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HTF DVD REVIEW: Perry Mason: Season 4, Volume 1

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Matt Hough, Jun 3, 2009.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

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    [​IMG]
    Perry Mason: Season 4, Volume 1
    Directed by Richard Kinon et al

    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1960-1961
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Running Time: 831 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
    Subtitles: CC
    MSRP: $ 54.99

    Release Date: June 9, 2009
    Review Date: June 3, 2009



    The Series

    4/5

    After having finished tenth in national popularity during its third season on the air, Perry Mason suffered a momentary slip in popularity during its fourth year on the air finishing as the sixteenth most popular series on network television. (It would rebound the next year.) Clearly viewers had become comfortable and welcoming with its combination of murder mystery, courtroom give-and-take, and the rock solid precision of its superb cast. Though the show may have been formulaic in its structure, there’s no denying that intriguing stories, thoughtful acting, and reliable production values continued to keep it among the most popular dramas on television.

    Raymond Burr’s definitive performance as Earl Stanley Gardner’s fictional defense attorney garnered him a second Emmy for the fourth season to add to the one he had won at the end of season two. He’s always commanding, rarely flustered, and even more playful this season in the courtroom than in previous years in a performance that’s always enjoyable to revisit. Barbara Hale’s Della Street (earning another Emmy nomination for herself) is loyalty personified while William Hopper’s Paul Drake isn’t often shown doing his sleuthing for Perry, but he usually makes the most of his limited screen time. Beginning with season four William Talman’s appearances became much more sporadic, and so the Hamilton Burger prosecuting attorney character was spelled by a series of replacements including Kenneth Tobey and H. M. Wynant. Ray Collins‘ Lieutenant Tragg became more prominent during the episodes of this season.

    The formula is unflinchingly regular: we’re introduced to a group of people, 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 occasionally 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. Unlike Murder She Wrote or Ellery Queen which always provided for the audience the revealing clue to solve the mystery hidden in plain sight, Perry Mason usually doesn’t provide all the clues ahead of time making that revelatory coda necessary for the audience to see how Perry put it all together.

    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. In these sixteen episodes, we find an impossibly young Robert Redford in the season premiere and silent screen veteran Francis X. Bushman in individual episodes. Others noted in passing during these marvelous mysteries are Philip Ober (in two separate episodes), Hal Smith, Russell Arms, Sue Randall, Connie Hines, John Lupton, Pat Breslin, Dabbs Greer, Lurene Tuttle, Whit Bissell, Ken Curtis, Robert Lowery, Kathie Brown, Eleanor Audley, John Banner, Jeanette Nolan, Regis Toomey, Richard Deacon, Corey Allen, Arthur Franz, Edward Platt, Louise Fletcher, James Coburn, Philip Abbott, John Hoyt, Virginia Christine, and Benson Fong.

    Here are the sixteen episodes that make up volume one of the fourth season’s episodes:

    1 - The Case of the Treacherous Toupee
    2 - The Case of the Credulous Quarry
    3 - The Case of the Ill-Fated Faker
    4 - The Case of the Singular Double
    5 - The Case of the Lavender Lipstick
    6 - The Case of the Wandering Widow
    7 - The Case of the Clumsy Clown
    8 - The Case of the Provocative Protégé
    9 - The Case of the Nine Dolls
    10 - The Case of the Loquacious Liar
    11 - The Case of the Red Riding Boots
    12 - The Case of the Larcenous Lady
    13 - The Case of the Envious Editor
    14 - The Case of the Resolute Reformer
    15 - The Case of the Fickle Fortune
    16 - The Case of the Waylaid Wolf


    Video Quality

    4/5

    The 1.33:1 television aspect ratio of the era is faithfully replicated in these black and white transfers. Contrast is beautifully applied rendering a solid grayscale that is to this day very visually appealing. Grain in each episode varies from mild to slightly moderate. Though there are occasional white or black specks, some slight debris, and some jaggies and mild moiré patterns due to no anamorphic enhancement, the amount of fine object detail on fabrics and in facial features during close-ups is pretty extraordinary. The last episode in the set goes a bit wonky after eight minutes with some scratches along the sides and irregular picture quality that looks nothing like what has gone before. Each episode has been divided into 8 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    3.5/5

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks are typical for the era of the show’s production, but as each episode is predominantly talk, the mono encode embraces it with more than acceptable fidelity. There is no evidence of hiss, crackle, or flutter to spoil the audio presentation here.


    Special Features

    0/5

    Apart from trailers for Mannix, Perry Mason - Season 3, Cannon and Jake and the Fatman, there are no bonus features.


    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)

    Perry Mason’s first sixteen episodes of its fourth season find the show in superb shape with engrossing mysteries and the kind of courtroom theatrics that are hallmarks of the series. Recommended!


    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Steve...O

    Steve...O Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Matt for a great review.

    I'ts great to read that the high presentation qualities of the previous sets continues here. PM has always stood the test of time for me and I eagerly await receiving my copy.

    Steve
     
  3. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Well-Known Member

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    Can't wait! I need a new "fix"!
     
  4. docdoowop

    docdoowop Well-Known Member

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    Minor correction: MSRP $49.95
     
  5. Gary OS

    Gary OS Well-Known Member

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    Which is still a good $10 too high, but the pricing for this series has been that way for a while now so I guess it isn't going to change. Having said that, I love this series and can't wait for the next volume either.

    Gary "what a great, great show PERRY MASON is" O.
     
  6. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Well-Known Member

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    Hold on! The reason why Bill Talman wasn't around that much for a year or so was due to an unfortunate scandal. He was a guest at a Beverly Hills party that got raided by police for alleged drug use. He was actually fired from the show, but rehired at Burr's insistance:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Talman_(actor)
     
  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    Thanks for the information. I'll edit my remarks.
     
  8. Steve...O

    Steve...O Well-Known Member

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    Not to belabor the point, but to clarify, Talman's absence is primarily centered in the last half of S3 and this first half of S4. He will be in 6 of the 12 Vol 2 episodes and returns in full force by S5.

    Ray Collins is the one who started developing health problems and starting with S5 his appearances dropped dramatically appearing only occasionally in S5 - S7. In a gracious (IMO) gesture, Collins was credited the entire S8 even though he never appeared that season. He died soon after the completion of S8.

    Agree with Gary that the price is too high. But it's my grail show so I'll pony up. Vol 2 will have 4 less episodes (and 1 less disc) but will likely be the same price; highly irritating. At least my wife will be happy b/c a whole row of VHS tapes of S4 has been vanquished [​IMG]
     
  9. Steve...O

    Steve...O Well-Known Member

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    Due to my PM addiction I have finished this set already [​IMG]

    To confirm what Matt indicated, A/V quality is very high. I looked for the "wonky" picture in Waylaid Wolf and didn't really notice anything major; there were some minor scratches but nothing that took me out of the viewing experience.

    As far as I can tell, each of the episodes is uncut. CBS/P has done extremely well with these PM sets with only 1 edit in any of the releases noted so far. This Vol 4 release even corrects a major edit that was done in the Columbia House DVD version of LAVENDER LIPSTICK. Kudos to CBS/P for noticing and fixing this.

    The only complaint (besides pricing and split seasons) I have is that these episodes are so darn addicting that I can't space them out. It's a long wait to S4 V2!

    Steve
     
  10. Jeff Willis

    Jeff Willis Well-Known Member

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    That makes 2 of us [​IMG] As some know, especially Gary, I almost never fast-track thru a TV/DVD set. I just finished S3V2 this week.
     
  11. Steve...O

    Steve...O Well-Known Member

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    Forgot to mention how neat it is to see scenes that I don't recall seeing before. A couple of the later episodes allow Lee Miller (Sgt Brice and Burr's double) some on screen dialogue, including a courtroom scene. Most of the time he just hangs around Ray Collins and stays silent.

    Vol 2 will only have 12 episodes (3 discs)... in an ideal world CBS/P would drop the MSRP by 25% compared to Vol 1. We will see.
     
  12. Kneeteartap

    Kneeteartap Member

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    Can someone explain the "swipe" that occurs just before the murder in THE CASE OF THE LAVENDER LIPSTICK ?
     

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