DVD Review: Perry Mason (Season 6, Volume 1)

The big buzz in Hollywood is that Robert Downey Jr. will bring Perry Mason to the big screen. Why not make him a legal genius after his success as Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes? This allows him to write off his trouble years stuck in courtrooms on various charges to be written off as extreme character research. But can he really challenge what Raymond Burr did with the character? Burr originally spent nine seasons in Mason’s office and revived the character for the last years of his life in TV movies. The show has been in reruns on cable for decades. He’s on a postage stamp as the character. Burr’s Mason could get a guilty bastard in the gallery to confess their crimes. Downey’s version might admit he had no memory of that night in 1997 and might be the real criminal. Perry Mason: Season 6, Volume 1 makes 14 cases that Burr is the true image of the world’s greatest lawyer.

“The Case of the Bogus Books” exposes a scam at a used bookstore. An employee gets fired after the owner discovers she’s sold an original edition of Tristram Shandy for a few bucks when it’s worth $2,000. What bookstore owner leaves a $2,000 book on a shelf? Those are stashed in a safe. After dismissing the employee, the bookstore owner is gassed during a nap. The poor employee needs Perry Mason to keep from being remaindered on death row. What makes this episode gold is Adam West (Batman) playing an acoustic guitar and singing. He’s that goofy guy who hangs out at used bookstores. “The Case of the Playboy Pugilist” discovers Gary Lockwood (2001: A Space Odyssey) as the next great fighter. Everyone wants a piece of the future champ including someone who kills him. Turns out the fighter was a lover. “The Case of the Dodging Domino” is a Halloween special. A songwriter gets electrocuted when someone tosses an electric heater into his tub. His face lights up like a Jack-o-lantern. There’s plenty of suspects since he didn’t mind testing out his new songs on married women. He also owes money. The main suspect is David Hedison (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). Jeff Morrow (This Island Earth) might be the heater tosser.

“The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle” murders off girl’s uncle. His death reveals the true nature of their family bond. Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show) and Barbara Parkins (Valley of the Dolls) guest star. Perry’s secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) must aid a blackmailed friend in “Case of the Weary Watchdog.” Her help leads to being brought up on murder charges. Perry must win this case or train a new woman to hide his secrets around the office. Keye Luke (Gremlins) and James Hong (Kung Fu Panda) are part of the action. “The Case of the Lurid Letter” is extra lurid. A small town teacher is accused of wanting to boff her students. “The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe” turns a thief into a murderer. Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) gets laced into the mystery.

Perry Mason: Season 6, Volume 1 keeps up the legal mystery action. Burr never lets his Perry Mason gets cocky even on his hot win streak. He’s confident since he doesn’t want the jury to think he’s defending a guilty bastard. Hollywood might want to update Perry Mason, but Robert Downey Jr. isn’t going to replace Burr. He’s still the Perry Mason you want to call when you want to win. Volume 2 is scheduled for release on November 22.

The Episodes
“The Case of the Bogus Books.” “The Case of the Capricious Corpse,” “The Case of the Playboy Pugilist,” “The Case of the Hateful Hero,” “The Case of the Dodging Domino,” “The Case of the Double Entry Mind,” “The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle,” “The Case of the Stand-in Sister,” “The Case of the Weary Watchdog,” “The Case of the Lurid Letter,” “The Case of the Fickle Filly,” “The Case of the Polka Dot Pony.” “The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe” and “The Case of the Bluffing Blast.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers bring out the courtroom stares used by Burr to break down a witness. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The mix is fine for the leg work and legal scenes. The episodes are subtitled. There are no bonus features.

Perry Mason: Season 6, Volume 1 packs more legal excitement into a briefcase than Nancy Grace can dismiss. The big moment is getting to experience Adam West being a pre-Dylan troubadour. How did he avoid cranking out as many albums as Leonard Nimoy? The show continues to be addictive legal entertainment. There’s a reason why this legal series constantly gets rerun while other series get sentenced to the deepest vaults. Even with talk of the new movie; there’s no way that Burr becomes eclipsed as the face of Perry Mason.

CBS DVD presents Perry Mason: Season 6, Volume 1. Starring: Raymond Burr, William Hopper and Barbara Hale. Boxset Content: 14 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: October 4, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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