DVD Review: Perry Mason: Movie Collection (Volume 1)

The golden age of geriatric mystery shows is remembered for Matlock, Murder, She Wrote and The Father Dowling Mysteries. But one of the superstars of the creaky sleuth genre was a familiar face returning to the courtroom. Raymond Burr became a TV icon as Perry Mason. The long running series set the standard for legal thrillers from 1957-1966. Burr had also became a legend with Ironside. But his career had slowed down in the ’80s. He was appearing in Godzilla 1985 and Airplane II: The Sequel when Fred Silverman hatched the Grey Revolution. The TV genius wanted to bring back Perry Mason for TV viewers of 1985. Burr agreed and TV history was made. The Return of Perry Mason was a major hit. Perry Mason: Movie Collection – Volume 1 contains the first 6 of the 26 of the TV movies.

“Perry Mason Returns” explains why the legal genius would drop his cushy judge gig to get back on a legal case. Turns out Della Street (Barbara Hale) is up on homicide charges. The viewers know she didn’t kill her boss. It was a man wearing one of Della’s dresses that offed the rich man. Why would anyone kill the guy? He had just told his kids that they weren’t getting a cent of his fortune. Perry wouldn’t let her fry in the electric chair and he didn’t trust anyone else with her legal briefs. He’s back and ready to kick legal butt. However his new team includes the son of Paul Drake (The Greatest American Hero‘s William Katt). Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man) is also back, but not as Lt. Drumm. He plays a suspect. It’s a solid TV movie mystery from the mid-’80s. Burr is natural in his return to the role although he keeps his beard. “The Case of the Notorious Nun” sets up a relationship between a nun and a priest that leads to murder. Did the sister have an affair with the father and killed him? Or was she drugged by another priest and set up? It’s religious tangle that only Perry can sort out. William Katt gets to use some of his straight to video charm on the suspected nun. “The Case of the Shooting Star” features a homicide on a live TV show when a prop gun fires a real bullet. Who is the real killer? Perry gets to poke around in Hollywood once more.

“The Case of the Lost Love” complicates Perry’s meeting with an old friend. He bumps into Jean Simmons (Spartacus) at a conference. Things seem to be nice until her husband (Burke’s Law‘s Gene Barry) gets busted for killing a blackmailer. But could it had been someone else that was being blackmailed? Gordon Jump (WKRP) gets drawn into the investigation. “The Case of the Sinister Spirit” brings Robert Stack (The Untouchables) back. This is a crazy case of a nasty horror writer inviting “friends” for a stay at a hotel. Little do they know it’ll turn into a horror holiday. The writer gets edited out of his life. Perry must find a suspect where there’s way too many people wishing they killed him. Dwight Schultz (The A-Team) shows up for the scares. “The Case of the Murdered Madam” is the classic tale of a woman dying for her little black book. She was in the process of exposing a few old Johns in their fraud. It keeps Drake Jr. jumping around.

The big thing is that Perry now gets to beat up on D.A. Michael Reston (M*A*S*H‘s David Ogden Stiers). He’s not quite used to losing like Hamilton Burger. The longer running time allows the mysteries to unravel at a proper pace. Mason can be deliberate. Drake Jr. gets a lot more screen time than his dad did during an investigation. The movies are little bit more intense than an episode of Matlock. Katt does most of the legwork since Burr wasn’t quite up for action scenes. Most of his energy is reserved for prowling the courtroom. The show really brings Perry Mason into the modern world without making him seem like a man out of time. He was a welcomed addition to an era when networks weren’t afraid to show the elderly solving mysteries.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. When Perry Mason returned, he was part of the new low budget post production revolution. While the movie were shot in 35mm, the post production was done in standard definition video to save a few bucks. The image is a little fuzzy which probably helps make Raymond Burr look a little bit youthful in his comeback. The audio is Dolby Digital mono for the first movie while the rest are Dolby Digital Stereo. The mix is geared toward the dialogue track. The movies are subtitled.

No bonus features.

Perry Mason: Movie Collection – Volume 1 brings back the greatest lawyer in TV history. Burr once more commands the courtroom as he clears his clients and gets the guilty to confess. This is a fine addition to those who have collected the DVDs of the original series.

CBS DVD presents Perry Mason: Movie Collection – Volume 1. Starring: Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale and William Katt. Boxset Contents: Six movies on 3 DVDs. Rating: R. Released: December 31, 2013.

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