Perry Mason (TV Series 1957–1966) Poster

(1957–1966)

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Will Never Be Equaled
mrb19801 June 2005
I guess I'm dating myself, but I used to watch "Perry Mason" back in the 1960s and when I compare it to today's shows, nothing else even comes close. This series had it all:

--Established actors who were perfect for their roles; --A galaxy of 1950s-60s guest stars, all old pros; --Stunning B&W cinematography; --Crisp direction, no matter who was at the helm; --Literate,intelligent scripts that made the viewers think; --A great sense of humor; --Professional music scores; and above all --A show that had respect for its audience!

I won't go into how perfect Burr, Talman, Collins, Hopper, Hale, et al were for their roles, it's all been said before.

After the story line was established, the courtroom drama took over, leading to the usual twist ending that kept the audience guessing until the last minute. The difference between "Perry Mason" and today's shows is that you actually had to pay attention to the story and anticipate what might happen. This series was true classic that will never be equaled, because television no longer respects its audience's intelligence and now relies on laugh tracks and silly dialogue. Catch it if you want to exercise your mind--skip it if you prefer to watch reruns of rubbish like "Charlie's Angels" or "Three's Company".
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Defying the Odds
dougdoepke25 December 2006
Perhaps the most successful formula show in the history of TV. An interesting question is why, since the lead characters never varied, the outcome was predictable, and the plots could at times defy expert analysis. To me, that sounds pretty boring. So why did I faithfully watch the first runs and still catch the reruns when I can, and why did the series catch the fancy of so many others as it still does. Here are some conjectures.

Mason, Street, and Drake are more than a team-- they are a family. The chemistry among them is so good it's almost spooky. Burr's Mason is nothing if not masterful both inside the courtroom and out. He's a strong father-figure, while Hale's Della Street is the perfect secretary, sweet, attractive and highly efficient. Not quite a mother-figure (after all, this is a chaste family), she's the perfect older sister. And Hopper's Paul Drake is clever, charming, and slightly rakish. All in all, he's the perfect younger brother. Though each is a professional, together they operate as a loyal family unit. And when their final scene rolls around (The Final Fadeout, 1966), we're happy to know they will remain together even though we (the viewers) won't be with them.

The key here is Burr's grasp of character. After all, Mason wins week after week-- he never misses. What's more, he shows up the guardians of law and order week after week. If not done right, Mason would be an easy character to dislike. But Burr's Mason is never smug, never immodest, and always low-key, so we don't resent his near god-like status. This is a real tribute to Burr and the show's producers, who managed to walk a very fine line. There's one other character point worth noting. Mason's personality is the only one of the five (Burger and Tragg included) to alter. In the early episodes, he smokes, wears loud jackets, and occasionally flirts. But with the show's success, he's transformed into a paragon of virtue, probably because his character has come to stand for the quality of criminal justice in America. Shrewdly, the producers would take no chances with their golden egg.

The engaging quality of the stories varies little, an unusual feature for any formula show. That's likely because the script-writers worked with variations on six or seven basic plots. After all, they had to come up with thirty-plus mysteries every year for nine years. And each episode had to have a plausible list of suspects with a story line to unravel, which is a pretty heavy load. Then too, each entry had to have a larger than average cast of capable actors as suspects. Watching the re-runs, we see just about every familiar face from that era (one of the joys of catching the re-runs). Executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson deserves a lot of behind-the-scenes credit, since I'm sure this was not an easy series to put together week after week.

I had never thought of the show as film noir. But other reviewers have correctly pointed this out. Indeed, there are elements of noir in many of the first half hours, where the mystery sets up. Many of these were done in shadow, with strong emotions and a heavy atmosphere of doom, which distinguishes the series. For, overall, there was very little noir from any series during that sunny era. Frankly, it's that part I always enjoyed more than the courtroom scenes with their high-key lighting and extended dialogue. The general excellence of these first half- hours is another reason, I think, for the show's unusual success.

The mystery angle remains an attraction for many. It's fun, for those who want, to try to figure out the culprit. We know he or she will be exposed and the loose ends tied-up by hour's end. But the entries can be enjoyed for their drama alone. The witness-stand confessions served as a chance for neglected feature players to show their acting chops. Some of these were truly memorable. My favorite is from that great unsung actress of the era, Constance Ford. Watch her split personality emerge under Mason's perceptive grilling (The Case of the Deadly Double, 1958). It's a dramatic tour-de-force, as good as anything from the movies of the time. Many of the confessions were also poignant. The culprit could be seen as a sympathetic character, driven to murder by larger forces. And though, the epilogue (usually in Mason's office) often ended on a humorously upbeat note, the confessions remain the dramatic high point.

These are some of my best guesses. I expect there's another, not so flattering reason. Many of us, of course, have a nostalgic attachment to those younger years, which, I suppose, is only natural. Nonetheless, there is something timeless about the brave knight rescuing unfortunates in distress (in this case, usually a shapely blonde or brunette). In fact, the Mason show was predicated on that venerable premise. And even though Mason-as-ideal-defense-attorney would probably not work in today's post-Vietnam era, the key plot elements endure ( understandably, the series ended, just as the war in south-east Asia heated up). Greed, jealousy, ambition-- this is the stuff of high drama, while the Mason show used them effectively inside a format that fit its time. But the elements themselves remain timeless. And in that sense, so does the series.
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Perry Mason: Television film noire
oddman25927 May 2000
The original "Perry Mason," in glorious black & white, is in the tradition of the great film noir films of the '40s and '50s. The cases have a poetic reality to them, clashing and understandable motives, psychology, and murder. Because the motives of all involved are understandable, there is not lacking a painful sympathy for those caught up in the circumstances described, even for the perpetrator. But there is a grim darkness to the program as well. The program gradually ran down during its life, so that, when it went off the air, it was probably time. The original 1957-1958 season was the best, with the most intricate plots and with Perry Mason a wiseguy thorn in the side of the police. The cast is perfect, and even the score fits perfectly this brooding and ironic look at life and fate.
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The granddaddy of all lawyer shows......
raysond28 April 2003
Without a doubt,the series "Perry Mason" was the granddaddy of all lawyer shows and even after 40 years since its debut it is still highly watchably and still highly rated as one of the top courtroom drama shows of all time. Raymond Burr was a true genius as the lawyer who would go to any length to protect his cilents from a certain fate and he always had a detective sense to find out who was the killer or who was trying to blackmail someone. Perry Mason was part lawyer/part detective/part sleuth. The show was based on the books about the character by Earl Stanley Gardner and for the astounding nine seasons that it ran on CBS-TV (1957-1966),it still holds up today. Even some college law professors used some of the episodes as teaching material as a learning technique for up and coming lawyers.

As for the rest of the show,the formula was very simple:(1)The first half of the show tells the story of the events leading up to the murder and the preliminary investigation of the crime and the facts leading up to the case in question and clues of where and what may have occurred. (2)The second half dealt with the subsequent trial,where Mason exposes the truth in the courtroom.

Sometimes the plots were very complex at times,but mostly were written with style and class and it is the only show where the writers treated the viewer with intelligence. The actors were very good especially within certain scenes where Mason has a battle of wits with District Attorney Burger. However it was done with style and had stunning black and white photography to make it more interesting. However,out of all the episodes their was one episode that was shown in color(and it hasn't been seen since TBS shown it during the 90's) where brought out more of the characters and more of the courtroom setting as well. As far as the show is concern,it is a milestone in the history of television. Catch some of the episodes on the Hallmark channel.
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10/10
Accept No Imitations
twanurit17 March 2001
One can tell the timeless longevity of a television series by the condition if it's still playing on TV. "Perry Mason" (1957-1966) is! It followed a tried-and-true formula: the first half-hour the situation is developed, then there's a murder. The second half-hour is filled with courtroom dramatics, to find the killer. But this is considerably heightened by a moody musical score, shadowy, gripping B&W photography, incisive scripts, magnificent guest stars (many who appeared multiple times), and lastly the brilliant ensemble cast headed by Raymond Burr, with Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman and others. The series was re-done (poorly) in 1973, the more recent 2 hour TV movies were padded and don't hold up to repeated viewings. Voted the top dramatic series by TV Guide, it just does not get any better. Case closed.
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Excellent!
Hessian49919 January 2002
More than 40 years since the series debut, Perry Mason is still a classic, and is highly watchable today without seeming dated. The first half of the show tells the story of the events leading up to the murder and the preliminary investigation of the crime, while the second half of the hour dealt with the subsequent trial, where Mason exposed the truth in the courtroom. The plots were quite complex at times, but the writers also treated viewers with intelligence. The acting was superb by all, and even the bit players do an excellent job. Probably my favorite character was private detective Paul Drake, whom apparently could dig up any fact no matter how obscure within a short period of time. Much better than the 2 hour movies produced in the 1980s and early 90s, Perry Mason will always be a classic in the history of television.
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Arguably, the greatest TV drama ever
leex121413 August 2002
Everything about this series was perfect, from the acting, to the scripts, to the directing, and even to the fact that black and white was used even after the advent of color. Of course, Raymond Burr WAS Perry Mason, just about the world's greatest defense attorney, who stops at NOTHING in his search for the truth. The supporting cast was also excellent, and the guest stars, unlike in so many other series, were always of a high calibre. Some might say that the scripts were a bit formulaic, but within the basic format, over the 10 year run of the series there was infinite variety in the details of each show, with enough unexpected plot twists to constantly keep any audience guessing. The atmosphere was perfect: black and white lent a mysterious, almost gothic feeling to the episodes, which at the same time was beautifully contrasted with Perry Mason's ice cold reasoning and razor sharp sense of right and wrong. There are so many other things I could say about this series; perhaps it is best left at saying that this is the one, the only court drama, probably the best TV drama in general, and definitely one of the ten greatest series of all time.
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COMPACT, CLASSY, AND A WINNER.....
renfield5430 June 1999
Perry Mason is one of the finest shows (courtroom or otherwise) that was ever made. A memorable cast, great scripts, and always a surprise in the courtroom. I watched the shows for years and years in re-runs. Being blessed with a poor memory, I could usually be depended on to forget the final outcome of the trials. There were quite a few shows and guest starts to keep track of. One "highlight" of my life was to get onto a murder trial jury myself during some of my more intense Perry Mason years.

The thing that separated 'Perry' from other shows was it's compactness. It was all story. Personal relationships were hinted at, but took up little time on the screen. If some errand needed to be run, Paul Drake (the detective) would appear with the information in the next scene. Nor car chases, no fistfights, and no love interest in every episode. JUST STORY. I've heard this is one reason Raymond Burr gave up the show. The show was so dependant on him in just about every scene that he had to live on the studio lot in a trailer during filming (and that was most of the year).

In contrast, later 'Perry Mason' attempts HAD the aforementioned elements. There were car chases, fist fights, and Paul Drake Jr. was allowed much screen time for these and to win over the girl too. We got to see all the painstaking effort to get the information his dad just seemed to pull out of the air.

It was good to see Perry back, and I did watch. The 'newer' shows paled by comparison to the all-time classic original. But, it's tough for anything to live up to our memories.....

PS- I even sang along to the very recognize-able theme with lyrics of my own.......
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8/10
Engaging Narratives, About Characters and Courtroom Battles; a Classic
silverscreen8886 September 2005
The "Perry Mason" character, as developed by Erle Stanley Gardner in the early 1930s, was a "fighter", in the author's words; like Gardner himself, a successful and ingenious lawyer, the fictional lawyer-detective enjoyed seeking out the truth in the field--whether he was finding a body, bending a law in order to fight for his client or testing an hypothesis--as much as he enjoyed arguing a case within the arena of a courtroom. Immensely popular from the beginning, the character was never changed by Gardner. And although the series on television was subtly altered in many ways, and enjoyed format alterations, I assert that nothing essential was ever altered about Mason nor his main "foils". At the beginning, the cast consisted of Raymond Burr as Mason, William Hopper as his detective pal Paul Drake, pretty Barbara Hale as his right-hand girl and secretary Della Street, William Talman as Hamilton Burger his chief courtroom enemy, and Ray Collins as Lt. Arthur Tragg of Homicide. Cases began in many different ways; chiefly with a future accused murderer being victimized by someone else, or with a client coming to ask Mason's help. Had the show's writers found a way to state a categorical purpose for Mason to explain why he was taking each case, the fine power of these dramatic stories could have been increased. But the chief quality of the interesting narratives I suggest was rather, usually, watching Mason trying many ways to find out the truth about what had been done in some situation in order to prove the innocence of his client of a murder; that, plus the many characters who people over 250 separate episodes. Many fine writers and directors created stories for "Perry Mason"; some episodes were adaptations of Mason novels. And with Gardner working closely with executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson, the original entries were held strictly and successfully to the author's conception of the character. Talents as famous as Jack Arnold, Earl Bellamy, László Benedek, script consultant Arthur Marks, Arthur Hiller, Ted Post, Vincent Mceveety, Robert Sparr, Gerd Oswald, Andrew Mclaglen and Christian Nyby were in charge of the "Mason" cameras; writers for the series included True Boardman, Robert C. Dennis, John Elliotte, Jackson Gillis, Laurence Louis Goldman, Seeleg Lester, Orville H, Hampton, Laurence Marks, Bob and Esther Mitchell Jonathan Latimer, Samuel Newman, Helen Nielsen, Mann Rubin, Sy Salkowitz, Stirling Silliphant, Barry Trivers, Al C. Ward, Maurice Zimm and Gene Wang, among others. Mason employed a young lawyer, played by Karl Held, for one season; Richard Anderson, Wesley Lau, Dan Tobin and Lee Miller were regulars for varying lengths of time. But the glory of the series, i assert, was its guest stars. Apart from younger actors chosen for their looks, almost every other part was well-cast and the enactors successful in creating a character. The producers also used only about ten judges, notably S. John Launder, Willis Bouchey, John Gallaudet, Kenneth Macdonald and one female jurist. But the courtrooms in which Mason appeared ranged all over the state of California, from a military tribunal to small town courts to the great Los Angeles arena. Almost as numerous were the sites where Mason and Drake discovered clues, bodies and trouble; because Mason was a fighting man at heart, his favorite ploy was to plant false evidence to force overworked police to investigate some aspect of the case, to meet with someone in order to goad them into revealing something and to dispatch Drake or other operatives to expand his power of search and investigation. For me as a writer and viewer, the fun lay not so much in solving the crime along with Mason--although guessing the murderer's identity was enjoyable--but in watching the fine actors hired to don hats (as devices of characterization) and to take part in an interesting ethical exercise. Mason's ingenuity and lack of pretension endeared him to me, and to millions of viewers. Fine composers such as Jerry Goldsmith and Fred Steiner, who created the show's them, worked for the producers; and the cinematography and lighting was always above average for B/W television. But guest stars such as Keith Andes, Walter Pigeon, Whitney Blake, Pippa Scott, Cecil Kellaway, Gail Kobe, Paul Cavanagh, Benson Fong, Stacy Graham, Douglas Kennedy and Vaughn Taylor at last were who kept me, and other viewers, coming back every week. This is a most watchable narrative program; one-of-a-kind and still very enjoyable.
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A Great Detective Show As Well
Brian Washington21 March 2003
"Perry Mason" was not only a great legal drama, but it was also a great whodunnit. Perry Mason's detective skills would serve him well in gathering evidence to prove his client's innocence. Also, the casting of Raymond Burr finally gave him his defining role after years of playing heavies. And let's not forget the supporting cast. Barbara Hale as Della Street, Perry's faithful secretary, William Hopper as Paul Drake, the able bodied gumshoe, William Tallman, as his nemesis district attorney Hamilton Burger and Ray Collins, as the always dogged Lieutenant Arthur Tragg.
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10/10
Perry Mason Defined Raymond Burr - Master of Who dun it
DKosty12316 August 2006
As a child, I read Erle Stanley Gardner's novels & short stories about Perry Mason because I had seen this TV series. When I read the novels, I was amazed at the details about the characters & the details about law Gardner has carefully crafted into his formula for every one. As I read them, I realized that the folks responsible for this series must have read them too. Raymond Burr when he was this age fits Erle's physical description of Mason perfectly. Sometimes the novels had Mason doing more physical work than the TV show but that might be more due to the time constraints of television. I am so happy to see the DVD's of the first season finally coming out. It is long overdue to get this series out (& even more so another series from the 1960's in this genre E. G. Marshall's THE DEFENDERS - oh I wish this one would come out too!).

All the characters in the novel are so well cast & portrayed by the cast in this old series- it is incredible. Lt. Tragg, Hamilton Burger, Paul Drake, Della Street - all fit Erle Gardner's novel depictions so well. These first seasons as they come out are mostly Erle Gardner's material (somwhere about 75 to 90% of them) & that especially adds to the enjoyment. It's wasn't until the 3rd or 4th season that they had to get away from the master author's material. Mason as drawn by Gardner & portrayed by Burr is the ultimate American Hero. He can do it all whether it calls for physical work & especially the brain work. Burr's demeanor in these court trials is always fantastic. Get out & get the DVD's which I understand have the episodes restored to the original length as many were cut short during airings over the years to fit in more commercials. This is a bonus as sometimes vital clues & facts in episodes were cut in order to promote the channels budget running them. Then get ready for our all American legal hero- Perry Mason - to get another confession from the guilty person at the trial. Watch too for some of the suspects as you will see some folks on the stand getting grilled by Mason who later went on to become famous in other roles. Seeing them quake & quiver on the stand is great entertainment. Television couldn't get any better than this in the court room.
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Still on, in monochrome
Malignant Bouffant25 December 2005
Bear in mind that Perry Mason and I Love Lucy are the only black & white programs still showing in syndication on broadcast television.

Also note that Law and Order (the original series) took the same first half investigation/second half in the courtroom format, except of course doing it from the perspective of the forces of repression (cops & D. A.s).

Caveat Emptor: The episodes available for broadcast syndication are often (especially the earlier seasons, when network shows ran several minutes longer than now) edited, and the Hallmark Channel showings (when P. M. was running there) were even more edited. Anyone who'd like to know what's been cut should visit www.storrer.com and go to the esg/perrymason page therein. Dr. Storrer obviously has too much time on his hands, as he has written detailed synopses of every single episode, and kindly made them available to all through the miracle (being sarcastic here) of the information superhighway.

One last note: Many others who've commented here refer to the fine B&W cinematography, but it seems as if every night exterior was shot day for night, which I always find highly amusing, especially when they almost always throw crickets on the soundtrack, just in case we can't figure out it's supposed to be night.
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Perry Mason
corvanha23 December 2005
I saw the series on Dutch television when I was in my teens(around 1964). I still remember scenes from the series, the peculiar atmosphere, the locations which were so typical American. The courtroom, where he always won and the facial expression of Mr. Burger and the calls "Objection!"; its all in my memory. That haunting opening melody is echoed in my mind forever. I am searching for CD's but they are hard to get here. Together with Patrick Mc Goohan's "The Prisoner" this was my favorite TV series. These were the golden heydays of television series and after that no particular series did rouse any profound interest with me anymore. When I see the modern German and European series I do not recall them a day later. When experiencing the contrast between modern day television series and the classic ones, I think in those days all looked more natural, directed with more precision, attention for detail and effect. Modern TV making is make-shift, superficial, easy to foretell and with far too much violence and cheap romance. Am I nostalgic?
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The Chess Game of law shows, when all others are Checkers...
rixrex26 June 2009
I only this year began watching the old episodes of Perry mason. I recall my folks watching them but to me they were boring as a kid, so I never got into the show. Then I saw an episode a few months ago and was hooked.

The kind of writing and character development in this program is award caliber. I can't think of a law show, old or new, that can stand up to the regular excellence of the original Perry Mason. It amazes me that they could do this week after week for 9 years.

You can't be a dummy and expect to follow along, for this show treats its viewers as intelligent, thinking individuals. Great drama all around without excesses. Superb!
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10/10
Top of the list
vranger22 June 2009
It is fitting that the top all time literary series about a lawyer became the top all time television series about a lawyer.

Perry Mason keeps it simple. No soap opera involving the lead characters, and every show stands on its own, with no particular sequence needed in viewing them. It is also one of the rare adaptations from books to film or TV that is absolutely faithful to the spirit, if not every detail, of the books and the characters thereof depicted.

Raymond Burr's Perry Mason is at the same time brilliant, hard bitten, tenacious, and mischievous. The out of court tricks famous in the books are present, although they don't nearly push the limit that the shenanigans in the books do.

Finally, the mysteries are all satisfying. The majority of the time, the clues are there for you to identify the real guilty party. In an occasional show they surprise the viewer with a new fact in the final cross examination, but that is the exception.

You'll also get early looks at a number of future major stars, including the likes of Burt Reynolds and Robert Redford.
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9/10
The Erle Stanley Gardner Parameters
bkoganbing28 August 2008
For nine seasons and over 250 episodes Perry Mason ruled the television roost, it was the ratings flagship for CBS. Saturday nights at 7:30 this show was a viewing requirement in my household.

The show had a built in audience from the start with the millions of mystery fans who loved Erle Stanley Gardner's criminal defense attorney who always defended the innocent and never lost a case. Those parameters for the television series had to be respected. But also the right actor had to be found to play Mason.

One of the highest pieces of praise I ever read was Erle Stanley Gardner himself saying that Raymond Burr completely fitted his concept of the character he created. When you've got that kind of endorsement as well as the ratings to back it up, I'm sure the show could have run forever.

A really solid group of character players made up the cast here. Take a look at the credits on the pages here for Burr, Barbara Hale as Della Street, William Talman as District Attorney Hamilton Burger, William Hopper as Perry's private detective Paul Drake and Ray Collins as Police Lieutenant Tragg seem like they appeared in some of the best movies ever before going to series television.

Collins began experiencing health problems and first Wesley Lau and later Richard Anderson took the load from him. When Collins died in 1965 Anderson was the official cop for the series last year.

So indelible an impression this cast made on viewers minds that when CBS sought to revive Perry Mason in the middle seventies with a younger cast, the public viewed other stations in droves. Even with Collins, Hopper, and Talman all gone at that point, no one would accept their replacements.

The writers given the constraints of an hour television show managed to respect Erle Stanley Gardner's parameters and did a beautiful job with each and every episode.

This is what a good television series is all about.
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Still watchable after all these years
tomntempe26 December 2005
Just watched an episode. As with many of them, part of the fun today is spotting the young almost unknown actors. Today it was Bert Convy in only his fourth role as listed here on IMDb.COM.

One of the things that strikes me now when I watch Perry Mason and compare it to modern shows of similar type is how respectful all the regular characters are toward each other. It didn't seem so when I was a kid watching it when it was first run, but Perry and Lt. Tragg, and Hamilton Burger generally are pretty civil to each other and understand that the others are doing their job. Sure, Perry occasionally hides someone but it's before it would be a crime to do so, once he knows the person has a warrant he sticks to the law. On todays shows both the good and bad guys often break the law if it suits their purpose and in fact often seem to revel in it.

As far as I can recall, all the vehicles for the show were supplied by Ford Motor Company and usually you saw Perry driving a Ford, Mercury, or Lincoln and Paul Drake was also in a Ford and often a T-Bird to keep to his rakish image. One thing I noticed in tonight's episode was that as usual they all drove Ford products EXCEPT for the guy who had be set up as a suicide in his garage. For the suicide car they used what appeared to be a 59 or 60 Buick or Oldsmobiled. Guess Ford didn't want people dying in their cars!!
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Just the Best TV Series Ever
valerieandbutch24 May 2004
I watched the Perry Mason series as a kid because my folks enjoyed it, and I must say that I really didn't understand much of what was going on being a very young age. A few years ago, while on the mend from surgery, I rediscovered Perry, Della, Hamilton, Paul and Tragg, and what a wonderful day that was! I tape the two hours of shows on each day, and watch it religiously each night. It is a masterful example of just plain great TV. The black and white episodes (there was only one color episode from the original series)are perfect. Seeing the progression of the series as it develops through the years is fascinating. It is simply the greatest series drama in the history of TV. Butch Burrell
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What A Guy!
smrhyne14 September 2003
"Perry Mason" is one of my all time favorite series. I especially love the early episodes. Sometimes, I just sit and try to decide who is handsomer, Raymond Burr or William Hopper. I can never decide! Even though the shows are very predictable, it's always fun to watch Perry wring a confession out of the guilty party. Who wouldn't break down under that stare? In addition to being handsome and brilliant, Perry was also kind and generous. In one episode, a woman comes to him for help, but admits that she has no money. Perry pulls out his checkbook and asks her how much she needs. What a lawyer! What a guy! Once when I had the flu and had taken a LOT of medicine, I dreamt that I was one of Perry's clients. I was sitting with him at the defense table. I became upset and Perry let me put my head on his shoulder. I looked back and saw Della Street giving me a very mean look. I said, "Della, eat your heart out!"
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10/10
Too Good To Miss
screenman28 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Erle Stanley Gardner was already a famous author by the time this series appeared. I have to confess never having read any of his works, though I mean to change that.

And I was still just a kid when this dramatisation of his famous lawyer first hit British TV screens. But it rolled out to such a compelling and bombastic title music that I just had to stop and listen. Much of the argument and legal discovery went over my head, yet Raymond Burr had the part of Perry Mason in the palm of his hand. He was born to the role. He fitted it like Paul Schofield fitted Thomas More, or George C Scott fitted 'Patton'. He was, in short, The Man.

There are many excellent evaluations set down here and I won't attempt to compete with them. Save to say that this series was so hugely popular amongst thinking viewers (I suspect there were more back then than there are now) that it went on for a decade or so. I seemed to grow up with it. Inevitably; it typecast Burr, but I guess a regular paycheque in showbizz is worth more than the paper it's printed on, and it was such a great role to star in; who could walk away? Most of the plots were the same. However, Burr's tremendous persona and the interesting though always platonic chemistry with his assistant Della Street and commissioned gumshoe Paul Drake, steam-rollered any shortcomings in the story department.

Mason was the unflinching juggernaut of the LAW, protecting the innocent and bringing the guilty to book, whilst benignly driving its minions (Lt Tragg) to their best efforts.

If Perry Mason has any successor; it is 'Law & Order'. This series contains some almost equally formidable personas but we've moved on, and the absolute 'rightness' of the law is often more subtly evaluated - and found wanting. The clear certainties are no longer there.

Nevertheless Raymond Burr's 'Perry Mason' could be re-screened tomorrow with all of its unambiguous morality, and a whole new generation would line up for the fan club.
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10/10
QUESTION: Why isn't there a Jury shown, isn't this wrong? ANSWER: No it's perfectly acceptable because the Court Room Scene always depicts a Preliminary Hearing.
John T. Ryan18 March 2008
Perry Mason is possibly at once the most memorable central character in the 20th Century American Detective Story and at the same time being the number one source of misinformation concerning the Nature of both Lawyers and the Legal Racket, er-uh I meant the "Law Profession." Yet like a Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan or Dick Tracy even; Mr. Mason and company have taken on an aura of their being real, live persons.

When the series hit the airwaves on CBS in Fall of 1957, this writer was 11 tears old, was more interested in Baseball, Batman Comics and pleasing my 6th Grade Teacher, Sister Mary Euphemia, C.S.C. in our daily confrontations at St. Theodore Grade School in Chicago. Perry Mason was indeed an unknown commodity to this and most other grade schoolers. But that would soon change, for the series hit the ground running and barely slowed down during its 9 season run on the "Tiffany Network".

PERRY MASON (Paisano Prod/CBS TV,1957-66) was a quality piece of work in every respect. From its low key opening showing Perry and the regulars caught up in a very important moment in some trial; the very distinctive theme starts slowly with just 3 measly, little notes; before building up to a crescendo by the time opening credits end and the title of today's story is shown. For example, it might be something like "The Case of the Fifth Sixth Grader."

Before too long, PERRY MASON was truly a hot item. Being shown on CBS in the earlier portion of the evening; it was deemed fit for family viewing. Indeed it did seem to attract and hold onto a great cross section of viewers from grade schoolers up to their parents and even their parents! Why even the Good Sisters over at St. Theodore's Convent confessed (not in the little box) to having a Jones for Perry's weekly episodes.

Starting with Miss Barbara Hale (Perry's Confidential Secretary, Della Street) had some big parts in some RKO Features; but in spite of her good, really good looks and high level of acting ability; she never quite broke into the ranks of the "Movie Stars." Next, we had Perry's Private Detective Associate, Paul Drake as interpreted by William Hopper, who definitely came by his acting talents naturally. Lt. Arthur Tragg was the usual Homicide Defective in Perry Mason Novels and his part was given over to Ray Collins. Mr. Collins, who was already 70 years of age the year that PERRY MASON premiered, was a fine stage actor of much and wide-spread experience. Ray came to Hollywood as a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre players. He portrayed the crooked Political Boss of the Tammany Hall-like political machine and Governor of New York, Jim W. Geddes in that RKO potboiler called CITIZEN KANE (1941). Ever hear of it, Schultz?

AND now for (Boos & Hisses!!) the "Villain" of the show in the District Attorney, Hamilton Burger; we proudly present William Talman. He came to the TV Screen following some excellent work in Film Noir such as THE ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (RKO Radio Pictures, 1950), THE HITCH-HIKER (The Filmmakers/RKO Radio, 1953) and CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS (Republic Pictures Corp., 1953). He appeared in many weekly anthologies and then landed this weekly D.A. gig. But it was not easy in becoming Hamilton Burger (get it, Schultz, "HAMBURGER"!); for the producers wanted another actor in that role. And that actor's name was………(drum roll!!)…..None other than ………..Raymond Burr! Raymond Burr?

Yes, it's true. The producers wanted to cast Mr. Burr as the crotchety yet capable District Attorney; yet it was Ray's desire to be Perry. In order to gain consideration, the rather heavy-set actor trained and dieted his way down to a slimmer look and was successful. But he to get too thin as the character was not too slender of a guy himself.

The creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, who himself was an Attorney-at-Law (We won't hold that against you, Erle!), had described Perry Mason as "a Big Man; but not the Bigness of a fat man; but rather a Bigness of Strength." Incidentally. Mr. Garner no doubt put a lot of himself into the Character as that "Bigness of Strength" phrase certainly fit Erle quite well.

This wasn't the first try to bring Perry to life. Warner Brothers made 6 Perry Mason "B" Movies in the 1930's. Being about an hour long and designed to be exhibited on the lower half of a Double Feature; four starred Warren William as Perry, while Ricardo Cortez and Donald Woods each assayed the role once.

Several years after the series ended we saw the rise of THE NEW PERRY MASON (20th Century-Fox/CBS TV, 1973-74) with Monte Markham as a very fit, but not so big of a Barrister. It fell by the wayside after only one season. But the Masonic Forces weren't through yet.

In 1985-93 we saw the likes of 30 2 Hour Long Made-for-TV PERRY MASON Movies again starring the surviving members of the original TV Cast, Miss Hale & Mr. Burr along with Barbara's real life Son, William Katt (Father=Bill Williams) as Private Investigator Paul Drake, Jr.

IN addition to the original novels, Movies & TV; Perry Mason Adventures also appeared on his own Radio Show, in Comic Books and in a short running Newspaper Comic Strip.

NOTE: * In 1968, William Talman, realizing that he was dying of Lung Cancer due to his excessive cigarette smoking, filmed a very touching Public Service Anti-Smoking Message in which he laments having to leave his family so prematurely. At its end, the title card states the date of Mr. Talman's death at age 53.
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7/10
I like it
Mattias Petersson20 February 2008
Perry Mason feels to me like something that used to be on TV when i was little. And it wasn't even this series, rather the one from the mid to late 1980's where Raymond Burr was older and a bit more round.

The suddenly i was supposed to translate a few episodes of this show for TV and i got the chance to acquaint myself with the older brand of Perry Mason. And i must say that i'm pretty impressed with what i've seen. Actually so much that i watch the show even when i'm not translating it, something that happens very rarely.

I guess what appeals most to me here is the writing. It highlights how poorly written most of today's TV-shows are. Here we have a proper "whodunnit"-drama with everything from a list of usual suspects to a courtroom battle in the end. It's classic television and it works! Also the acting is a brand you don't see today, back from when actors were taught to speak properly. Sure it feels dated today, but it's dated like an old bottle of wine. And i don't mean vinegar.

I guess many people would be put off by the things i like about this show. The editing with long takes and very few cuts, the rather slow pace, the actors and of course the black and white photo. But for those who like those things this is good entertainment.
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A Great Series
derfmeistr2 July 2005
I appreciated many of the earlier comments. Yes, black and white was perfect for the show. The world was a dark one, filled with murderers, blackmailers, embezzlers. And the theme music is wonderful, suited to that world but also conveying the sense that the truth would inevitably be revealed and justice done.

I would add a few thoughts.

Yes, there was a formula and one of the features (not yet remarked upon) was that typically the murder victim was an absolute creep. He deserved to die and many of the other characters (including, of course, Perry's client) wanted him dead and/or had a motive for killing him. (Perhaps the notion of having the murder victim be a decent man would have been too troubling to the viewers.)Quite often, in an early scene, after a confrontation with the prospective victim, Perry's client-to-be--speaking out of legitimate pique given the prospective victim's bad behavior--says "I'll see you dead" (or words to that effect) and of course there's always at least one witness to this encounter. Indeed, many of the characters were at the scene of the crime at or about the time it happened (how odd that so many of them would converge at that location at about the same time!).

Having started to watch the reruns again over the past few months I was struck by how often blackmail features as a plot point. The prospective victim is often blackmailing one or more other characters. The blackmail victim has a secret he/she doesn't want revealed.

In a way, this is quaint. I assume the teleplays mirrored the society of the time--anyone might have an embarrassing secret and viewers would understand why someone would pay hush money.

Today it's harder to shame people and my sense is that we don't see blackmail quite as often in our films noir. Reflect, by the way, on the secrets that are the subject of the blackmail in this series--the blackmailer has information about a character's criminal record or that a character is illegitimate. Would people care enough about that sort of revelation these days to pay blackmail? Put another way, there's much less to fear from the judgment of the community these days. To "judge" someone is actually politically incorrect in many quarters.

Another thing that struck me as quaint is the wonderful formality of social relations. Everyone is on a "Mr.," "Mrs." or "Miss" basis. When Paul Drake interviews a witness, he addresses him as "Mr Smith;" the witness addresses Paul as "Mr. Drake." While Perry, Paul and Della are on a first-name basis among themselves, each uses the formal address to refer to the other when in the presence of third parties. Thus, Perry might say to a client, "Miss Street will find you a hotel room." The gentlemen wore hats. Call me nostalgic, I guess.

Of course, speaking as a lawyer, I must say (as I'm sure many others have) that there is much that is fanciful about the courtroom scenes. But they do resonate for anyone who--lawyer or not--would at least like to imagine that a trial really is, or can be, a search for the truth, where lies are exposed and we have the satisfaction of seeing an abject confession by a broken and weeping wrongdoer.
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That Theme Music
schappe112 April 2002
Perry Mason is one of the legitimate classics of TV history, easily among to top ten shows of all time. It probably has the smallest differential between the best and worst episodes because it is so formulamatic. I don't even know which episode is my favorite or least favorite. As with most shows, the earliest ones are generally preferable to the later ones but the quality held up pretty well through the ten seasons.

One of the many memorable aspects of the show was that theme music by Fred Steiner. PM was essentially about lies. In one episode, Mason jumps up from his chair, pounds the table and says "I hate liars!" I almost think he's more interested in attacking falsehood than guilt, although the two obviously go together. If you listen to the blowzy jazz theme Steiner concocted it's not hard to see it as accompaniment for an ecdysiast, stripping away lies and deceit until there is nothing left but the truth. It's one of the most recognizable and evocative pieces of music ever written for a dramatic presentation.

By the way, the opening credit sequences used are interesting. The most famous has Mason sitting at a table in an empty courtroom, looking at a document and smiling contentedly. The camera pans back to reveal the empty court room presumably after another successful defense. Before that there was shot of Mason receiving a piece of paper from a judge and smiling that same smile, only to turn into a stylized drawing of Mason and a court room with a towering judge looming over him. The opening of that sequence is taken from the original credit sequence, which has Mason taking the paper from the judge, smiling and handing it to Paul Drake and Della Street at the defense table, who in turn hand it to Hamilton burger and Lieutenant Tragg as each actor's credit is shown. In the original version of this, shown only in the first season's episodes, Burger and Tragg are rather uncomfortably seated at the defense table so they could be in the same shot as Drake and Street. This obviously made no sense and in fact the passing of this paper back and forth between them didn't make much more sense than that, so they eventually went with the later version.
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10/10
Perry Mason
Perry Mason?! PURE GENIUS! What's not classy about this show!? I LOVE it! The characters are genius! (Like the whole show) Perry Mason-The incredibly smart defense attorney. He can out wit any criminal, he may even blow your mind with how genius he is, he can stay serious when needed, he can be sarcastic at times, put people in their place when needed, and the "Perry Stare" can make anyone crack! Not to mention he is quite attractive and is a real gentlemen! Della Street- The ever so loyal secretary to Perry Mason! She sometimes brings up points (unintended) that Perry misses and of course helps the case! Quietly efficient yet she usually knows what to say! She is beautiful, sophisticated, and kind! Paul Drake-Paul is Perry's private detective who owns the Paul Drake Detective in the Brent Building (the same building where Perry's office is)! Paul sometimes comes in the courtroom with information that helps Perry's case (of course he always helps Perry with the case), and every time Perry needs information Paul is who he calls! He is witty and like Perry, quite attractive! Hamilton Burger- Hamilton is the District Attorney. Perry's friend and yet his "enemy". I'm sure he would like Perry to fail or to get Perry or people involved with him in trouble! He is the one who you don't mind a to holler "SHUT UP" at few times! He is a good DA but he could never beat Perry (even if their roles were switched)! Arthur Tragg- Lt. Tragg- Homicide! Arthur Tragg is the old, sly, and sometimes grouchy Lt.! You could say he is Burger's sidekick! He likes getting into Perry's business and usually enters Perry's office unannounced when they are discussing something quite important! The show really wouldn't be the show without Tragg and Burger! The show really is wonderful! Its clean, they usually have cute and witty endings, the plots are good, and you can watch them over and over and it would never get old! There is hardly ever an episode where you say, "That was bad!" Perry Mason is one of the absolute best!
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