Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


PERRY MASON Season 1. CBS TV series. 1957. Based on the novels/character by Erle Stanley Gardner.

Erle Stanley Gardner's famous fictional lawyer Perry Mason had already appeared in a few theatrical films in the thirties and forties when CBS cast Raymond Burr -- who is excellent in the part -- for their new television series beginning in 1957. The terrific casting continued with Barbara Hale as Mason's efficient secretary Della Street, and William Hopper as private eye Paul Drake, not to mention William Talman as prosecutor/nemesis Hamilton Burger and Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg. [These last two appeared in most but not every episode.] Many different actors played judges in the first season, but the ones we saw the most were the wonderful Morris Ankrum and Pierre Watkin from the Superman serials. The series had possibly the best and sexiest theme music of any TV show, as well as plenty of solid scripts. Some of Mason's tricks could have gotten him disbarred. You may remember the guilty party jumping up in the witness stand -- during preliminary hearings always, not trials -- and declaring their guilt, but this hardly happens on every episode. Indeed most of the killers did eventually confess, but they didn't always do so in the courtroom. Guest stars in the first season included Kipp Hamilton, Jeanette Nolan, Marie Windsor, Alix Talton, Ann Doran, Fay Wray, Joan Weldon, Hilary Brooke, Marian Seldes, Arthur Shields, and many others well-known from various fifties and sixties movies. The episodes never dipped below a "B" in quality, and many were "A," such as The Case of the Fiery Fingers [with wonderful performances from Lenore Shanewise and Mary La Roche], Substitute Face, Lazy Lover, and many others. Possibly the best episode was The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde, with extra-special performances from Phyllis Coates and Whitney Blake. In The Case of the Terrified Typist Mason actually loses but there's a very interesting technicality ... In The Case of the Crimson Kiss Mason presents some interesting evidence to catch the real killer. UPDATE 1/19: Other especially notable episodes include Sleepwalker's Niece; Drowning Duck; Runaway Corpse: Screaming Woman; and Fugitive Nurse.

Verdict: Perry Makes It Happen! ***1/2.


Neil A Russell said...

I'm hoping they'll eventually get as far as the one (maybe more?) episode from the 1967 season. Perhaps as a special extra feature the way they keep putting the pilot of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on the DVD releases.

I believe it was the only time the show was shot in color.

PM was one of those shows so well written that you only need to see a moment of an episode to remember the whole thing.

William said...

They seem to have released DVDs for up to the 6th season, with 7, 8 and 9 on the way.

Only five more seasons to go!