At this rate it’s going to be quite some time before you complete your collection. I’m not even sure that DVD will still be a viable format before the end of the series on DVD. It’s another half season, and the episodes continue to fly at us at a snail’s pace. But, slow and steady wins the race, and as long as the quality episodes continue to deliver that classic Mason charm and style, I guess folks like us will continue to come back for more.
Erle Stanley Gardner wrote crime fiction, and while many of his 100 or so works are unknown to most of us, he created a character that has become as identified with criminal lawyers as any other in fiction. It was in these crime novels that Perry Mason first faced a courtroom. He developed a style where he would investigate these terrible crimes his clients were on trial for. He would find the real killer, and in what has become a Hollywood cliché, reveal his findings in a crucial moment during the trial. While we may not remember the novels, we all remember the man in the persona of Raymond Burr. Burr had a commanding presence on our screens and enjoyed a well deserved 11 year run as the clever lawyer. What makes this run so amazing is that the show followed pretty much the same pattern the entire time. We always know what’s going to happen, but we wait eagerly for that gotcha moment when Perry faces the witness on the stand. We know when he’s got the guy squarely in his sights, and we can’t sit still waiting for him to pull the trigger. OK, so maybe that’s a little over the top, but so was Perry Mason. From the moment you heard that distinctive theme, the stage was set. To say that Perry Mason defined the lawyer show for decades would be an understatement. Folks like Matlock and shows like The Practice are strikingly similar to Perry Mason. If you haven’t checked this show out, this is your chance. See where it all began.
Raymond Burr did not carry the show on his own. There was a very fine cast of supporting characters. The most famous has to be his faithful secretary Della Street, played by Barbara Hale. The two were inseparable. Perry had the help of a good private investigator in the Raymond Chandler style. William Hopper played the tough as nails Paul Drake. One of Orson Welles’ famous Mercury Theater Players took on the part of Police Lt. Tragg. Ray Collins starred in Citizen Kane as the political party boss Gettys. He was a fine example of top talent working in television. Mason was often pitted against prosecutor Hamilton Burger, whose name too often reminded me of hamburgers. There wasn’t anything funny about Burger, however. He was a worthy opponent who drew the short straw most of the time because he was up against Perry Mason. The task was accomplished with a lot of style by William Talman, a one time evangelistic preacher.
The first half of the 4th season contains 16 episodes on 4 discs. The cases include: A victim who appears to be back from the grave ends up dead again. This time there are some bullet holes and a prime suspect. But, it’s Mason’s job to help out in The Case Of The Treacherous Toupee. Has a hoax kidnapping led to murder? That’s the question that faces Mason in The Case Of Ill Fated Faker. Perry Mason celebrated its 100th episode with The Case Of The Lavender Lipstick. Did a woman kill to inherit a cosmetics empire? Just ask Perry Mason. It’s no laughing matter when Perry Mason attempts to clear a clown framed for murder in The Case Of The Clumsy Clown. Elton John once pleaded: Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player. I guess piano player David Carpenter should have added being thrown off a cliff. That’s the deed Mason must unravel in The Case Of The Provocative Protégée. Ever notice how these television characters never get a real vacation? So much for Perry’s fishing excursion to Scotland. The Case Of The Nine Dolls gets in the way.
Each episode of Perry Mason is presented in its original full frame broadcast format. The episodes are in black & white. The picture quality is pretty good when you consider the age. Black levels are completely solid, allowing clean definition in the shading so necessary to a black & white presentation. The brightness is a little low at times, but nothing that muddles or damages an otherwise good looking print.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is basically there to service the dialog, and it does. There is some distortion during the theme when the music is considerably loud. If you keep in mind the source material, you can’t expect anything more than this.
We inch along to 300 episodes of the famous lawyer series. If you’re like me you always end up finishing the sets long before the next release comes out. “That’s what you get for gulping. Drink slow, but drink.”