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I like Perry Mason. Raymond Burr was so grave, and wise, and showed such dogged determination as the titular lawyer that even when the story was silly, or the courtroom scenes strained credibility, the show remained interesting and pretty cool. As always, Mason takes only the cases of those people falsely accused of murder. If he was getting guilty people off the hook, he would not, of course, have been nearly so compelling. Those people have been falsely accused, but almost always have been framed for the crime. And since it’s always such a convoluted and involved frame-up, getting them off the hook becomes a difficult task.
Of course, most of these frame jobs are pretty much preposterous. The idea that someone would dress up in drag, dye their hair blonde, wear high heels, be sure to make a lot of noise after the murder, and steal someone’s car is a little involved. I think most lawyers who got a case where several eyewitnesses identified their client fleeing the scene in her own coat and her own high-heeled shoes and getting into her own car and driving away, would assume that she was guilty. But such is the gravitas of the wisdom of Perry Mason that he can see through these obviously faked circumstances. And then, invariably, he exposes the real killer live, in court!
This was a convention taken to the extreme with shows like Matlock. Lawyers became detectives, they investigated, on their own, the crimes of which their clients were accused. They made certain that there was never any “reasonable doubt” when the case was decided, because they had already fingered the Real Bad Guy in front of the jury. This of course supposes that people are willing to go to great lengths to accuse someone else of a murder, and that the police are pretty darn bad at their jobs. But as long as lawyers like Perry Mason are good at theirs, we will be entertained. Perry Mason, Season Four Volume One hits DVD June 9th from Paramount Home Entertainment.