Perry Mason: Season 2, Volume 1 – DVD Review

DVD available at Amazon.com

Creator:
Erle Stanley Gardner

Cast:
Raymond Burr….Perry Mason
Barbara Hale…..Della Street
William Hopper….Paul Drake
William Talman….Hamilton Burger
Ray Collins….Lt. Arthur Tragg

Paramount Home Entertainment presents Perry Mason: Season 2, Volume 1. Fifteen episodes on 4 DVDs. Episodes aired from Sept. 20, 1958 to Jan. 24, 1959. DVD released June 19, 2007.

The Show

For fans of Law and Order, Perry Mason offers a contrarian perspective of the legal process. Nowadays, we witness the detectives solve a crime and the prosecutors bring the guilty to their knees. They work as an efficient tag team of justice. Fifty years ago, the Law represented by Lt. Arthur Tragg and the Order presided over by D.A. Hamilton Burger were constantly getting embarrassed by the legal genius known as Perry Mason. Barney Fife had a higher conviction rate than this duo. If Mason was a member of the Mayberry bar, Otis would be a free man every weekend.

Even though the show flaunted the ineptitude of the law, audiences embraced the show. While Perry constantly proved his clients were innocent, he always exposed the real guilty parties. If he represented O.J. Simpson, he would have had the real killers confessing. Perry Mason proved to be a freshman sensation in the ratings. They didn’t do too much tinkering for the sophomore season except they toned down the relationship between Perry and Della Street, his secretary. During the first outing, there were hints that she didn’t mind working overtime in Perry’s legal briefs. This season the show emphasized that the two only had a working relationship. The subtle flirty clues have been scrubbed away. Della asks Perry about his completing his homework, letting us know that they don’t see each other overnight. While this lack of a clandestine romance took the spice out of the office, the writers didn’t play it safe with the crimes on the streets of Los Angeles.

The fifteen cases presented in this DVD set have a good number of twists and turns to keep you guessing until Perry points his finger at the real guilty party. The season kicks off with “The Case of the Corresponding Corpse.” Perry gets shocked when a dead client writes him a letter. Turns out that the client hadn’t died in an airline crash, but used the occasion to create a new life. He needs Perry’s help to rise from the grave, divorce his wife and marry his girlfriend. But a mystery person isn’t happy at the Lazarus Jr. routine and puts him back in the coffin. Perry has to figure out who killed his twice snuffed client. “The Case of the Married Moonlighter” shows the dangers of giving up your high paying job to teach the kids. A teacher has to work a night job at a greasy spoon diner to make ends meet. A drunk old pal shows up for food and to mock the teacher’s fate. After the drunk passes out, they discover his pockets are full of cash from a Poker game. The unconscious drunk gets taken to his apartment by the teacher. In the morning the drunk has been beaten to death. This is not a good hangover cure. The poor teacher is the main suspect. Can he prove his innocence? Can he afford Perry Mason’s attorney fees without turning to a life of crime? The big twist is one of the suspects is the original Maytag Repairmen. When you’re not fixing washers, you have time for a criminal lifestyle. “The Case of the Shattered Dream” has a husband with gambling problem decide to pay off his debt by cutting his wife’s rough diamond. The plan goes wrong when the diamond shatters and the husband is found dead. The wife needs Perry to prove she wasn’t out for revenge. The resolution is a great switcheroo. “The Case of the Jilted Jockey” tells about a horse race fixing scandal. The poor jockey discovers his tall wife is having an affair with a mobster. She wants him to hold back on his horse to collect a bribe from the mobster. When his horse loses steam in the home stretch, he’s the prime culprit for not winning the race. On top of it, the mobster ends up dead. The jockey finds himself riding two major charges. Perry has to take the reins.

“The Case of the Perjured Parrot” is legendary in TV mystery history. This is the episode that casual viewers of the show always mention when Perry Mason is brought up in cocktail conversations. A man is murdered in his vacation lodge. The only witness to the crime is the victim’s parrot. Turns out that the bird is part stool pigeon as it repeats what’s believed to be the final words spoken before the murder. Perry doesn’t buy the bird’s accusation against his client. He’s willing to grill the bird. The episode explores whether a parrot can be a sworn witness in a murder case. Exactly what does a bird witness swear upon? The Audubon Society Field Guide or a bucket of Col. Sanders’ Original Recipe? Amazingly enough this episode would become a reality. On First Person, Errol Morris discovered a murder with the witness being an African parrot. It can happen for real. “Perjured Parrot” also set precedence as the first mystery series to show a chalk or tape outline of the victim.

The first half of the second season of Perry Mason continued the quality scripts found in its freshman run. The stories featured interesting multiple suspects so that they weren’t slam dunk cases. Even if you spot the guilty bastard before the courtroom reveal, the performances will keep you watching. This also helps when you want to rewatch an episode. Unlike the epic first season that had 39 episodes, they reduced Perry’s caseload to 30 clients. Perry Mason didn’t suffer a sophomore slump with the lightened litigation. A half a century later and Perry Mason is still the standard for how to make an intriguing legal drama. Of course nowadays, they rarely have the cops and District Attorneys get trounced by the defense lawyer.

The Episodes
This first half of the second season episodes include “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” and “The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll.”

The DVD

VIDEO:
The picture is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white image is stellar with sharp details and great contrast. These prints don’t look a half a century old.

AUDIO:
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital Mono. The levels are good. You shouldn’t have to turn up the volume to hear the verdict. The dynamic range can be felt with the swaggering theme song.

EXTRAS:
None.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Perry Mason: Season 2, Volume 1
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

9
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

0
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
9
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
This is the third set of Perry Mason to be released in the last year. They aren’t coming out nearly fast enough for me. The caseload is addictive especially as Raymond Burr keeps fingering the truly guilty.