Directed by Arthur Marx et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 624 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 49.99
Release Date: August 19, 2008
Review Date: August 29, 2008
Perry Mason landed in the Nielsen top ten for the first time during this, its third season on the air. By this point in its nine year run, 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 kept it on top for almost a decade.
Raymond Burr’s definitive performance as Earl Stanley Gardner’s fictional defense attorney garnered him an Emmy nomination for the third season after bringing him the award for the previous season’s work. 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 isn’t often shown doing his sleuthing for Perry, but he usually makes the most of his limited screen time, and Perry gets to defend him in one memorable case. William Talman and Ray Collins, almost always the opposition for Perry and continually frustrated by Perry’s success rate with his cases, prove to be wonderfully irascible antagonists.
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 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 twelve episodes, we find an impossibly young George Takei and the veteran Fay Wray in individual episodes. Others noted in passing during these marvelous mysteries are Ned Glass, Victor Sen Yung, Elliot Reid, Benson Fong, Jeanne Cooper, Arthur Franz, Jerome Cowan, Lurene Tuttle, Neil Hamilton, Barton MacLane, Ann Rutherford, Simon Oakland, and Patricia Barry.
Here are the twelve episodes that make up volume one of the third season’s episodes:
1 - The Case of the Spurious Sister
2 - The Case of the Watery Witness
3 - The Case of the Garrulous Gambler
4 - The Case of the Blushing Pearls
5 - The Case of the Startled Stallion
6 - The Case of Paul Drake’s Dilemma
7 - The Case of the Golden Fraud
8 - The Case of the Bartered Bikini
9 - The Case of the Artful Dodger
10 - The Case of the Lucky Legs
11 - The Case of the Violent Village (a rare trial away from Los Angeles)
12 - The Case of the Frantic Flyer
The original 1.33:1 broadcast ratios are adhered to faithfully in these transfers. The grayscale is quite beautiful with deep blacks and whites that never bloom. Yes, there are some age-related dirt specks and small amount of debris from time to time. Without anamorphic enhancement, there are minor issues with aliasing and moiré patterns, but they aren’t serious distractions. The episodes have been divided into variable chapters, anywhere from 8-10 depending on the episode.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. There isn’t much range to the sound, but it’s certainly clear and unencumbered by hiss, pops, or crackle. For a show of this vintage, that’s about all one could hope for.
Apart from previews of other Paramount series such as Perry Mason - 50th Anniversary Edition, the CSI franchise, and The Streets of San Francisco, there are no bonus features on the disc.
It’s nice to see Paramount continue with the Perry Mason box sets even if nine seasons means eighteen boxes of them in all. The mysteries are generally well written, and the core cast of the show is tops. To watch them makes for a most entertaining walk down memory lane.