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HTF DVD REVIEW: Perry Mason - Season 3, Volume 1



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#1 of 11 Matt Hough

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Posted August 29 2008 - 01:50 AM


Perry Mason: Season 3, Volume 1
Directed by Arthur Marx et al

Studio: Paramount
Year: 1959-1960
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 624 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
Subtitles: CC
MSRP: $ 49.99

Release Date: August 19, 2008
Review Date: August 29, 2008


The Series

4/5

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


Video Quality

4/5

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.

Audio Quality

3/5

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.

Special Features

0/5

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.


In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

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.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 11 RickER

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Posted August 29 2008 - 02:31 AM

Thanks for the review Matt. For now, i am holding off on this release. Just out of principal for the $50 MSRP...yea, i know you can get it for $30. The point is, its still $60 your spending for the whole season! If we go the niche/ collector route, then i cant say i care for the packaging either. A friend of mine who got it had to exchange it 4 times, and still had to cobble together discs to get a set that didnt have scratches, as well as finger prints on the discs. To bad this is one of my favorite shows of all time, but when it stops being fun, and it becomes a headache to get good product. Not even at a good price for a half season!

But once again, thanks for the review!

#3 of 11 Bill Parisho

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Posted September 05 2008 - 10:28 AM

Good job RickER: I wish more people would stand up to companies that gouge TV fans. I don't mind season sets broken up into 2 volumes. But they should at least charge a fair price for half a season of a 50's black and white show. Especially when they don't include bonus features!
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#4 of 11 Greg Chenoweth

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Posted September 05 2008 - 06:34 PM

I look at the Perry Mason sets in a different way. I do not mind shelling out the $30 per set for the series.

Reason #1 - I am helping to support the series being released on DVD. When consumers stop buying sets without an explanation, then the studio assumes that there is a lack of interest in the TV show. Thus, the releases will discontinue and the likelihood of finishing the series is nil. I want all of the episodes to be released and I am willing to dish out the money to show my support.

Reason #2 - It is a fact that all studios charge a premium price when the set is first released. This helps them recoup their production and manufacturing costs. After it has been on the market for awhile, then the sets are discounted. You are more than welcome to wait for the price reduction on the sets. However, I like to buy the sets as soon as they are released because I enjoy them, and I do not mind paying top dollar for the sets. Some shows I can wait for the discounted price, but not "Perry Mason."

Reason #3 - The video quality is top notch. There is a cable channel, Retro TV, that airs "Perry Mason" every evening at 7 p.m. I have a HD TV. The episodes shown on Retro do not have digital transfers. The picture is blurry and hard on my eyes. There are commercials that interrupt the flow of the show. There is the annoying network logo in the bottom right hand corner of the screen while the episode plays out. And, the episodes are edited for time; usually whittled down from 52 minutes to 44 minutes. I like to watch the show off of DVD with the superior picture quality, good audio, no network logo and without any edited material. It costs the studios a good chunk of money to digitally transfer the episodes and I appreciate it. Also, CBS/Paramount has gone back to the original masters for the digital transfers.

Reason #4 - On Season 3, Volume 1, during the end credits, there is picture advertising for Colgate and other products; just like when the show first aired. These have been available on other sets as well. We are getting the original 1957-1959 releases of these shows.

Reason #5 - The 50th Anniversary set was put out to answer the desires of the fans for bonus material. When the show first aired, no one gave any thought to DVD bonus material. The studio put out a great "best of" collection and included bonus material for this one set. I enjoyed every minute of the bonus material. However, like I always say, I really don't buy the sets for the bonus features . . . I buy them to watch the episodes that I remember and love since I was a child. To have all of the episodes show up on DVD is the best bonus material anyone could ask for.

Reason #6 - I have been a fan of the series for over 40 years. I can finally own the episodes and be able to watch the shows in broadcast order. This is fantastic. It is well worth the money to me to pay the high price tag. I know I am getting a great product that has been presented very well.

#5 of 11 Joe Tor1

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Posted September 05 2008 - 11:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Chenoweth

Reason #3 - The video quality is top notch. There is a cable channel, Retro TV, that airs "Perry Mason" every evening at 7 p.m. I have a HD TV. The episodes shown on Retro do not have digital transfers. The picture is blurry and hard on my eyes. There are commercials that interrupt the flow of the show. There is the annoying network logo in the bottom right hand corner of the screen while the episode plays out. And, the episodes are edited for time; usually whittled down from 52 minutes to 44 minutes. I like to watch the show off of DVD with the superior picture quality, good audio, no network logo and without any edited material. It costs the studios a good chunk of money to digitally transfer the episodes and I appreciate it. Also, CBS/Paramount has gone back to the original masters for the digital transfers.

.

Well said, Greg - on ALL your points, but particularly on Reason # 3!

This is why DVD is not only the best way -- but the ONLY way -- to watch Vintage TV!

#6 of 11 Steve...O

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Posted September 05 2008 - 11:59 PM

Matt - superb review, thank you.

Greg - excellent post. I'm still upset about the pricing but agree that, save for the lack of progressive images, this is an excellen set. I've not detected any edits in these episodes which is a big thumbs up.

My beef about the pricing is not so much about the die hards who will purchase this no matter what, but the more casual fan whose purchases, or lack thereof, will determine whether future seasons are released.

I've been a major PM fan since the mid 70s (before I was a teenager believe it or not) and seeing these episodes complete and in high quality for the first time is a dream come true. I'd really be upset if the sole reason we never got S4 and beyond is because of S3 being boycotted because of price.
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#7 of 11 RickER

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Posted September 06 2008 - 12:33 AM

Greg, i agree with your points, um, to a point.
I have a reason for not buying the set. Its not so much the price, as it is the price along with the physical quality of the set. I dont have the time, or desire to exchange a set 2, 3 or 4 times if i get defective discs.
I know the episodes are fantastic, i love the show too. I will buy this set, but not at this price point, and i dont support Paramounts cost cutting with sub par disc production and packaging.

#8 of 11 Greg Chenoweth

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Posted September 06 2008 - 01:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve...O
I've been a major PM fan since the mid 70s (before I was a teenager believe it or not)
Steve: I have been a fan of the show since I was about 6 or 7 years old as well. So, yes, I believe you. I discovered "Perry Mason" in the late 60's. KPTV 12 in Portland, OR has aired the show faithfully during the noon hour for over forty-five years! They still air it during that time slot. I now live away from Oregon, but my mom would watch it everyday when it was on. What is really neat is my 8 year old son now asks to watch "Perry Mason" with me. It is fun to pass it on to my children.

Rick wrote: "Greg, i agree with your points, um, to a point. I have a reason for not buying the set. Its not so much the price, as it is the price along with the physical quality of the set. I dont have the time, or desire to exchange a set 2, 3 or 4 times if i get defective discs. I know the episodes are fantastic, i love the show too. I will buy this set, but not at this price point, and i dont support Paramounts cost cutting with sub par disc production and packaging."

I'm sorry your friend had this problem, but I have not had these same difficulties. Yes, the packaging is different for the new set, but we have watched every episode, some of them twice, and there were no problems with any of the discs. As a matter of fact, there have been no problems with any of the discs in any of the "Perry Mason" sets so far. I was on vacation in Orlando when the set was released. I went to a Virgin Megastore and the price tag was $50, the manufacturer's SRP. I refused to pay it. I waited until we got home because I knew I could buy it from a number of retailers for $40 or less. I spent $40 on the set. I only saved ten dollars, but the enjoyment of the set has been worth it. My wife and I have watched all of the episodes and my son joined us for a couple of them. My other son doesn't care for it yet. Between my wife and I, we have seen all of the episodes on the first two discs twice. We like the show that much. We did not have any problems on any viewing of the episodes.

#9 of 11 Steve...O

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Posted September 06 2008 - 07:40 AM

I am also sorry to hear of Rick's friend's problems. They've got to be an isolated case. Of all the CBS/P product I have, there have been zero physical defects and reading HTF over the past several years there haven't been any reports of manufacturing or packaging defects from this studio.

I agree that the cost cutting from the omission of English subtitles and anamorphic transfers is unfortunate and the butchering of FUGITIVE downright wrong. My personal opinion is that their space saving cases are wonderful; discs typcially don't overlap and they seem fairly sturdy to me.

Greg - I believe I was around 8 or 9 when I first saw PM and started reading the Gardner novels at 9 or 10. Pretty adult stuff for a pre-teen!
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#10 of 11 Gary OS

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Posted September 06 2008 - 08:11 AM

Great points by Steve and Greg. Like you guys, my introduction to PERRY MASON occurred when I was just a grade schooler (8 or 9 as best I remember). And I've been a fan ever since. As much as I agree with Greg's eloquent points, I do believe these sets are priced way too high and purchases of such material will come down to how much one likes the show. I bought Season 3, Volume 1 a week ago when B&N ran a 40% Off sale and this item was included. Using another 15% code, I was able to get this set for under $23. But the starting MSRP is just ridiculously high. And I'd say the same thing even if I was talking about unedited FUGITIVE releases (my favorite show of all time).

I've drawn a line in the sand with these split season releases from CBS/Paramount. I'm not paying more than $25 a piece for them. I'll wait as long as is necessary, but I'm not paying more than that for a half-season set. Everyone will have to make their own choices on what is and isn't acceptable pricing, and there's no doubt that how important the show is to an individual will make a difference. But overall I think CBS/Paramount is making a big mistake on their pricing of these sets.

Gary "having said all that, I am loving this 3rd season set" O.
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#11 of 11 Greg Chenoweth

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Posted September 07 2008 - 05:52 PM

Okay, gang! I have thought over your comments and I agree that these issues with the sets need to be addressed. So, I wrote a letter to CBS/Paramount over the weekend and I have mailed it off. If I hear something back from them, I will post it here in this thread. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote:

I have been enjoying the DVD releases of the classic TV series “Perry Mason”. I have collected all of the sets as they have been released. The video quality is outstanding and I am very impressed that it seems that CBS/Paramount has used the original masters for these DVD sets.

There are a couple of issues with the sets that I am confused about. The first one is the price tag that is associated with these releases. The manufacturers’ suggested retail price seems to be much higher than other CBS/Paramount releases of the same era. The MSRP on “Perry Mason” for Season 3, Volume 1 is $49.99; while the upcoming Season 3, Volume 2 has a MSRP of $50.99. Some of the first releases that came out had a MSRP of $38.99 for the sets. Why is the price continually going up; in particular when there are no bonus features on the sets, with the 50th anniversary set being the exception? By comparison, “I Love Lucy” from CBS/Paramount carries a MSRP of $29.99 and the Lucy sets contain seven DVD’s to the sets with bonus material. The Season 3, Volume 1 “Perry Mason” set had only 3 discs and it is more expensive than the Lucy sets. It is also more expensive than “Perry Mason” Season 1, Volume 1 that has five discs and MSRP of $38.99. Why is the price on these later “Perry Mason” sets so much higher? I would really like to have an answer to this question.

Also, how come we cannot get the entire season in one DVD box set? Season 3 has only 26 episodes, which would be seven discs; exactly the same as most of the “I Love Lucy” sets. When Season 1 had thirty-nine episodes and Season 2 had thirty episodes, it made sense to split up the seasons into two sets. However, it seems that only one set is needed starting with Season 3. Also, as I have already pointed out, the sets are getting more expensive with fewer episodes and discs being on the DVD sets. Season 1, Volume 1 had 5 discs in the set; while Season 3, Volume 1 had only three discs. This is very disappointing and frustrating. At this rate, it will take a total of nine years to complete the series when it could be finished up in five to seven years by going with full season sets.

I know that digitally remastering the series costs a pretty penny, and I appreciate the dynamics of supply and demand. However, it seems that CBS/Paramount Home Entertainment is overpricing these sets with less episodes being put out on the “Perry Mason” sets. I would appreciate some correspondence concerning the strategies of pricing and releasing these sets. I am not the only one who feels this way about the “Perry Mason” sets. I belong to online forums that discuss TV show DVD releases and several people on these forums are as puzzled as I am about the price and the release of season sets. Also, comments are being posted at websites like Amazon.com about these issues as well. We would really appreciate hearing from CBS/Paramount Home Entertainment on these issues. Thank you.





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