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Future Nick Charles William Powell in the third of his Philo Vance adventures.


with an odd ménage of wealthy, grudge-holding eccentrics. The high ceilinged sets mark this as a


theatrical early talkie—the directorial credit is split between stage direction (David Burton) and screen direction (Nick Grinde)—and there’s a great deal of declamatory talk (“Taking death tragically is one of the weaknesses of youth”) from the likes of Roland Young (TOPPER), Leila Hyams (FREAKS), Alec B. Francis (THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM), Charles Quatermaine (THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR) and fu- ture director Delmer Daves. Knowledge of chess, typewriters and the plays of Ibsen helps Vance reach a solution and the killer’s motive (“What diabolic hatred—to kill four men just to send me to the chair!”) has a certain impressive malice, but it’s a bit of a plod next to the more full-blooded Old Dark House horrors of the period.


Seeing off the MGM competition, Paramount cast


Powell in THE BENSON MURDER CASE (also made in Spanish, with Ramon Pereda, as El


Cuerpo del Delito). A Paramount On Parade skit went so far as to have Powell’s Vance and Pallette’s Heath—not to mention Clive Brook’s Sherlock


48


Holmes—murdered by Warner Oland’s Fu Manchu! With Michael Curtiz’s THE KENNEL MURDER CASE, Warner Bros. took the precaution of hiring Powell and Heath to reprise their roles, seamlessly continuing the series. The first corpse in the plot is a Scottie who seemed likely to beat a beast owned by Archer Coe (SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM’s Robert Barrat) in a dog show. Coe, one of those predestined victims who has given everyone in his family and social circle a different reason to want him dead, is found in a locked room with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand. Heath’s instant suicide verdict is squashed when it turns out Coe was bludgeoned and stabbed to death before he was shot. Powell, in his final turn as Vance, sparkles slightly in scenes with the dead man’s decorative niece (Mary Astor) and rattles off baffling explana- tions with brio, though the Robert N.Lee-Peter Milne script omits to explain who killed the dog. Giradot makes his debut as Doremus and Robert McWade (THE PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOD) is a bland Markham. The guest/suspect list runs to Frank Conroy (CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT), Ralph Morgan


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