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DVD Review Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 2 DVD Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 2 DVD Review

After bringing back the beloved character of Perry Mason for a series of made-for-TV films in 1985, Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale, Perry Mason and Della Street from the original CBS series, continued with the very popular if not universally acclaimed movies in another sequence of six tele-movies in this newest volume produced from 1987-1989. CBS/Paramount first released these next six features in May in a three-disc, six-movie package, and now these same films are being offered in separate releases for $16.99 each on September 9. They are the same discs as released before without the slipcase to hold all three full-sized DVD cases, but the price is actually better if one buys them separately.

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Studio: Paramount

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English 2.0 DD

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 9 Hr. 30 Min.

Package Includes: DVD

separate Amaray cases in three volumes

Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)

Region: 1

Release Date: 09/09/2014

MSRP: $58.99 or $16.99 apiece




The Production Rating: 3.5/5

Fans of the title character often favor the original series over the movie specials though these longer efforts certainly have their champions. Watching them again reveals that most of the films don’t really give the audience much of a chance for solving the crimes themselves, and there is more than a little formula at play in some of these efforts. The first film The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel sets the formula in motion with Perry and Della called in to investigate the murder of a scandal sheet publisher (Robert Guillaume) who they learn held scandalous blackmail-worthy information on four prime citizens, the obvious suspects for his murder rather than their client, a young reporter recently fired for wanting to write noteworthy pieces instead of gossip. As in the previous six movies, Paul Drake Jr. (William Katt, Barbara Hale’s real-life son) acts as investigator for Perry although unlike his famous father, he’s not very good at his job often taking a pounding or overlooking the obvious. The producers always make sure there’s a pretty girl around for him to romance, another formulaic device in the series that by this time has gotten very old. This installment does feature a couple of excellent “boo” moments which take the viewer completely by surprise though direction is a bit careless with a boom mic dipping into the scene in one shot and James McEachin (here playing a van driver though he had earlier played a detective sergeant in the films and would continue to play this police officer in several other entries) being allowed to overact shamefully.The Case of the Avenging Ace finds Perry’s newly acquired client, an Air Force colonel (Larry Wilcox), being framed for a second murder within an eighteen month period, an obvious set-up to all but the legal system who charges him for killing a defense witness in the first murder case after he was abducted from the courthouse by an unknown man running around the Denver area in a bright red plaid jacket, long brown hair, and a bushy beard (which, of course, no one but Paul Drake ever manages to see). Again, Drake makes more mistakes than smart moves and barely escapes with his life a couple of times, but he’s also rewarded with another comely lass by film’s end, and the real perpetrator, impossible to guess from the clues provided but satisfying once revealed, is brought to justice. As usual, prosecutor Michael Reston (David Ogden Stiers) ends with egg on his face.William Katt has his Perry Mason swan song in The Case of the Lady in the Lake, the best of the six adventures in this collection. Oh, his Paul Drake, Jr. still stumbles and bumbles his way through the investigation sustaining a bottle over the head, getting shot at, and a quite shocking car accident, but the mystery of a possible murder/possible suicide of the wife of a retired tennis pro (David Hasselhoff) is a good one filled with twists and turns and a relatively effective surprise reveal at the end by Perry who, once again, does in the ever dogged Michael Reston of David Ogden Stiers.Katt’s eventual replacement as Perry’s leg man makes his first appearance in the next story The Case of the Lethal Lesson. Ken Malansky (William R. Moses) is one of Perry’s law students, and he’s accused of murdering the man who allegedly raped Ken’s girl friend. The episode marks the first of several successive appearances of Ken’s wealthy, wacky ex-girl friend Amy (Alexandra Paul) who spends the ninety minutes tiresomely playing Nancy Drew in attempting to get Ken off (she’s still smitten with him). It’s a locked room mystery which eventually comes down to the culprit being one of Perry’s other four law students who has set up Ken to take the fall. It’s a relatively easy case to solve for a change but still an above average mystery.Which also goes for the next one in the set: The Case of the Musical Murder. The tyrannical director of a Broadway-bound musical comedy is murdered in the theater after hours, and the production stage manager is arrested for the crime since the director had fired him that day. However, Perry, seeing the young man drunk outside at the time of the murder, knows he didn’t commit it and thus suspicion falls on the show’s star, producer, playwright, composer, and choreographer, all of whom had motives for killing him. The mystery is fine, but Perry’s backup help – now practicing attorney (with a small and dwindling client list) Ken Malansky and (still paying for the privilege of being around him) girl friend Amy – make rather anemic investigators (Della seems actually to be the one Perry turns to now to come up with background and source material on the suspects). James McEachin returns as newly promoted Lieutenant Brock and with a somewhat gentler demeanor toward Perry in this case.The weakest of the six mysteries is saved for last: The Case of the All-Star Assassin. A sports entrepreneur is killed in his home by a hit man and suspicion falls on a former hockey star and friend of Ken Malansky’s. However, at least four other people have stronger motives for having him killed: his wife, his son, his former business partner, and a star athlete. The face of the killer is shown during the murder, and he spends much of the rest of the movie eluding Ken and Amy who are hot on his trail (rather foolhardy since he has a gun and all they have is their good looks for protection). Amy’s particular brand of impulsiveness and naiveté is especially off-putting as she simpers and sniffs through various perilous encounters. She seems to have no indication of how dangerous her poking around is, and it’s through sheer luck that she isn’t dead by the end of the episode. The mystery is fine until the end when the plotting seems to fall apart in a rather preposterous turn of events. The writing from here on out is rather hit and miss for these TV movies.The guest star line-up for these six films is sterling. Among the famous faces glimpsed are (apart from those already named above) Morgan Brittany, George Grizzard, Wings Hauser, Yaphet Kotto, Patty Duke, Charles Siebert, Don Galloway, David Hasselhoff, John Beck, John Ireland, Audra Lindley, Brian Keith, Debbie Reynolds, Jerry Orbach, Lori Petty, Deidre Hall, Bruce Greenwood, Shari Bellafonte, Pernell Roberts, and Jason Beghe.


Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA

The films are presented in their broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Image quality improves as one goes deeper into the box set. The first two films seem to be somewhat softer in appearance and feature some occasional smeared color in certain scenes. The second episode also has a couple of videotape anomalies that interrupt the stability of the image. Later episodes, especially the final four, display very clean transfers and good to very good color renditions with accurate flesh tones. Sharpness comes and goes within the episodes possibly due to soft focus photography on some of the older players and on some of the ladies, but that’s not always the case. Black levels are only average to slightly above in all but the last case which features excellent black levels. Because there is no anamorphic enhancement, there are moiré patterns and aliasing to be seen on a fairly regular basis. Each episode has been divided into 9 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound mix features well-recorded dialogue tracks while the music gets a wonderful spread through the soundstage while again never overpowering the all-important dialogue with the films. Sound effects like gunshots, wrecks, and flat tires have sufficient weight to make them believable within the confines of the movies.


Special Features Rating: 0/5

There are no bonus features at all with this release.A note on packaging: two films are each assigned one DVD, but each double feature disc is contained in its own Amaray case taking up much more room than if the set had been done in a single case with leaves or in slimline cases. Buyers of future releases might be better served with more space-saving ideas when packaging these movies for the consumer.


Overall Rating: 3.5/5

For those fans of Perry Mason who not only want the complete series of television episodes as well as all of the TV-movie presentations, these six additional TV films contained in Volume 2 of the Perry Mason Movie Collection get us to 1989 in the history of their production.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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Darby67

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Sean
Matt:

Terrific review of the set. I'm so glad to add the television movies to my Perry Mason collection.

Darby
 

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