailor who is one of the murder suspects (and the show merges the two characters beautifully in the same shots so that Burr can play opposite himself). And the series finale “The Case of the Final Fade-Out” set in a Hollywood studio manages to work into the story many of the key behind-the-scenes personnel on the show as the police grill everyone on a set where a murder (and later a second murder) occurs.

    Television programs of this vintage carry with them the possibility of seeing unusual guest stars either at the beginnings of their careers or well into them. Among the famous faces in these fifteen episodes are Daniel J. Travanti (spelling his name “Travanty” in these credits), Russell Arms, Jeanne Cooper, Allan Melvin, Stanley Clements, Will Hutchins, Clinton Sundberg, Connie Gilchrist, Victor Buono, Lurene Tuttle, Richard Carlson, Sue Ann Langdon, Paul Stewart, Wesley Addy, Vivienne Segal, Pippa Scott, James Best, Wendell Corey, Paul Brinegar, Les Tremayne, Gloria Talbott, Mary Ann Mobley, Anthony Eisley, Isabel Randolph, Brian Donlevy. Parley Baer, Dabs Greer, Bette Ackerman, Gary Collins, Cloris Leachman, Pat Priest, John Holland, James Stacy, Estelle Winwood, Gerald Mohr, Denver Pyle, Dick Clark, Jackie Coogan, and Marlyn Mason.

    Here are the final fifteen episodes produced for Perry Mason contained on four discs in this DVD set:

    1 – The Case of the Midnight Howler
    2 – The Case of the Vanishing Victim
    3 – The Case of the Golfer’s Gambit
    4 – The Case of the Sausalito Sunrise
    5 – The Case of the Scarlet Scandal
    6 – The Case of the Twice-Told Twist
    7 – The Case of the Avenging Angel
    8 – The Case of the Tsarina’s Tiara
    9 – The Case of the Fanciful Frail
    10 – The Case of the Unwelcome Well
    11 – The Case of the Dead Ringer
    12 – The Case of the Misguided Model (the cleverest mystery in the set)
    13 – The Case of the Positive Negative
    14 – The Case of the Crafty Kidnapper
    15 – The Case of the Final Fade-Out

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    The programs are presented in their original 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio. For episodes that are going on fifty years old, these shows look very good. Grayscale reproduction is spot-on throughout with not a single episode suffering from any kind of age-related problems. Blacks are surprisingly inky, and shadow detail is excellent. Sharpness is so good that one can see the details of many facial flaws and the weaves in shirts and coats easily. In fact, the only softness occurs with the close-ups of Raymond Burr and William Hopper which have clearly been doctored. (Barbara Hale only gets the glamour treatment some of the time.) Only slight amounts of moiré with certain patterns in some suits and sports coats or patterns in curtains cause the least bit of problems, and there are some stray dust specks despite obvious clean up. Aliasing can be seen in tight line structures on occasion, too, not a surprise for transfers lacking anamorphic enhancement. The color episode features beautiful color reproduction with very appealing skin tones. Barbara Hale has been outfitted in a colorful wardrobe for this episode that really highlights her looks with each change of costume. And it’s a thrill to get to see what Perry’s office and the courtroom look like in color. Each episode has been divided into 8 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. The recordings typify the era of sound reproduction for network television shows with strong dialogue tracks, occasional music which can sometimes have a slightly tinny sound, and ambient sound effects all blended into a single track. Age-related artifacts like hiss or crackle have been cleaned expertly resulting in smooth audio reproduction.

    Special Features: 0.5/5

    Introduction to “The Twice-Told Twist” (0:36, SD): Barbara Hale explains why a single episode was shot in color during the ninth season.

    Promo Trailer (SD): Perry Mason: The 50th Anniversary Edition

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    Perry Mason wraps up its nine season run in style with a handful of really memorable episodes and some top-notch guest stars. With the series now complete on DVD and looking so impressive, it’s time now to serve up the 1973 Perry Mason with Monte Markham as the title character and the series of made-for-TV movies with Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale returning to their beloved characters. For fans of TV mystery, this earns a strong recommendation.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    2 Comments

    Photo
    Richard Gallagher
    Aug 28 2013 07:59 PM

    Thanks for the review, Matt. I'm looking forward to completing my set. I still have ten DVDs from the Columbia House releases!

    Great review, Matt -thank you!   I've had this for since it came out but   have been too busy to watch.   Hopefully this long Labor Day weekend will give me some free time to start this.  It's almost bittersweet since this will be it for releases unless, as you suggested, the underrated Markham series or TV movies get released.

     

    It will be interesting to see if CBS/P puts together a "Complete Series" release at some point.  Other than offering subtitles for all episodes (the first 4 o 5 seasons didn't have them) and fixing one edited episode and another with incorrrect credits, there's not that much they could do to improve over what has been a stellar set of releases.