Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper. There have been decades of followers, but there's still only one Perry Mason ! The father of all courtroom dramas returns with 19 episodes from season two, packed with penetrating cross-examinations, surprise witnesses, shocking confessions and last-minute bombshells on 4 DVDs. 1958-59/b&w/12 hrs., 53 min/NR/fullscreen.
There's something about Perry! Perry Mason, as a canny 14-year-old remarks in the episode "The Case of the Pint-Sized Client," is "the best lawyer in town." Here's the evidence. In 15 chronological second-season episodes from the classic series by which all lawyer shows are judged, Los Angeles attorney Perry Mason successfully defends a host of clients so seemingly guilty that Nancy Grace would have had them incarcerated by the first commercial break. Created by Erle Stanley Gardner, Mason was already a popular character in books, films, and radio before coming to television in 1957, and Raymond Burr, usually typecast as a heavy in feature films, did Mason justice (Mason was ranked 28th on the Bravo network's list of television's 100 best characters). Punctuating his sentences with that dramatic intake of breath, Burr's Mason exudes gravitas and expertise. He gets capable support from Barbara Hale as his secretary, Della Street, and William Hopper as private detective Paul Drake.
In what may be television's most thankless role, William Talman costars as district attorney Hamilton Burger, who nearly every week loses what looked to be an open-and-shut case, usually as the result of some dramatic surprise witness (in one episode, a parrot!), an unorthodox legal maneuver, or a cross-examination courtroom confession ("I didn't mean to kill him, your honor"). There is no delving into Mason's private life, although one episode hints at Mason being something of a ladies man. When Della suggestively tells him a new client is in his waiting room, he replies, "Blonde or brunette?" Cleverly plotted, and infused with a palpable noir sensibility , Perry Mason holds up as more than TV Land nostalgia, although it is fun to see such familiar faces as Jesse "the Maytag Repairman" White, Edgar Buchanan (Petticoat Junction), and Joseph Kearns and Herbert Anderson from Dennis the Menace. No extras, but these entertaining episodes will definitely please the court. --Donald Liebenson