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Has it really been fifty TV seasons since Perry Mason destroyed the district attorney’s office in Los Angeles? He spent his career proving that the Los Angeles police department always got the wrong man. Many people scoff this off as mere Hollywood fiction. Others view the series as science fiction since it predicted L.A.’s District Attorney’s record against O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake and Phil Spector. Although their defense attorneys didn’t expose the real killers before the jurors. Perry Mason: 50th Anniversary Edition celebrates the series with a collection of twelve significant episodes from seasons three to nine. The stars come out to be cross examined by Perry in this set.
There’s plenty of future superstars popping up in small roles. “The Case of the Treacherous Toupee” lets a young Robert Redford play a son who discovers his dead stepfather is alive and canceling the inheritance. Burt Reynolds has a small role as the relative to a real estate investor who tosses his money to the wind in “The Case of the Counterfeit Crank.” Adam West (Batman) plays a nosy reporter in “The Case of the Barefaced Witness.” While other superstar names had bit parts, Bette Davis dominated “The Case of the Constant Doyle.” She’s a lawyer and this is her case. Perry makes a cameo on his own show to assist her. As explained by Barbara Hale (Della Street) and director Arthur Marx, Raymond Burr had to go into the hospital for a major operation that put him out of commission for a month. Instead of shutting down production, they brought on guest lawyers that Perry would contact via his hospital bed phone. Bette looks tough in the jail even with her fur coat. The most surprising of guest stars is Raymond Burr in “The Case of the Dead Ringer.” He plays an impostor trying to ruin Perry.
“The Case of the Deadly Verdict” gives us the impossible: Mason blows a case. This was as shocking as the day the Washington Generals beat the Harlem Globetrotters on Wide World of Sports. Like any great superstar, Perry doesn’t accept defeat easily. “The Case of the Twice Told Twist” is the only story filmed in color out of 271 episodes. The plot plays homage to Oliver Twist with a group of juveniles in a crime group. When they strip Perry’s car, they take his AM radio. Who wants buy a hot AM radio nowadays? While the episode isn’t promoted as having stars, it has two of my favorites actors. Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman from The Six Million Dollar Man) is the cop investigating the case. Victor Buono (King Tut on Batman) guides the youth gone wild. He seems so authoritative as he clocks the kids to improve their crime time. The color affects the acting. The pacing that works so well in black and white becomes stiff and telegraphed in full hues. Plus it’s weird to see Burr in color since the immediate reaction is I’m watching Ironsides: Before the Wheelchair.
“The Case of the Final Fade-Out” was the series finale. A disgruntled star of a successful TV series screws over the producers by refusing to sign his new contract. In the next scene, the star ends up shot to death by a prop gun loaded with real bullets. Amongst the suspects of the crime are Dick Clark, Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse from Dukes of Hazzard) and Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester on The Addams Family). The real surprise stars of the episode are the longtime Perry Mason crew members that got to step in front of the camera. Even Erle Stanley Gardner, Mason’s creator, gets a cameo. It’s a brilliant way to say goodbye without truly ending the series.
Perry Mason: 50th Anniversary Edition is a prime collection of a dozen cases. There are fans of the show that are frustrated that this was released instead of the first half of season three. Seeing how the series lasted nine seasons, that means we’re still seven years away from getting “The Case of the Final Fade-Out.” This is a great sampler of what’s to come in future Perry Mason releases.
“The Case of the Wary Wildcatter,” “The Case of the Treacherous Toupee,” “The Case of the Envious Editor,” “The Case of the Barefaced Witness,” “The Case of the Barefaced Witness,” “The Case of the Counterfeit Crank,” “The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe,” “The Case of the Constant Doyle,” “The Case of the Deadly Verdict,” “The Case of the Bountiful Beauty,” “The Case of the Twice-Told Twist,” “The Case of the Dead Ringer” and “The Case of the Final Fade-Out.”
The video is 1.33:1 full screen. The transfers are clean and crisp. These are much nicer than those beat up prints used for syndication. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are properly loud.
Introductions from Barbara Hale and Arthur Marx give us a little background about each episode.
Perry Mason Returns (1:35:34) is the TV movie from 1985. Perry has to step down from being a judge to represent Della Street against murder charges. William Katt (The Greatest American Hero) plays the son of Paul Drake.
Screen Tests (5/24/1956): (20:02) includes the producers trying out Raymond Burr as Hamilton Burger, William Hopper as Perry Mason and Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. This show could have been so much different if they’d flipped around the roles.
The Case of Erle Stanley Gardner (11:51) is a short biography on the author who created America’s greatest lawyer.
Interviews with Barbara Hale (19:55), producer-director Arthur Marks (18:47)and CBS executive Anne Nelson (4:52) give tons of information about the series.
Raymond Burr interviewed by Charlie Rose on CBS “Nightwatch” (12:09) is two interviews he did to promote the Perry Mason Movies in the mid-80s. Amazing how Charlie Rose doesn’t age.
Raymond Burr interviewed by Charles Collingwood on “Person to Person” (10/20/1960) (12:07)
Stump the Stars (11:27) has the cast of Perry Mason playing charades on this game show from 1963.
William Talman Anti-Smoking Message (8:03) is heartbreaking. He filmed this a few weeks before dying of lung cancer. He introduces us to his a family that includes six kids that he’ll soon be leaving. It’s a harsh dose of reality from a man about to die. Don’t smoke.
Photo Gallery has over 50 promotional photos from the show. There’s even a few autographed pics of Raymond Burr.
Syndication Promos (1:03) are two ads your local station would run to promote the series. Nothing too exciting.
The DVD filled with bonus features makes this an essential collection for fans of Perry Mason. If you’ve been glued to the first two seasons on DVD, you’ll get a rush out of seeing Raymond Burr and William Hopper swapping roles. These are truly special episodes from the remaining seven seasons especial the color episode. Fans of the courtroom series will be impressed with what’s been included in the 50th Anniversary Edition.
CBS DVD presents Perry Mason: 50th Anniversary Edition. Starring Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper and William Talman. Twelve episodes on four DVDs. Released on DVD: April 8, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.