Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Series: a Philo Vance movie
Starring: William Powell, Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette, Ralph Morgan, Robert McWade
Director: Michael Curtiz
Release Date: 28 January 1933
Length: 73 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
Millionaire Archer Coe (Robert Barrat) has been found dead in a locked room. The police believe his death was suicide, but private investigator Philo Vance (William Powell) is sure that it was murder. When the coroner discovers that Archer was struck on the head with a blunt object, stabbed and then shot, it is pretty obvious that Archer did not commit suicide. There is no shortage of suspects who wanted Archer dead, but how did they lock the room from the inside?
Philo Vance (William Powell) is a suave, sophisticated private investigator with a keen eye for observation. Surprisingly enough, Vance is well-liked and respected by the police force. Detective Heath (Eugene Pallette) doesn’t make a move without checking with Vance first. This may be because Vance is wealthier and smarter, but they actually made a pretty good team together. Heath spends most of the movie jumping to the wrong conclusion, but Vance is always on hand to set him straight. The mystery that these two are trying to solve is absolutely fascinating. First of all, there is the question of how the murderer got into the room with Archer when the door is locked from the inside. Secondly, who tried to murder Archer first? Was the blow to the head, the knife wound or the bullet that killed him? Thirdly, how do dogs and a priceless Chinese collection tie into the murder? There are a lot of details, a lot of suspects and some great clues laid out for the viewer. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to solve the case along with Vance, but I would not have been able to do it without him!
Eugene Pallette was a delight to watch as the detective in charge of investigation. He is a good-old-boy who accepts everything at face value, but was really likeable. Eugene Pallette really disappears into his role so I can see why he starred in so many movies as a character actor! William Powell was absolutely charming as Philo Vance. Handsome, wealthy and single, I was a bit surprised to see that no women in the movie were hitting on him. Granted, most of the women in the movie seemed to have boyfriends, fiancés, spouses or all of the above, but still, where was the flirtation?! The rest of the cast got a bit jumbled up for me. There are a lot of suspects and they all have different movies. In addition to the humans, we also get to see their dogs, which was great! Philo Vance has an adorable Scottie dog as his show dog and there are many other breeds featured in the movie. One of the dogs even helps solve the mystery!
This is a classic black-and-white movie shot in an older style, but it is still very enjoyable. I am really impressed that the director and writers were able to squeeze such a complicated plot into such a short time frame and am wondering when we lost the art of making movies like this? I know that Hollywood says that viewers aren’t interesting in thinking or solving complicated mysteries while they are watching movies, but I disagree. I think that people enjoy being involved in mysteries that have an actual solution, not some mystical open-ended fade-into-the-sunset ending like we see these days. Not sure if you will like it? – check out the entire movie by watching the video above. Be advised that the film is a little grainy and the sound quality isn’t the best, but the story sucked me in and I couldn’t wait to see whodunnit!
One of the other aspects I enjoyed about the movie was the old-fashioned investigating. You get to see telephone operators connecting lines with their manual plugs, rotary phones, books being searched for information, etc. I am sure that most younger viewers (if you can persuade them to watch a black-and-white movie with you) will have no idea what half of this stuff is! This was a real blast from the past to see old-fashioned detective work and it really added to the enjoyment factor. If you are looking for a concise mystery that will test your mettle to solve a classic locked-room mystery, The Kennel Murder Case is the one for you. I am definitely looking forward to watching and reading more about private investigator Philo Vance!
This movie contains a couple of murders and victims are shot, stabbed, hit over the head and attacked by dogs. Characters cheat on spouses and boyfriends/girlfriends. There are scenes of alcohol drinking and smoking. There are some scenes with fighting and verbal arguments. A dog is murdered and found in the alley. Recommended for ages 10 and up.