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PERRY MASON (1957-1966)
(Based on the novels and characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner)
Cast: Raymond Burr, Ray Collins, William Hopper, William Talman, Barbara Hale...
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): Not rated
Runtime: Approx. 709 minutes, 4 discs per volume, 2 volumes per season (Seasons 1-6 currently available on DVD)
Genres: Legal/Crime drama/Mystery
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
Although there were 9 seasons, only seasons 1 through 6 are currently available on DVD. Season 6 Volume 2 was released November 22, 2011.
Surprisingly, the series holds up well over the years. As with most long-running TV series, some episodes are weaker than others but getting to watch Perry Mason (Raymond Burr), Della Street (Barbara Hale), Paul Drake (William Hopper), Hamilton Burger (William Talman), and Lt. Tragg (Ray Collins) tangle over cases is most enjoyable viewing! The black and white episodes have a crispness that lends itself to the drama of the series. I'm certainly glad that no one has tried to "colorize" the episodes.
I highly recommend the DVDs that have been released up to this date and I look forward to the release of additional episodes in the future. So far, each season has been split into volumes one and two. That makes them a bit pricey but worth the price for fans. Remember, however, that the Hamilton Burger character was not in several episodes — Season 5, I believe — when the actor was fired using the morals clause in his contract. He was later re-hired (through Raymond Burr's support and insistence) for occasional appearances in Season 6. Lt. Tragg is missing from several episodes due to failing health. Lt. Andy Anderson (Wesley Lau) replaced Lt. Tragg in several episodes and was then replaced later in the series by Richard Anderson as Lt. Steve Drumm. Most notably absent in Season 6 was Raymond Burr. He made cameo appearances in 5 episodes while Perry Mason was supposedly in the hospital and later, recuperating at home. These episodes coincide with Raymond Burr's hospitalization for surgery related to an old war wound according to most sources.
While most of the episodes are very well done, the truly exceptional episodes have the five main characters, Perry Mason, Della Street, Paul Drake, Hamilton Burger, and Lt. Tragg matching wits with each other. It feels like something is "missing" when everyone isn't present.
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