DVD Review: Perry Mason (Season 8, Volume 1)

Wesley Lau was in a strange position during his time on Perry Mason. His Lt. Anderson was brought in when Lt. Tragg (Ray Collins) needed to take a break. Collins’ health was failing as well as his memory. The show could have easily cut him lose, but the producers of Perry Mason had big hearts. They kept Collins’ name in the opening credits for the entire eighth season even though he’d appear in only 3 episodes. Even when Collins made it to the set, Lau did the heavy work for the police investigation. Over the course of 82 episodes, Lau’s name remained in the end credits. Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 1 covers the final appearances of Collins.

“The Case of the Missing Button” isn’t a lawsuit at the dry cleaners. Button is the child in an extra nasty custody battle. The rich father takes off with the kid claiming it was just a vacation. Perry (Raymond Burr) is brought into the case which naturally ends up with a dead body so he gets his homicide defense prices. “The Case of the Paper Bullets” is interesting since Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man) gets tangled in ugliness when his wife is busted for killing his rival’s stepson. Why was the kid whacked? What really matters is that next season Anderson would return as Lt. Drumm, the replacement for both Lt. Tragg and Lt. Collins. “The Case of the Scandalous Sculptor” makes one of the great TV moms into a murder suspect. June Lockhart (Lassie and & Lost In Space) might have killer her husband’s favorite model. Was it jealousy? Or is the artist’s wife being framed?

“The Case of the Betrayed Bride” has two guys eager to turn their family’s estate into a subdivision. Things go bad when their aunt arrives from vacation with a tan and a brand new husband. She’s not eager to slice and dice the property. Lt. Tragg appears with Lt. Anderson to investigate. Needless to say there’s a murder and Paul Drake (William Hopper) has to poke around in Europe. Neil Hamilton (The Commissioner on Batman) gets tangled in the international intrigue. “The Case of the Nautical Knot” ties up Lt. Tragg for another episode. Can Barbara Bain (Mission: Impossible and Space: 1999) be a suspect in this case?

“The Case of the Bullied Bowler” has Joe Kelly (Mike Connors) as a substitute lawyer while Perry takes the week off. He’s got to sort out a small town feud that’s led to murder. He gets all the help of Paul and Della Street (Barbara Hale). This seems like a backdoor pilot for a Joe Kelly series. In a way, we can be grateful that Kelly didn’t get picked up since a few years later Connors would get his own series with Mannix. For those curious, Mannix: The Final Season has been released on DVD. “The Case of a Place Called Midnight” lets Perry’s regular cast take a vacation while Perry handles a case in Switzerland. Werner Klemperer (Hogan’s Heroes) gets to try out his Col. Klink accent.

“The Case of the Latent Lover” is the final on camera appearance of Lt. Tragg. Lloyd Bochner flips out and robs a bank. Is he of sound mind or has someone driven him crazy?  Was he pushed over the edge by Harold Gould, the Dean of Thespians? Collins wouldn’t completely disappear from the show. His name remained in the opening credits for the rest of the season. He passed away July 11, 1965.

“The Case of the Blonde Bonanza” makes Mary Ann Mobley a model with the amazing ability to digest food. She signs a new contract that Perry doesn’t think is kosher. Before much can be done, there’s a murder. Bruce Gordon (The Untouchables) and Michael Constantine (Room 222) are part of the fashionista set. “The Case of the Frustrated Folksinger” plays the murder blues. Did a singer kill her manager? Lee Meriweather (Catwoman in the original Batman movie) and Mark Goddard (Lost In Space) must keep from laughing when Perry speaks of Jazbo Williams.

Collins passing marked the end of one of the most frustrated law and order combos. He’d arrest the suspects and Hamilton Burger (William Talman) would get rejected by Perry Mason in the court room. They were the legal version of the Washington Generals to Perry’s Harlem Globetrotters. Wesley Lau should be commended for filling in for Collins without making Collins feel like he’d been replaced on Perry Mason court bench.

The Episodes
“The Case of the Missing Button,” “The Case of the Paper Bullets,” “The Case of the Scandalous Sculptor,” “The Case of the Sleepy Slayer,” “The Case of the Betrayed Bride,” “The Case of the Nautical Knot,” “The Case of the Bullied Bowler,” “The Case of a Place Called Midnight,” “The Case of the Tragic Trophy,” “The Case of the Reckless Rockhound,” “The Case of the Latent Lover,” “The Case of the Wooden Nickels,” “The Case of the Blonde Bonanza,” “The Case of the Ruinous Road” and “The Case of the Frustrated Folksinger.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are up to the quality of the previous sets in the series. The black and white images capture the courtroom action properly. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are fine enough to feel the gavel bang. The episodes are subtitled.

There are no bonus features.

Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 1 brings to an end Ray Collins’ time as Lt. Tragg. No longer would he worry about Perry Mason running his crime scene investigations.

CBS DVD presents Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 1. Starring: Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman, Ray Collins and Wesley Lau. Boxset Contents: 15 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: November 27, 2012. Available at Amazon.com

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