An unnecessary release makes its way to our docket.
I’m not sure why the folks who are in charge of putting these releases together have chosen to double dip. As you know from reading DVD Verdict Judge PS Colbert’s review for Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 1 the two movies I’m about to talk about, Perry Mason Returns and The Case of the Notorious Nun were released early in 2014 within that six movie collection. So why a reduced release less than half a year later?
Perry Mason (Raymond Burr, Ironside) is one of the most iconic TV lawyers to grace the small screen. Running from 1957 to 1966, Perry Mason reigned over the courtroom. Then Burr took a break from the role until 1985, when he returned with Perry Mason Returns. A series of TV movies were produced and Burr faithfully appeared in at least one Perry Mason movie every year from their inception in 1985 until his death in 1993.
Perry Mason Movie Collection: Double Feature 1 features the first two of Burr’s TV movies, Perry Mason Returns and The Case of the Notorious Nun. First and foremost in order to enjoy these films you need to dismiss the understanding that modern crime-solving techniques like DNA and ballistics would solve these cases in minutes. Because they would. No doubt. These cases are much more motive-based and as such present the audience with a winding path of clues based on who was where, when, and why. The next thing you need to know is that during Burr’s hiatus William Harper, who played PI Paul Drake, passed away. So when it came time to return to the screen the (wise) decision was made to instead cast William Katt (The Greatest American Hero) as Paul Drake, Jr. This is one of the best things about these two movies, as Katt is clearly called upon to play cowboy to Burr’s elder statesman. The dichotomy works and provides some of the best tension as well as humor of the films.
Perry Mason Returns
Perry has been working the circuit as an appellate court judge. What’s the one thing which would make him return to life as a defense lawyer? Murder charges brought against Della Street (Barbara Hale, Airport), his long-time aid, of course. Della’s been accused of murdering Mr. Gordon (Patrick O’Neal, Under Siege), the man she’s been working for over the past few years. But there are plenty of other people who want him dead, including his three children and wife (Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men). Perry must wade through all the evidence and discover who else could have committed the crime, a task made exponentially difficult when there’s an eye witness placing Della at the scene.
The Case of the Notorious Nun
Perry’s in the hospital, but it’s under false pretenses. He’s there to covertly assist his longtime friend Archbishop Corro (William Prince, The Cat from Outer Space) who’s dealing with embezzlement within his diocese. But things take a turn when the priest who’s investigating that same corruption is murdered. The prime suspect is Sister Margaret (Michele Greene, L.A. Law), a nun who worked closely with the murdered priest. Perry takes her case and must prove there’s more to the story than the salacious gossip surrounding the possible romantic relationship between the nun and the priest.
Perry Mason Movie Collection: Double Feature 1 hosts both movies on one disc. These movies were aired in 1985 and 1986, respectively, and they look and sound it. First there’s the 1.33:1 aspect ratio for the video transfer, nearly unheard of with movies made in the new millennium. Within the transfer itself are plenty of unintentional (and sometimes painfully intentional) lens flares, unbalanced white and black levels and a general flatness to a palette, which favors brown tones above all. Then the audio has its own issues, with a Dolby 1.0 track being among the two offered. When’s the last time you even heard of the 1.0 option? Speaking of hearing, don’t choose that one. While the Dolby 2.0 isn’t going to be more than serviceable, the 1.0 is just not worth it. As it is, the 2.0 betrays the Foley work done, and it’s made all the more evident with the soundtrack only running occasionally. There’s a definite hollowness to the tracks and what music there is could come from no other decade.
There are no special features.
Perry Mason Movie Collection: Double Feature 1 is a great introduction or reintroduction to the legendary lawyer. There’s a definite 1980s aesthetic within not only the video and audio tracks but the storytelling as well. If you accept that forensics never come into play and that the set drips with nostalgia, you’ll find Perry Mason a lawyer whose docket is worth investigating. However, I’m puzzled by the decision to scale back and essentially double dip on the same releases within half a year span. It’s a disappointing choice, as I’m not going to recommend this set, but rather Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 1.