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Perry Mason - Season Two, Vol. 1
DVD | Box Set
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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
- 15 episodes from the 1958-1959 season on 4 discs
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The acting in the Perry Mason series is superb. As was the case for a lot of TV series which started in the 50s, most of the cast were veteran film performers. Even the guest stars are rock solid, offering a mix of veteran talent and young up-and comers who would go on to make major names for themselves.
The complex and entertaining relationships between the main characters is another element that made the show such a success. Perry Mason, Della Street, and Paul Drake are given a definite sense of relaxed comfort as friends. Even though Lt. Tragg is always an adversary, once the case is over Tragg and Mason share grins and a feeling of mutual professional respect. Hamilton Burger, the DA, is constantly frustrated and infuriated by Mason's tactics. However, even Burger and Mason share friendly moments at times during the series. And when Burger himself ran into a legal problem on a couple of occasions, who did he go to?
The TV series is based on the most popular series of lawyer/murder mysteries books in history. Erle Stanley Gardner, himself a talented lawyer, wrote enthusiastically received mysteries for almost forty years. In this second season, some of the shows are still loosely based on actual novels, such as the very surprising "Case of the Caretaker's Cat". Perry Mason TV shows, much like the novels themselves, are very even. Although a few shows stand out, I never saw what I considered to be a stinker.
If you are a long time fan of the Perry Mason series, you can buy this presentation with confidence. Not only does the transfer to DVD make this show look great, but a few minutes of footage are included on each show that probably have not been seen since the original run. Subsequent showings on local or cable channels normally had a few minutes chopped out to get more time for commercials.
The pricing on this series has been reduced dramatically over the last couple of years, making it an even better deal. Obviously, unless you find yourself always bored by black and white TV shows, or shows with more "old-fashioned" moral sensibilities, I can highly recommend this series to you.
Raymond Burr had some good roles in films, but will always be remembered for the tough defense attorney you wanted on your side in the toughest jam. Barbara Hale was his pretty secretary, Della Street, who kept Perry human and was in love with him. William Hopper was the dapper detective, Paul Drake. He had a playful and flirtatious relationship with Della but every viewer knew that secretly her heart belonged to Perry.
William Talman as D.A. Hamilton Burger was the perfectly cast guy you almost felt sorry for, as just when he was ready to gloat over his victory in court, Perry would spring his client by revealing the real killer, once again defeating poor old Burger. The relationship of these four people made the mood and mystery of the often gripping conclusion fun to watch. There has never been anything close to it in genre on television since. Its mix of drama, noir, and humor, and its truly likable characters, made for terrific viewing.
Erle Stanley Gardner's original creation of Perry Mason was a bit more two-fisted pulp type reading, but slowly grew into something resembling the show when it became so popular. Gardner's Perry Mason novels, begun decades before the show and continuing for decades more, are still fun to read. The same can be said of every single show in the series.
The second season cemented Perry, Della, Paul, and even Burger and Lt. Trag as weekly visitors into the homes of a large section of Americans. Like the novels, the title of every episode began with "The Case of-" and each one had some wonderful moments, both in and out of the courtroom. Just as with the first release, the second season will be split into two releases, half the season's episodes on each release. The full episode list for season two is as follows:
The Case of the Corresponding Corpse---The Case of the Lucky Loser---The Case of the Pint-Sized Client---The Case of the Sardonic Sergeant---The Case of the Curious Bride--The Case of the Buried Clock---The Case of the Married Moonlighter---The Case of the Jilted Jockey--- The Case of the Purple Woman---The Case of the Fancy Figures---The Case of the Perjured Parrot---The Case of the Shattered Dream---The Case of the Borrowed Brunette---The Case of the Glittering Goldfish---The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll---The Case of the Fraudulent Foto---The Case of the Romantic Rogue---The Case of the Jaded Joker---The Case of the Caretaker's Cat---The Case of the Stuttering Bishop---The Case of the Lost Last Act---The Case of the Bedeviled Doctor---The Case of the Howling Dog---The Case of the Calendar Girl--- The Case of the Petulant Partner---The Case of the Dangerous Dowager---The Case of the Deadly Toy---The Case of the Spanish Cross---The Case of the Dubious Bridegroom---The Case of the Lame Canary
It seems that almost everything on television is getting a DVD release as of late, many of little or no significance. Perry Mason was not only a terrific show, but an important part of television history, and our culture as Americans. TV didn't get any better, and only on rare occasions was it as good. Just a fantastic show, both entertaining and, today, nostalgic. A can't miss.