Release Date: December 31, 2013 (CBS DVD)
Packaging: Standard DVD Cases in Cardboard Box
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 6
Running Time: 571 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Stereo (Mono for Perry Mason Returns)
Subtitles and Captioning: English Subtitles
Special Features: None
Last year, after seven years and eighteen releases, CBS finished releasing all of the classic legal drama Perry Mason on DVD... well almost all! All nine seasons of the classic series that ran on CBS from 1957 to 1966 are on DVD, but in 1985, NBC made a reunion movie for the series featuring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale in their classic roles, beginning with Perry Mason Returns. This was far from the last reunion movie. In fact, between 1985 and 1993, a total of 26 movies were made, and there were even four more movies made after Raymond Burr's death under the Perry Mason Mysteries banner. Now, CBS has the first six of these classic movies together on DVD, five of them for the first time ever on DVD.
There are six movies on the set: "Perry Mason Returns," "The Case of the Notorious Nun," "The Case of the Shooting Star," The "Case of the Lost Love," "The Case of the Sinister Spirit," and "The Case of the Murdered Madam." "Perry Mason Returns" was previously featured on the 50th Anniversary DVD release. The remaining five are new to DVD.
"Perry Mason Returns" (1:35:41) - In this movie, we are reintroduced to Perry Mason, who is now a judge. Unfortunately, his former secretary, Della Street, is accused of murdering the wealthy businessman she was working for, which prompts him to give up the gavel and return to his roots, as a defender of the wrongly accused. Holland Taylor guest stars.
"The Case of the Notorious Nun" (1:36:02) - A nun is accused of murdering a priest whom she was rumored to be having an affair with, and it is up to Paul Drake, Jr. (William Katt) to find out if she really did it. Barbara Parkins and Tom Bosley guest star.
"The Case of the Shooting Star" (1:35:33) An obnoxious movie star shoots a talk show host on the air in this movie, so it seems that he committed the murder and should be convicted... but there is a twist in the story that suggests that he may not be guilty after all. Joe Penny, Ron Glass, and Alan Thicke guest star.
"The Case of the Lost Love" (1:35:47) - Perry runs into an old girlfriend at a legal conference in this movie, and she is running for political office... but her campaign may be quickly derailed after her husband is accused of murder. Can Perry save the day? Gordon Jump guest stars.
"The Case of the Sinister Spirit" (1:35:44) - A horror writer is killed, and the whodunit may not be so obvious in this movie, when it seems that every guest in the hotel where he was staying had some motive. Robert Stack and Dwight Schultz guest star.
"The Case of the Murdered Madam" (1:35:33) - A madam attempts to blackmail four businessmen in this movie, but it all backfires when she is murdered before she can do it... and her husband may have had something to do with the murder. Ann Jillian and Bill Macy guest star.
I'm not all that impressed with the packaging, as it just seems unnecessarily bulky. The set has three discs, but each disc has its own standard DVD case (even worse, all of them are those much loathed Viva Eco-Box cases with the recycling logo cutout) in a larger outer box. The outer box has a large photo (or really more of an artist rendering) of Mason on the front, and a list of all of the movies on the back. Inside, you'll find the three cases, labeled as Double Feature 1, Double Feature 2, and Double Feature 3. The front of each case has the same artwork as on the outer box, with a description of the movies on the back. And of course, each disc has the standard CBS artwork. It is interesting to note that each of these cases has a unique barcode and proof of purchase on it, which suggests to me that there may be some plan to actually sell these discs individually.
Menu Design and Navigation:
There isn't anything impressive about the menus at all... they're very standard. The main menu has the same artwork as seen on the cover, and options to select either of the movies or subtitles. Once you select a movie, it plays right away. There are chapters within each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
Like a lot of made for TV movies in the '80s, the video and audio quality is nothing too impressive. If you're expecting something like the excellent quality of the original series on DVD, you may be disappointed. That being said, everything really looks fine, it is just that the picture quality seems a bit dull and aged at times. The audio is fine for all of the movies, with the first one presented in mono and the remaining five presented in stereo. Each episode contains English subtitles.
The set contains no special features. One thing that would have been nice would have been some interviews with some of the people who appeared in some of these movies... there are plenty of them who are still alive, including Barbara Hale (who actually did appear in special features produced by Paul Brownstein for the 50th anniversary release).
Make no mistake, these movies certainly aren't the old Perry Mason... but at the same time, make no mistake, these movies were successful because they were good in their own respect. Other classic series have tried to return in a "movie of the week" format, but there is probably no other series that has been this successful when revived in this way. The movies weren't stuck in the 50s and 60s, but they also weren't trying to constantly shove down your throat "hey, it's now the 80s." They really are good movies that, in my opinion, could have stood alone even without the classic series to back it up.
I'm glad that CBS has chosen to release these on DVD, and I'm hopeful that we'll get every single one of these on DVD (including even the Perry Mason Mysteries movies, even though those legitimately weren't as great). Any fan who has been collecting the series on DVD (and we know there are plenty, as the series was rather successful on DVD) will definitely want to own this set and any future releases of these movies on DVD.