DVD Review: Perry Mason (Season 8, Volume 2)

Theme songs are important for setting the tone not only of the show, but of the main character. The opening music for Perry Mason perfectly lays out the show and the man. The score opens with two ominous string section slashes that hint trouble is on the way. Consider this symbolic of the crime that opens the episode. The sharp, scary riffs give way to a jazzy beat with plenty of swagger. What could this be? Well it’s Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) sizing up the case, spotting the holes in the prosecution and finally dominating in the courtroom. It all wraps up in a victorious flourish. Perry didn’t plea bargain. He won for his clients. This opening song communicates that this series is all about Perry’s clients. There will be no introspective intimate solos exploring Perry’s life unless it’s tied directly to a case. He’s all about business when on the client’s clock. This is probably why Perry Mason reruns remains on the air while other legal shows vanish into the vaults. You don’t need to worry about missing some character development if you haven’t followed it from the start. It’s all about the episode you’re watching. Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 2 wraps up the penultimate series with 15 cases of legal swagger.

“The Case of the Thermal Thief” involves a missing Perry Mason. He’s gone off to Europe. Ken Kramer (Barry Sullivan) fills in at the office in order to keep secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) and P.I. Paul Drake (William Hopper) busy. A small time thief is killed after stealing a fake necklace from a recent friend. Robert Strauss (The Seven Year Itch and Stalag 17) and Joyce Van Patten (The Bad News Bears) get tangled in the paste pasting. Hard to tell if Sullivan was a substitute for an ailing Burr or being tested for a new series. Perry’s back for “The Case of the Golden Venom.” A mother betrays her husband’s messed up will and hires Perry to find out what killed her son. When her suspect drops dead, she’s busted. Now she gets to hire Perry openly. Noah Beery Jr. (Rocky on Rockford Files) gets to look innocent. “The Case of the Feather Cloak” takes Perry to Hawaii. He’s on a business trip to the islands to look into a hotel chain. He’s back in court when one of their contacts gets nailed with a speargun. Keye Luke (Big Trouble in Little China) gives an island flavor to the action.

“The Case of the Fatal Fetish” sounds like a kinky time in the legal briefs. Gary Collins (The Sixth Sense) is the hot lawyer working for District Attorney Hamilton Burger (William Talman). He’s got problems with his hard partying girlfriend. His mom (King Kong‘s Fay Wray) puts a voodoo curse on her and she turns up dead. Perry has to prove evil rituals doesn’t make you a killer. “The Case of the Murderous Mermaids” has a publicity stunt go wrong. A woman is hired to impersonate a former champion swimmer on a marathon swim. The subterfuge is blown when the follow boat explodes and the aging star turns up dead off shore. “The Case of the Careless Kitten” involves a missing father who might have turned up just in time to kill his wife. The big clue involves the family cat’s health. Allan Melvin (Sam the Butcher on The Brady Bunch) blends in with the trouble. “The Case of the Deadly Debt” murders a man owing a mobster a large sum of cash. Was he killed before his kneecaps were given a warning smash? Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire) might be in trouble for this death.

“The Case of the Gambling Lady” gives Peter Breck (The Big Valley) a scare when he hires Perry to be his divorce lawyer. While working through the papers, he gets a call from his wife. She claims to be in trouble at a casino. He rushes out to find her fine, but shortly afterward she turns up dead. Breck now has to hire Perry for a homicide defense. Did anyone ever investigate Perry for his ability to turn any client into a homicide suspect? Was he kicking money to Lt. Anderson (Wesley Lau) to put the spotlight on his moneypots? “The Case of the Duplicate Case” switches Paul Drake’s briefcase with another man. “The Case of the Grinning Gorilla” brings Victor Buono (Batman‘s King Tut) into the office. He wants a box of junk bought by Della Street. He wants it for his boss who has a home zoo. Eventually a gorilla is suspected of killing someone. Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat) isn’t the ape. “The Case of the Wrongful Writ” reminds people to never get into rushed business relationships. Bobby Troup (Emergency! gets his kicks. “The Case of the Mischievous Doll” is all about identity. A woman busts into Perry’s office to demand he recognize her. She fears her latest job is setting her up as a patsy. Turns out even worse happens as Perry ends up recognizing her corpse. What was she doing for a few bucks? This is an intriguing case for the season finale.

While Ray Collins’ name remains in the opening credits, Lt. Tragg is nowhere to be found. The actor’s health was failing. This set is the last time his name since he passed away during the season hiatus. Lt. Anderson was completely doing the heavy work of setting up Hamilton Burger to lose in the courtroom. This would be Anderson’s final season too. Plenty of things were coming to an end in the world of Perry Mason.

The Episodes
“The Case of the Thermal Thief,” “The Case of the Golden Venom,” “The Case of the Tell-Tale Tap,” “The Case of the Feather Cloak,” “The Case of the Lover’s Gamble,” “The Case of the Fatal Fetish,” “The Case of the Sad Sicilian,” “The Case of the Murderous Mermaid,” “The Case of the Careless Kitten,” “The Case of the Deadly Debt,” “The Case of the Gambling Lady,” “The Case of the Duplicate Case,” “The Case of the Grinning Gorilla,” “The Case of the Wrongful Writ” and “The Case of the Mischievous Doll.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers allow the fake Hawaiian moments to not stick out. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. There’s a crystal clear sound when Perry hits his stride in the courtroom. The episodes are subtitled.

Law Day Promo with Raymond Burr (0:34) has him promote Law Day USA on May 1. We don’t seem to celebrate it anymore.

Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 2 finishes the penultimate season with more legal thrillers that turn simple legal situations into major homicides. Even when Perry goes on a business trip in paradise, there’s a body. When the theme music starts, you’re compelled to watch until the final gavel slam.

CBS DVD presents Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 2. Starring: Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman and Wesley Lau. Boxset Contents: 15 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: January 15, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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