Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info


Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 4

Paramount // Unrated // October 7, 2014
List Price: $59.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted November 5, 2014 | E-mail the Author
You know the drill. If you're reading this review at all, it's almost certainly because you are a big-time fan of Perry Mason, the nine-season (1957-66), 271-episode television series starring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale, and that your affection for the program extends to the later, made-for-TV Perry Mason movies, also with Burr and Hale, that aired between 1985 and 1995. Thirty such films were made, though the last four are without Burr, the actor having died in 1993, shortly before his last one aired.

The first of these, Perry Mason Returns, was part of the nostalgia bandwagon, a spate of reunion shows of ‘50s and ‘60s series, prompted by the phenomenal ratings success of Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978) and which more or less peaked with Return to Mayberry (1986), the highest-rated TV movie that year. Perry Mason Returns also proved a big hit, prompting more follow-ups and eventually leading the partnership of Dean Hargrove and Fred Silverman to produce other TV movies and weekly mystery series headlined by iconic ‘60s-‘70s TV stars: Matlock (with Andy Griffith), Jake and the Fatman (William Conrad), Father Dowling Mysteries (Tom Bosley), and Diagnosis: Murder (Dick Van Dyke).

The Perry Mason TV-movies bridge the gap between those later shows and Hargrove's earlier successes with McCloud and Columbo, programs that were part-TV series, part-TV movie. They were feature length but one "spoke" of "wheel series" known collectively as The NBC Mystery Movie, with each program within it producing three to eight "episodes" per season.

The Perry Mason TV movies functioned more or less in the same manner, with four or five shot each TV season. Those contained in Perry Mason Movie Collection, Volume 4 represent the nineteenth through twenty-fourth of these thirty films, leaving just two starring Burr yet to be released, plus the four made after his death. Those in Volume 4 are: The Case of the Glass Coffin, The Case of the Fatal Fashion (both 1991), The Case of the Fatal Framing, The Case of the Reckless Romeo, The Case of the Heartbroken Bride (all 1992), and The Case of the Skin-Deep Scandal (1993).

By this point the Perry Mason movies had settled into a familiar format, one not particularly ambitious, but well crafted for its type, and because of Burr's and Hale's presence, cozily familiar.

To recap: It would be interesting to learn what the budgets were for these shows. To save money, most were shot not in "Hollywood" (i.e., Los Angeles) but in Denver, Colorado. It's still jarring to see Perry in this environment, as it would be to see Philip Marlowe plying his trade out of a strip mall in Des Moines, Iowa. They were filmed in 35mm but with all postproduction (editing, etc.) done less expensively on videotape. I suspect one of the reasons William Katt (as Perry's private investigator, Paul Drake, Jr.) was replaced by William R. Moses (as detective Ken Malansky) may have been to save more dough there, too. Moses isn't bad, but he's no match for the original series' William Hopper. In practically all of these films are action scenes of Malansky chasing or being chased by a suspect on the streets of Denver. I suppose this was a tactic intended to draw in younger viewers, but these sequences rarely add any interest. A simple two-shot of Burr interviewing a client or suspect is far more compelling, thanks to his fine acting.

Regardless, as before, these later Perry Mason TV movies are worth watching once, primarily for Burr rather than the mysteries he helps solve. Though he grew a beard and put on additional weight in the 20-plus years since the original series ended, otherwise Burr looks much as he did and he slips back into character effortlessly. (He does, however, walk with a cane, usually dresses in black and is photographed from angles chosen to obscure his girth. And in many of these later movies he's usually leaning on a chair or table.)

Even weaker shows tended to attract good name actors eager to play a murder victim, murderer, or red herring on these shows. In this set: Peter Scolari, Betsy Jones-Moreland (several episodes, as a judge), Valerie Harper, Diana Muldaur, Scott Baio, Bruce Kirby, Pat Finley (also a judge), John Rhys-Davies, David Soul, Charles Macauley, Geraldo Rivera (!), Tracy Nelson, Pricilla Barnes, Anjanette Comer, Vonetta McGee, Ronny Cox, Linda Blair, Paul Dooley, Diane Baker, Stephen Stills, Polly Bergen, Morgan Fairchild, Tippi Hedren, Patrick O'Neal, and David Warner.

Video & Audio

Perry Mason Movie Collection, Volume 4 sounds great but looks pretty terrible, especially compared with the crisp black-and-white transfers of the original series. Likewise shot on 35mm film but finished on tape, these 4:3 shows look soft and smeary, visually at odds with their lively and imaginative use of early television stereo sound, presented here in Dolby Digital format, and which holds up very well today. Optional English SDH are included and the discs are region 1 encoded.

The packaging is oddly a throwback of its own, presumably to allow for easy, later rerelease as three double feature DVDs. Here, three separate DVD cases each contains but a single disc with two each of these 92-minute shows. No Extra Features.

Parting Thoughts

For hardcore Perry Mason fans only, but for them this set brings the "saga" one step closer to completion and I, for one, am glad to see these sets released at all. For them it's Recommended.

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian and publisher-editor of World Cinema Paradise. His credits include film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features.

Buy from







E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links