10 fascinating 'Perry Mason' episodes that are not like the others
Have you seen the one in color and the one starring Bette Davis?
In nine seasons, ace defense attorney Perry Mason tackled 271 cases. That's a massive court history for even the most diligent paralegal to remember, let alone the casual television fan.
Of course, Perry won nearly all of them. Raymond Burr perfectly embodied Erle Stanley Gardner's noir lawyer. It's hard to image anyone else filling those suits. That being said, in a few rare cases, other actors did indeed step in. Much of the brilliance of the show, beyond the sleek midcentury style and gripping whodunits, was in its formula. You knew what the ending would be, but you were never quite sure how Perry would reach it.
However, a handful of Perry Mason episodes are fascinating outliers. Lets take a look at them.
1. The one where he loses right at the beginning.
"The Case of the Deadly Verdict"
Yes, Perry was not perfect. "The Deadly Verdict" uncharacteristically begins in the courtroom — as Mason's client is sentenced to die by gas chamber! It's a somber mood afterward as the team heads to a restaurant, seen here. Naturally, they are eventually able to prove her innocence. A couple other episodes featured losses. In the season one's "The Case of the Terrified Typist" the jury returns a guilty verdict. Again, Perry clears the defendant. Later, in the sixth-season closer, "The Case of the Witless Witness", a judge rules against Mason, but it's a civil case.
2. The one where Burr plays two roles.
"The Case of the Dead Ringer"
Burr fans should eat up this delightful episode, which sees the star going grizzled as "Grimes." With a few scars on his face, messy white hair and a gritty accent, Mason shows his range. It's almost as if he's auditioning for Moby Dick.
3. The one with Bette Davis instead of Raymond Burr
"The Case of Constant Doyle"
In 1962, during season six, Burr was recuperating from surgery. Guest actors filled in for Burr, who still appeared in a few scenes in a hospital bed. Screen legend Bette Davis was the first and most notable replacement. She was followed by Michael Rennie ("The Case of the Libelous Locket"), Hugh O'Brian ("The Case of the Two-Faced Turnabout") and Walter Pidgeon ("The Case of the Surplus Suitor").
4. The two with no Raymond Burr at all
"The Case of the Bullied Bowler" and "The Case of the Thermal Thief"
Two years later, Burr was hospitalized again for jaw surgery. This time, the star had to step away completely for two outings. In the first, Mike Connors, best known as Mannix and pictured here, portrayed a lawyer friend of Paul Drake. In the second, veteran actor Barry Sullivan took the lead.
5. The three that never set foot in a courtroom
"The Case of the Baited Hook," "The Case of the Velvet Claws" and "The Case of the Careless Kitten"
In a few cases, the show avoided the familiar courtroom set. These were adapted from Erle Stanley Gardner's novels. In fact, The Case of the Velvet Claws was the character's print debut in 1936. Another similar episode, "The Case of the Silent Partner," also takes place outside the common courtroom — but ends up in another smaller rural courtroom.
6. The one in color
"The Case of the Twice-Told Twist"
CBS wished to see what Perry Mason looked like in color late in its run. The execs had plans to craft a tenth season in color, so one test episode was shot in the format, "The Case of the Twice-Told Twist." It aired on February 27, 1966. However, shortly after Raymond Burr finally agreed to the tenth season, CBS canceled the series. The differences go beyond the color palette, as the tone shifts a bit, too. Victor Buono, best known as King Tut on Batman, is the key guest star. His appearance, and the bold, bright colors, makes you think Bruce Wayne will turn up at any moment.
7. The one with a cameo from Perry Mason's creator
"The Case of the Final Fade-Out"
The final episode of the series allowed the producers to give some screen time to the crew. The show's grips, gaffers, prop men, accountants, electricians, etc. fill the minor roles. Presiding over it all is Erle Stanley Gardner himself, who plays the judge in the final courtroom scene.