Paramount // 1962 // 773 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // December 22nd, 2010
"Mr. Mason, everything they have against me is circumstantial."
One evening while I was screening this set, I took a break to catch Psych. James Roday was doing a cutup impression of a lawyer in a courtroom, defending a polar bear accused of murder. Even without the timing, I couldn't have avoided flashbacks to Raymond Burr's Perry Mason, one of TV's most famous series. Sadly, Perry Mason never defended a polar bear, but if he had, I'm sure the polar bear would have been acquitted.
The historic TV drama, based on novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, ran from 1957 to 1966. Perry Mason: Season 5, Volume 2 contains fifteen episodes from 1962, about the midpoint of the series' run.
Fifteen episodes are included on four discs:
* "The Case of the Shapely Shadow"
A secretary asks Perry Mason to help her find out what's in the suitcase her boss gave her. It turns out to be cash -- which turns out to be trouble when the boss turns up dead. From an Erle Stanley Gardner novel.
* "The Case of the Captain's Coins"
The boyfriend of a shipping magnate's niece is seen running from the scene when the magnate is found dead and a valuable medal is discovered missing.
* "The Case of the Tarnished Trademark"
A furniture maker finds that shoddy furniture is being made under his name and his children's hospital plans have been thwarted. Did he bash someone's skull in?
* "The Case of the Glamorous Ghost"
A woman seen running through a park says she doesn't remember what happened, which makes her a prime suspect when a body turns up. From an Erle Stanley Gardner novel.
* "The Case of the Poison Pen-Pal"
A businessman hires Paul Drake when he discovers that his daughter's pen pal is asking too many questions about an upcoming merger. There's a murder upcoming, too.
* "The Case of the Mystified Miner"
Perry's client shows a bogus boss around the office and winds up accused of murder. From an Erle Stanley Gardner novel.
* "The Case of the Crippled Cougar"
A missing gun, stolen securities, and an old grudge make Perry's oil-driller client a murder suspect.
* "The Case of the Absent Artist"
At a party, Perry's client takes a swing at the retiring cartoonist who's running off with his girlfriend. Naturally, the cartoonist later turns up dead. Zasu Pitts and Victor Buono guest.
* "The Case of the Melancholy Marksman"
Perry's client actually did consider killing his wife, but he says he didn't do it. William Schallert guests.
* "The Case of the Angry Astronaut"
Paul believes his client, an astronaut, guilty of murder but asks Perry to defend the man nonetheless. James Coburn guests.
* "The Case of the Borrowed Baby"
Perry and Della stop at the office after a dinner out to find a baby in Perry's in basket. Della agrees to babysit, and Perry agrees to defend the mother when there's a murder.
* "The Case of the Counterfeit Crank"
Is throwing thousands of dollars out a window crazy? Maybe not, but it leads to the arrest of Perry's client for the murder of his nephew.
* "The Case of the Ancient Romeo"
Perry and Della are in the audience for a staging of Romeo & Juliet that ends with a real-life stabbing. Perry's actor friend is accused of murder.
* "The Case of the Promoter's Pillbox"
A Hollywood trickster plans to run off with the money raised to finance a TV pilot. The pilot's writer is accused of murder.
* "The Case of the Lonely Eloper"
Was a dead aunt what a 21-year-old heiress wanted for her birthday? Possibly, but Paul and Perry believe her when she says she didn't do it.
As with the last set of Perry Mason I reviewed, most of these episodes gave me the feeling that I'd watched them before, years ago, but I had only vague memories of them. While the general image of Perry Mason's courtroom style stuck with me, the stories often feel interchangeable, with a strange hook early on, such as a kid asking an office worker to watch a shoebox "treasure" which turns out to be cash, a dramatic courtroom revelation at the end, and a lot of filler in-between. The performances are mostly good, but there can be a lot of slow moments.
That's not always true, though. Some of the episodes in this set -- "The Case of the Mystified Miner," "The Case of the Angry Astronaut," and "The Case of the Ancient Romeo" -- actually get outside the courtroom to liven things up a bit. The change of scenery does make for stronger episodes. "The Case of the Angry Artist" uses some offbeat beat characters to give the show more humor than usual.
I did notice something in these episodes that I hadn't seen before, though. Hearing the cast comments in Perry Mason: 50th Anniversary Edition, I became aware that the show often dropped in vague hints of romance between Perry and Della. I never noticed these before then, but Perry and Della are often seen out together beyond office hours, and Della occasionally drops a hint about wanting to get married. These also lead to another TV detective cliché: You just don't want to be in the vicinity when Perry and Della are out on a date, since there could be a murder. In fact, run for your life if you see Perry, Paul, or Della anywhere near you, since these episodes tend to put the regulars on the scene a lot.
Picture and sound quality are good for these black-and-white episodes.
The courtroom jokes on Psych point up Perry Mason's biggest flaw: William Talman's DA Hamilton Burger just isn't an effective foil for Raymond Burr's Perry Mason. Psych's Carlton Lassiter usually loses out to Shawn Spencer and can be goofy, but he doesn't appear incompetent at his job. Burger is overruled by the judge at every turn and ends up looking like a pleading child ("But, Mr. Mason, you said yesterday..."); he's just pathetic.
Perry Mason is readily available online and on TV in some markets. Considering that, CBS should have included some extras to make this set a better buy, especially since the show's emphasis on the mysteries makes it less likely that you'll watch these over and over again.
While serious collectors of Perry Mason will want this set, casual fans looking for a nostalgia fix would probably do better with the Perry Mason: 50th Anniverary Edition set. It's got the best guest-star moments (including Burt Reynolds' appearance in "Counterfeit Crank") and trickiest cases in just twelve episodes. It's also got extras with background on the series. I do appreciate CBS for covering all bases with its Perry Mason sets, though.
Perry Mason is a good show, but the quality of the episodes here is uneven. Some viewers might find that the series doesn't always live up to the memories or its reputation.
The show's not guilty, although the set could have been plumped up.
Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 773 Minutes
Release Year: 1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated