Case Number 23177: Small Claims Court


Paramount // 1963 // 709 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // January 22nd, 2012

The Charge

"A variety of animals have been accused, legally indicted and tried in the past. In Switzerland, in 1474, a rooster was tried and sentenced to death for the crime of laying an egg. And at Ottone, in the same century, the city's rats were charged with being a public nuisance, and won their case. -- Perry Mason (Raymond Burr)

The Case

It's a twisted path that runs through the back fourteen episodes of Perry Mason's sixth season. Shortly into the first episode, * "The Case Of The Prankish Professor," something definitely seems amiss. First off, Mason is working with the murder suspect he'll defend before the murder has been discovered! Soon after the inevitable trail commences, Prosecutor Hamilton Burger (William Talman) reasonably objects to what he calls "incompetent, improper cross-examination, and it assumes a fact not in evidence." The same prosecutor is later advised to object by the judge, who chastises Mason for tactics "quite improper." Mason then goes on to goad the wrong person into confessing before eventually identifying the actual murderer, with virtually no clues to lead him!

It's hardly surprising that the next quartet of episodes finds Mason recuperating in hospital while others take over his duties. According to Barbara Hale, who played Mason's longtime "Girl Friday" Della Street, Burr was scheduled to enter the hospital for an operation at the end of 1962, and would require a month to recuperate. In order to deal with the defense lawyer's absence, the writers simply borrowed from reality, writing Mason into an extended convalescence, shooting scenes of a pajama-clad Raymond Burr dealing (primarily by phone) with his four substitutes, all of whom are ably assisted by Ms. Street and Mason's private detective, Paul Drake (William Hopper Myra Breckenridge). Happily with episode six, our hero makes a full recovery and returns to business as usual, valorously defending a rogues gallery of typical (read white and affluent) Mason clients.

Court is now in session! On Perry Mason's docket from 17 January 1963 through 16 May 1963...

Disc One
* "The Case Of The Prankish Professor" -- Professor Hewes (Barry Atwater, Pork Chop Hill) decides to play a trick on his class by having a gunman burst in and shoot him. Unfortunately, the gun was loaded with real bullets.

* "The Case Of Constant Doyle" -- "Anyone can hold the client's hand...while the prosecution rattles off enough facts to bind the client over." -- Attorney Constant Doyle. Two-time Oscar winner Bette Davis (Dangerous) steps into the title character's shoes, playing a recently widowed attorney, saddled with a very James Dean-like client, played by the underrated Michael Parks (Then Came Bronson).

* "The Case Of The Libelous Locket" -- "If you could cross a parrot with a jackass, you'd have the perfect trial lawyer." -- Edward Lindley, Ph.D. Venerable character actor Michael Rennie (The Day The Earth Stood Still) plays a law professor who comes down from his ivory tower to defend one of his night class students.

* "The Case Of The Two-Faced Turn-a-bout" -- "Some trial lawyers are frustrated actors." -- Playboy/Secret Agent/Attorney Bruce Jason. Television icon Hugh O'Brian (The Life And Legend Of Wyatt Earp) plays the he-man hyphenate in an interesting tale of political intrigue that feels like a proposed spin-off pilot.

Disc Two
* "The Case Of The Surplus Suitor" -- "Ditch Perry and come to work for me." -- Attorney Sherman Hatfield to Della Street. Two-time best actor Oscar nominee Walter Pidgeon (Madame Curie) lends his distinct charm, pinch hitting for Perry during the last of the "absentee" episodes.

* "The Case Of The Golden Oranges" -- Perry's back on the case, as a property rights dispute leads to murder over what Burger calls "a grove so valuable that its Oranges can literally be described as golden."

* "The Case Of The Lawful Lazarus" -- Ten years after taking a powder on his wife and children, Trevor Harris (David McLean, Tate) returns to find he's been declared legally dead and considered the prime suspect in a murder.

* "The Case Of The Velvet Claws" -- Perry's latest client retains him under false pretenses, lies habitually, and eventually pins the murder of her husband on him, but he just can't quit her!

Disc Three
* "The Case Of The Lover's Leap" -- Perry's client has been charged with the murder of a construction magnate, but he's holding things up by demanding proof the man is actually dead.

* "The Case Of The Elusive Element" -- Perry comes in for a simple dissolution of business partnership, but when one partner ends up dead and the other the prime suspect, it looks like overtime for the Mason law office.

* "The Case Of The Greek Goddess" A frustrated, love-struck sculptor asks Perry about how he can legally rid himself of his mother-in-law's presence, and then she ends up dead.

Disc Four
* "The Case Of The Skeleton's Closet" -- This murder tale contains two confessions. The first comes from Perry's client, who protests her innocence. The second comes from the actual murderer...and more than that I will not say!

* "The Case Of The Potted Planter" -- Everything heats up in a greenhouse; passion, rage...

* "The Case Of The Witless Witness" -- "Even the devil has his advocate, I assume your case is better than his." Thus, Perry agrees to defend a federal judge accused of murder and obstructing a Senate subcommittee investigation.

The audio and video quality of these digitally remastered restorations continues to amaze. Though there are moments that betray bits of dirt and drop-off, they are just moments...and rare indeed. Say what you will about Paramount's insistence on breaking these seasons into halves and skimping on extras, but you can't deny you'll get what you pay for.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2012 P.S. Colbert; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 709 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb