Monday, June 3, 2013

Perry Mason: Season 7 Volume 2 DVD Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
“Perry Mason,” the popular TV franchise that inspired a genre of courtroom dramas returns with the second half of the seventh season. Raymond Burr continues igniting the screen as a brilliant attorney who will stop at nothing to crack the most impossible cases to uncover the truth.  This Emmy Award winning court drama stars Raymond Burr and all fifteen episodes have been digitally re-mastered on four discs and include guest stars like Ryan O’Neil, Paul Winchell, Barry Atwater, David McCallum, Jackie Coogan, William Smith, Stacy Keach Sr., Jerry Van Dyke, Joyce Meadows, Victor Buono, Malachi Throne, Michael Ansara, Neil Hamilton, Ann Rutherford, Ford Rainey and William Boyett., Les Tremayne, Jeanne Cooper, Tom Greenway, Arthur Franz,  Richard Devon, Mala Powers, Holly McIntire, Sue Randall, Jacques Aubuchon, Douglas Lambert, Rebecca Welles, Jena Engstrom, Peter Hobbs, Mimsy Farmer, Mark Slade, Malcolm Atterbury, Constance Towers, and many many more!


Show (4 out of 5 stars) 

Erle Stanley Gardner’s character of Perry Mason is one of the most popular characters in literature and Mason’s exploits have been adapted for radio dramas, comic strips, films, and of course the best known one is this television show starring Raymond Burr as Mason.  There’s a good reason why this show is the adaption that they think of as it was brilliantly cast and well written and directed.  Perry Mason was also one of the most successful and longest running law shows as it ran for nine years with 271 episodes and even after it went off the air, it returned almost twenty years later as made for TV movies spanning another ten years with an additional thirty movies to cap its run.
The show’s formula was as consistent as it was successful –  the episodes start with the audience being introduced to someone that is either crooked in some fashion or completely annoying and sometimes both. This person is almost inevitably going to be killed soon.  Once that happens, an innocent person will be accused of the crime and a viable argument is made as to their motive for murder and that person wisely hires ace attorney Perry Mason to save them. The second half of these episodes involve Perry, his secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) and his detective Paul Drake (William Hopper) investigate what happened and the case goes before a judge in a preliminary hearing where things look grim for the client until Mason either gets someone else to implicate themselves or prove that someone else did it with some last minute evidence supplied by Drake while the court is in session.
Even though the show sticks to that formula almost without variation, that doesn’t change how inventive and clever the show was and why it’s been copied by other shows since.  What makes it different from similar shows, is that each script had to have two solutions as to why the accused person would have killed the victim – the first one that’s false that Mason has to disprove, and the second one which is what actually happened, with both of them being completely believable.  Another reason the show was so good is the cast of this show starting with Raymond Burr as the unflappable Perry Mason.  Burr had the gravitas needed for the role and the show rightfully revolves around his character.  It’s a tricky role to play as even in the books the show is based on, there isn’t a whole lot of information about Mason that reveals much about him. Mason is ethical but is more than willing to bend some rules to help his clients and is always in contention with District Attorney Hamilton Burger (William Talman).  Burger and the rest of the cast are also very good in their supporting roles.
This set comes near the end of the series and it’s not as razor sharp as the earlier season were, but it’s still better than most of the shows we currently have on television now.  By this point, the cast has settled comfortably into their roles and their chemistry is still fantastic.  Some of the episodes like “The Case of the Bountiful Beauty” are better than others thanks to a better script and some good guest stars like Ryan O’Neal and Sandra Warner.  During the show’s run, it was the launching pad for many young actors who would go on to be big stars like Robert Redford. This season’s stars included Paul Winchell, Barry Atwater, David McCallum, Jackie Coogan, William Smith, Stacy Keach Sr., Jerry Van Dyke, Joyce Meadows, Malachi Throne, Michael Ansara, Ann Rutherford, and William Boyett just to name a few.
Here are the episodes for this set:
  1. “The Case of the Ice-Cold Hands”
  2. “The Case of the Bountiful Beauty”
  3. “The Case of the Nervous Neighbor”
  4. “The Case of the Fifty-Millionth Frenchman”
  5. “The Case of the Frightened Fisherman”
  6. “The Case of the Arrogant Arsonist”
  7. “The Case of the Garrulous Go-Between”
  8. “The Case of the Woeful Widower”
  9. “The Case of the Simple Simon”
  10. “The Case of the Illicit Illusion”
  11. “The Case of the Antic Angel,”
  12. “The Case of the Careless Kidnapper”
  13. “The Case of the Drifting Dropout”
  14. “The Case of the Tandem Target”
  15. “The Case of the Ugly Duckling”

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

Perry Mason’s black and white transfer is 1.33:1 full frame and looks very good for a show over 50 years old.  The black and white film looks sharp and detailed.  The textures really pop out, especially the many plaid jackets seen in the show (as seen above).  Contrast is excellent and the black levels are fairly dark and solid.  This isn’t a perfect transfer but it’s really good for a show this old and one that’s on DVD.  I wish I could see this on Blu-ray but this remastered set is the best that’s available right now and worth getting.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars) 

Perry Mason’s Dolby Digital Mono track is serviceable but it’s nothing to write home about.  It works well enough for this show as all of the dialogue is clearly understandable and clean sounding, but don’t expect much more than that. The sound effects sound decent but there’s been no effort to make this track into a surround mix or to sound more modern.  All in all though, it does what it needs to do and for a show like this it’s just fine.

Extras (0 out of 5 stars) 

This set has no special features which is a shame since it will bring down the overall score.

Summary (3 out of 5 stars) 

Perry Mason has long been my favorite lawyer show and I can remember watching it every day during my summer vacations when school was out.  Seeing it again with this new remastered video makes me appreciate it even more but I wish they had done more with the audio and had included some extras with it.  Despite that, this is a great set and one that fans of the show should pick up.  I’ve heard that Paramount is planning to speed up the release schedule of the remaining sets for the show, so hopefully we will be seeing some more Perry Mason soon!
Order your copy today!

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