Sunday, March 09, 2003


According to the critics, this is the best of the movies in the Philo Vance series. I read one of these a year or so ago, THE CASINO MURDER CASE, and liked it quite a bit, and was surprised to find out that William Powell played Vance in a few of the films. In S. S. Van Dine's books, the character is rather fey and talks like a highfalutin' hillbilly, and neither characteristic do I associate with Powell. Thankfully, they let Powell act and talk like Powell. Other movies Vances include Paul Lukas, Basil Rathbone, and James Stephenson (I hope to review his film soon). Most of the Vance movies are from the early 30's and difficult to run across--I'm keeping my eye out for CASINO. This one is pretty standard murder mystery fare. Powell solves a case involving the killing of a dog at a ritzy dog show, followed by the apparent suicide of the nasty man who might have killed the dog. Of course, it turns out to be a locked-room murder and Philo Vance has to solve it. Powell is handsome and charming, rather like a sober Nick Charles (THE THIN MAN would come the next year). Others in the cast include Mary Astor (sexy but ultimately just red herring material), Eugene Pallette, Ralph Morgan, and Helen Vinson. This may not be the first movie to show the solution to the murder by a reenactment flashback through the eyes of the killer, but it must be one of the earliest. Standard but quite watchable mystery with all the stereotypes intact.

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