“If you knew Archer Coe, you’d know that suicide was almost a psychological impossibility for him!”
Detective Philo Vance (William Powell) tries to solve the mysterious murder of a wealthy man (Robert Barrat) with many enemies — including his niece (Mary Astor), his niece’s boyfriend (Paul Cavanaugh), his brother (Frank Conroy), his secretary (Frank Morgan), his occasional lover (Helen Vinson), his Chinese cook (James Lee), and an Italian art collector (Jack LaRue).
Response to Peary’s Review:
This “fast-paced”, visually innovative whodunit by director Michael Curtiz is widely regarded as the “best entry in the [Philo] Vance mystery series”. William Powell — pre-Nick Charles of Thin Man fame — is “properly suave” as the urbane, impeccably dressed Vance, and Curtiz utilizes unusual camera angles and flashy editing to move things along. However, as Peary notes, the 75-minute film suffers from lack of both “a little romance” and a “sympathetic suspect”, leading the murder mystery to come across as academic rather than heartfelt. With that said, there’s still some fun to be had in watching Vance (debonair Powell is, naturally, well cast) smoothly uncovering one new clue after the other, while he drags the amazingly compliant local police force (embodied by beefy Eugene Pallette) along with him for the ride. You may or may not guess the culprit in the end.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Clever direction, camerawork, and editing by Curtiz, DP William Rees, and editor Harold McLernon
No, but film fanatics will likely be curious to check it out once.