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Featured TV on DVD Review: Perry Mason: Season Five, Volume One

May 7th, 2010

Perry Mason: Season Five, Volume One - Buy from Amazon

In many ways, Perry Mason is the prototypical courtroom drama that set a lot of the template that is still used to this day. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, it was obviously a great show in its day, or it wouldn't be emulated so often. On the other hand, it has been emulated so much that it might seem stale 50 years later. So which is it?

Perry Mason: Season Five, Volume One is a four disc set that includes the first 13 episodes of the season, but there's not much here that's different than the previous four seasons. Karl Held is arguably the biggest change and seven of his ten appearances on this show happen in these 13 episodes. He plays David Gideon, a young law student that Perry Mason is apparently mentoring. Even though he is in more than half of the episodes on this DVD, he never makes too much of an impact. But he doesn't hurt the show's chemistry.

Highlights for the season include The Case of the Missing Melody, in which a wedding is canceled at the last minute when the bride runs screaming out of the chapel. Turns out she was being blackmailed to end her engagement, but when the blackmailer winds up dead, there are plenty of suspects. The Case of the Malicious Mariner involves cargo lost at sea during a storm and who is responsible for the loss (and therefore who has to pay). There are so many overlapping cons it's hard to keep track. Perry Mason and Paul Drake have chartered a boat and are going to take in some deep-sea fishing, but the boat they were going to take was forced to take a different set of passengers at the last minute. When one of them winds up dead, Perry has to defend the captain. In The Case of the Posthumous Painter a painter pretends to commit suicide in order to increase the value of his paintings. However, when his "widow" figures out his scam and he winds up dead, she's an obvious suspect. In The Case of the Renegade Refugee a reporter starts poking around an aerospace company looking for someone he thinks is a former Nazi, but one of the company's new employees has a history he's trying to forget.

Then there's The Case of the Unwelcome Bride, in which a rich businessman tries to pay off his son's new bride, because he's convinced she's no good for him and only married him for the money. This is a great episode and has everything you could want in a show like this, including two guest spots with recognizable faces, DeForest Kelly and Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper on Gilligan's Island). I swear I've seen this episode before, and I mean very recently. I remember plot points and even specific scenes. However, in my memory, it ended differently. I'm trying to think if this episode was remade in another Private Eye / Courtroom Drama TV series that I've reviewed. Terribly weird.

There are also some lowlights. For instance, the end of The Case of the Meddling Medium has one of the characters being told she really does have ESP. Really? They should have said, "Your trance was caused by self-hypnosis." ESP? Also, a couple episodes were going really well until there was a last-minute revelation that totally voided the rest of the episode. How are we supposed to figure out the identity of the killer before the big reveal if you are going to ignore all the previous evidence? This only happened a couple times, so it's not a major problem. Also, the effects shots of the cargo ship in the story during The Case of the Malicious Mariner are so bad they are laughable. I can't believe they were acceptable, even nearly 50 years ago.

There are no extras on this four-disc set, nor are there subtitles. But there are proper chapter placements and play all buttons.

The Verdict

Perry Mason remains a great show, but the DVD releases have been weak. Season Five, Volume One is no exception. Not only are there no extras on the DVD, but the price per minute is high and quite frankly, I don't think there's a real reason to split the season into two volumes. For fans of the genre, it is worth checking out. For fans of the show, it is worth picking up, but barely.

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