Perry Mason: Season 5, Volume 2
Directed by Arthur Marks et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 773 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 54.99
Release Date: November 16, 2010
Review Date: November 8, 2010
Perry Mason reached the zenith of its popularity in this, its fifth year on the air. For the season, it ranked as the fifth most popular program on television. 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 continued to keep it near the top during the 1961-1962 season.
Raymond Burr’s definitive performance as Earl Stanley Gardner’s fictional defense attorney had already garnered him two previous 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 isn’t often shown doing his sleuthing for Perry, but he usually makes the most of his limited screen time. 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 for another season of murder stories. In some shows during the season, Perry has a paralegal named David Gideon (Karl Held) who seems to do some of Perry’s legwork. Lieutenant Anderson (Wesley Lau), less combative than Lt. Tragg but just as dogged, occasionally replaces Tragg in the investigations, and Mort Mills shows up a time or two as Sergeant Ben Landro as well.
The formula is unflinchingly familiar: 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 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 doesn’t provide all the clues ahead of time (like the fictional attorney, 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.
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 fifteen episodes, we find a young Burt Reynolds and the veteran Everett Sloane in individual episodes. Others noted in passing during these marvelous mysteries are Hal Smith, Robert Rockwell, Parley Baer, Arthur Franz, Jeremy Slate, Jay Novello, Allison Hayes, Stafford Repp (two episodes), Marie Windsor, Jeanne Cooper, Merry Anders, Douglas Dick, Patricia Breslin, Kathie Brown, Maidie Norman, Victor Buono, Zazu Pitts, Lane Bradford, Barney Phillips, William Schallert, Jesse White, Ann Rutherford, John Marley, James Coburn, Hugh Marlowe, Corey Allen, El Brendel, Otto Kruger, Jeanette Nolan, Don Dubbins, Connie Hines, Jeff Morrow, Harry Von Zell, Ben Cooper, Ivan Dixon, John Dall, and Billy Halop.
Here are the fifteen episodes that make up volume two of the fifth season’s episodes:
1 – The Case of the Shapely Shadow
2 – The Case of the Captain’s Coins
3 – The Case of the Tarnished Trademark
4 – The Case of the Glamorous Ghost
5 – The Case of the Poison Pen-Pal
6 – The Case of the Mystified Miner
7 – The Case of the Crippled Cougar
8 – The Case of the Absent Artist
9 – The Case of the Melancholy Marksman
10 – The Case of the Angry Astronaut
11 – The Case of the Borrowed Baby
12 – The Case of the Counterfeit Crank
13 – The Case of the Ancient Romeo
14 – The Case of the Promoter’s Pillbox
15 – The Case of the Lonely Eloper
The program’s 1.33:1 aspect ratio is retained for these transfers. The black and white images exhibit a notably appealing grayscale with contrast dialed in perfectly to give the show a rich and robust look. Blacks are impressive for a program of this age. Close-ups reveal quite a bit of fine detail, and the overall image is sharp and quite impressive. Dust specks are fairly infrequent for the episodes on the first two discs in the set and also the fourth disc, but the episodes on disc three surprisingly exhibit more dirt, debris, some print damage, and stray hairs than the episodes on the other discs in the set. (“The Melancholy Marksman” is particularly problematic in this regard.) There are also instances of line twitter and moiré in some of the episodes. Each episode has been divided into 8 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. It’s a very typical sound recording for its era with dialogue, music, and sound effects all expertly blended into the single track. With the show being so dialogue-heavy, it’s good that the speech has been so well recorded; there is never any problem with understanding what anyone is saying. Though most of the episodes exhibit a clear and clean soundtrack, there is occasional light hiss with some (but certainly not all) of the episodes.
There are no bonus features with this set.
The first disc does offer promo trailers for Barnaby Jones, Matt Houston, and Mannix.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Another entertaining and nicely produced package of Perry Mason episodes is now available. With excellent performances and crackerjack storytelling and now with more than half of the original series released on disc, Perry Mason continues to appeal to the mystery lover in us all.