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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'Perry Mason' S7 V2: Verdict is Awesome

The episodes on the recently released S7 V2 DVD of "Perry Mason were a perfect choice for the period leading up to "Frankenstorm" Hurricane Sandy and the actual storm. The sharp contrast of the well-filmed black-and-white episodes and nefarious dealing were a good match with the dark skies, strong winds, and pounding rain.

I look forward to watching more episodes during this winter's inevitable snowageddons.

"Mason" was a wonderful 1960s quasi-anthology film noir lite courtroom drama. The S7 V2 episodes were from the second half of the 1963-64 season. The good folks at CBS Video are releasing S8 V1 in a few weeks and finishing the entire series with an S8 V2 release in January 2013.

"Mason" was a procedural with one of the best procedures out there. The opening scenes typically consisted of the innocent of the week finding himself or herself in a relatively minor jam that required legal counsel. That is when Mason, accompanied by loyal secretary Della Street and stalwart private investigator Paul Drake, would usually literally and figuratively enter the picture.

The not-so-innocent of the week would then find himself or herself on a slab in the morgue, and the police would arrest the innocent who consulted Mason.

Mason, who apparently handled everything from divorces to murder cases, would then agree to represent the innocent on the murder charge. The ensuing investigation would reveal a handful of other folks who the murder benefited.

The final ten minutes or so would consist of the murder trial of the innocent, and these proceedings typically ended with Mason revealing the true culprit ala Sherlock Holmes in the drawing room.

This format was much fresher in the '60s than the modern day, and "Mason's" decades-long appeal goes beyond the three main characters playing their parts well and never emoting to setting a good dramatic pace throughout the show. There seemed to be a complete absence of any hysterical wailing by the accused or "you can't handle the truth," or "the system's out of order" courtroom theatrics by Mason.

It was also nice to see attorneys who represented both sides of the dispute act honorably and be more interested in justice than a win. Along those line, some quasi-innocents avoided legal penalties for doing the wrong thing for the right reason.

Being a quasi-anthology series with a new group of characters each week allowed for bringing in great guest stars. Ryan O'Neill as a preppy college-aged man who hated his very Joan Collinsesque stepmother was a notable example.

The guest star of the set award must go to "NCIS" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." star David McCallum as an adorkable Frenchman. This character conned out of his living savings by a woman from her past and then accused of causing a plane crash in which her cad of a husband is killed.

Not only was McCallum great as a sweet sad sack, this episode had a nice twist regarding the cause of death. The modus operandi was usually more straightforward.

The nicest thing about the "Mason" series was that there was not a dud in the batch. They should not be confused with the made-for-TV versions from the '90s that were not always as good as the originals.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mason" is encouraged to email me. Court dismissed.