Paramount // 1963 // 759 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // August 21st, 2012
"Your Honor, may I ask a question of voir dire?"
If it pleases the court, before we get to examining the contents of Perry Mason: Season 7, Volume 1, I'd like to begin with a tale -- perhaps apocryphal -- that addresses a common frustration shared by the iconic defense attorney's fans and detractors alike.
Reportedly, actor Raymond Burr (so successful in the title role as to become synonymous with it) was once confronted by a regular viewer who demanded to know how and why "he won every single case" he tried. "But, madame," Burr replied. "You only see the cases I try on Saturday."
By the fall of 1963, the Godfather of all television courtroom dramas had moved to Thursday nights, where things got a bit rougher. Still among the season's top thirty programs, the legal eagle's ratings had nonetheless fallen an alarming 6.2 points from their peak four years prior. Perhaps it's not so surprising, given that (as a rule) Perry Mason stuck so closely to formula you could practically set your watch by any given episode. Nine times out of ten, Mason defended accused murderers, but quaint polite accused murderers you'd never suspect in a million years; aside from the seemingly insurmountable walls of evidence built against them. You might suspect all this deadly business should result in substantial portions of blood and gore, but Mason's fans knew if TV violence was what they sought, they'd better start looking around for something a bit wilder...like Hazel or The Jimmy Dean Show.
On the evening of 21 November 1963, CBS presented "The Case Of The Floating Stones," a pleasantly old-fashioned tale of diamond smugglers, partially set in Hong Kong (where many a fortune cookie philosophy, delivered in deadpan, substitutes for ancient Oriental wisdom). Expertly crafted to its predictable climax, the guilty party breaks down and confesses all before God, country, and the Los Angeles County courthouse.
The following day, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a sunny crowded downtown street in Dallas, Texas. For the next four days, television devoted itself exclusively to reporting on this act of senseless brutality and its international aftershocks. Perhaps it's not so surprising then, given the circumstances, that viewers subsequently found it more difficult to warm up to urbane, bloodless, and soulless murders (how often did anyone actually mourn the loss of a victim on this series?) being committed on a weekly basis?
Perversely, in the years that followed, Kennedy's death transformed from a national tragedy to a parlor game for conspiracy theorists, who've spawned a cottage industry of books, films, and television productions devoted to connecting-the-dots, however tenuous they may be. Case in point: Actress Karyn Kupcinet, a guest star in "The Case Of The Capering Camera," the fifteenth and final episode of Perry Mason, Season 7, Volume 1.
The daughter of legendary Chicago Sun Times columnist Irv "Kup" Kupcinet, Karyn was just 22 years old when found dead in her West Hollywood apartment, apparently the victim of strangulation on Thanksgiving Day 1963; a murder that remains unsolved. The Karyn to Kennedy connection first surfaced in "Forgive My Grief II," self-published book by Penn Jones in 1967, alleging the late actress was behind a strange phone call fielded by an Oxnard, California operator, who claimed an unidentified woman predicted the President's murder some twenty minutes before it actually occurred.
Jones' theory was heavy on conjecture and light on facts (for one thing, he listed November 24 as the date of her death, thus placing it closer to the time of the assassination), but Karyn's name remains inextricably linked to the late president's murder, and can be easily located on several current Internet conspiracy sites. Fact: "The Case Of The Capering Camera," Karyn's final performance, was originally broadcast exactly seven weeks after her death.
Conspiracy theorists take note: Karyn Kupcinet is only one of two ill-fated young starlets whose final work appears in this set.
A smoldering blond named Kate Manx enlivens "The Case of the Nebulous Nephew," an otherwise medium-boiled caper centered a pair of sweet Aunties swindled out of their inheritance money. Born Kathryn Mylorie, the native Californian made her first big splash on Broadway in the hit musical Two On The Aisle, before stocking her resume with a number of movie and television credits. Recently divorced from Leslie Stevens (creator of The Outer Limits), Manx succumbed to an overdose of sleeping pills on 15 November 15 1964, tragically leaving a two year old son behind.
These and a dozen other equally enjoyable episodes are presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full screen, with clear Dolby 2.0 Mono sound, the quality of which remains top notch. There are no bonus features, but the optional English captioning qualifies as a bonus in my book.
As I mentioned earlier, things got a bit rough for Perry this season and dedicated Masonites know what that means: this half-season release contains the infamous case that Perry Mason lost. As I've no wish to spoil the experience, I'll neither elaborate on the episode's plot, nor reveal its title. Don't you just love a mystery?
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 759 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated