The opening credits of the show are a miniature drama that changed from time to time over the run of the series. Each runs about 39 seconds and is accompanied by Fred Steiner's fabulous theme music. There were five different styles, with some variations, of opening sequence. Each is named and discussed below in some detail. Click on the image for a "filmstrip" view of the style. Use the back button to return.
The Foursome (Style F) Perry approaches the judge and hands him a document. The judge looks at it and returns it to Perry. Perry looks at it with an expressive interest and then takes it to what is normally the defense table, where Della, Paul, Burger and Tragg are all curiously seated in a row. He hands it to Della. She looks at it and passes it down the line. Each looks, with some interest, at the document in turn.
Used in all of Season 1, episodes #1-39. Cast: Hale, Hopper, Talman and Collins shown over a view of themselves seated at the defense table..
The Pairs (Style P) Perry approaches the judge who hands him a document. He examines it with an expressive interest and then, tucking the document under his arm, he takes it to the defense table where Della and Paul are seated. He places the document on the table. Della and Paul gaze upon it. Perry then carries the document to the prosecution table where Burger and Tragg are seated and places it in front of Tragg. Burger picks it up, looks at it and then hands it to Tragg who also looks at it.
Used in Season 2, episodes #40-69, except #58; all of Season 3, episodes #70-95; Season 4 episodes #96 and 97. Cast: Hale and Hopper then Talman and Collins shown over views of themselves at the tables. Note: The action was modified for episodes #89-96. The action froze during the title display. A filmstrip can be seen here. The cast, without Talman, except for #94, #95 and #96, was then displayed. See here for the reason why Talman suddenly vanished.
The Model Courtroom (Style M) Opens with a view from above of a model judge seated at model bench with a model Perry standing before it. The camera flies down and then towards the bench from behind the model Perry. The view cuts to a closeup of a document on the bench. A live Perry reaches in and picks it up. The models become a real courtroom. The camera pulls back as Perry examines the document expressively. He closes the document and, as he holds it in front of himself, the action stops. Perry morphs in to a graphical image. The courtroom vanishes. As the camera continues to pull back, a graphical depiction of the Goddess of Justice is revealed. The image of Perry is seen to be on the blade of her sword. This image vanishes as the title appears. The camera continues to pull back, revealing more of the Goddess until most of her is visible.
Used in Season 2, episode #58; Season 4, episodes #98-123; all of Season 5, episodes #124-153. Cast: Hale, Hopper and Collins. Talman as required.
The Walk-In (Style W) Perry opens the door and enters an empty courtroom. He pauses briefly and looks around. He has a large, thick briefcase tucked under his left arm. He walks to the bar, stops at the gate and looks around expressively, with much eye-action, for about 12 seconds. He then opens the gate and walks to the defense table. He lays the briefcase on the table, looks around a bit more and then sits down. He then assumes a thinker pose with his left elbow on the table and hand to chin as he continues to glance about the room.
A variation of this style was used for the color episode #262. This sequence opens with a view of the full courtroom. Perry walks quickly to the gate carrying a briefcase in his right hand. He pauses briefly to look around then walks through the gate and sits at the defense table. He opens the briefcase, takes out a document and expressively examines it. The camera pulls back to behind the jury box as Perry continues to peruse the document. A filmstrip of this style can be seen here.
Used in Season 6, episodes #158, 161, 164, 167, 169 and 172; Season 7, episodes #184, 189, 193, 196, 199, 203, 206, 209 and 215; Season 8, episodes #219, 223, 226, 230, 233, 237 and 240; Season 9, episodes #245. A modified form was used in #262. Cast: Hale, Hopper and Collins. Talman as required. Lau appears in Season 8. Collins gone in Season 9.
The Seated Flyby (Style S) The camera flies through an empty courtroom from high in the back to find Perry seated at the defense table reading a document. His open briefcase lies on the table in front of him. The camera closes in and pauses. He looks up and smiles expressively. The camera begins to pull away and Perry continues to read. As the camera flies over the jury box, he once again assumes a thinker pose with elbow on table and hand to chin. Fade to black.
Used in Season 6, episodes #154-157, 159-160, 162-163, 165, 166, 168 and 173-181; Season 7, episodes #182-183, 185-188, 190-192, 194-195, 197-198, 200-202, 204-205, 207-208 and 210-211; Season 8, episodes #212-214, 216-218, 220-222, 224-225, 227-229, 231-232, 234-236, 238-239 and 241; Season 9, episodes #242-244, 246-261 and 263-271. Cast: Hale, Hopper and Collins. Talman as required. Lau appears in Season 8. Collins dropped in Season 9.
A "filmstrip" of the principal opening credits styles is available here, arranged for easy comparison. The timing of the images is not precise.
All of the styles include, with some variations, the following elements in this order: "Perry Mason," "starring Raymond Burr," "in The Case of" title and a listing of the principal cast.
In Styles P, W and S, the phrase "Based upon characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner" appears after the episode title.
In Style M, the text "Erle Stanley Gardner's" was added after the word "in" in the episode title.
Special thanks to William Wagner for encouraging me to take a closer look at the opening credits. Also thanks to Mitch English for asking "how many?"