Plot: A man is dead, found inside a locked room and the police rule it is a suicide, though evidence suggests otherwise. Detective Philo Vance (William Powell) is certain that while the locked room scenario is a puzzle to be solved, it is clear suicide isn’t the solution, as the man was beaten, stabbed, and shot. As Vance peels back the clues, the man’s brother starts to look like a likely suspect, at least he too is found murdered, throwing another obstacle in the investigation. Vance has no shortage of potential suspects however, as the man had a wealth of rivals and flat out enemies, but sifting through the clues to narrow it down has proven difficult. Can Vance figure out who was behind the killing and solve the locked room conundrum before even more bodies turn up?
Entertainment Value: This is a rock solid installment in the Philo Vance series, a capable mystery with plenty of twists and turns, not to mention that Vance teams with a canine companion to track down clues. The narrative is murder mystery bedrock, pretty much the core formula for stories of this kind, which means it covers all the bases, though it also rather predictable. The movie does throw out a number of false leads and red herrings to mix things up, but this is a by the numbers mystery, though one that is so well crafted, it doesn’t often matter. I have to think most genre fans will know the killer right off the bat, but The Kennel Murder Case makes the experience so fun to watch, you won’t mind. Between the various false leads, the movie’s brisk, 73 minute run time, the wonderful cast, and skilled direction from Michael Curtiz, the film is able to rise above the predictable narrative in all respects. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys old school murder mysteries or classic cinema in general.
This was William Powell’s final appearance as master sleuth Philo Vance and as usual, he delivers a suave, likable performance. I wouldn’t rate this alongside his best work, as he isn’t hitting The Thin Man levels of cinema magic here, but he is fun to watch and brings a lot of charm to the role. This kind of character just clicks with Powell’s persona and he can make even routine mysteries have some extra pop, which is exactly what he does in The Kennel Murder Case. I also think he could draw out the best in just about anyone, which is also evident here, as he seems to have good chemistry and fun banter with most of his costars. I always love to see Eugene Pallette as well, as he makes any scene at least a little better and more memorable. He springs up in hundreds of movies and without fail, is a welcome sight. The cast also features Mary Astor, Helen Vinson, Frank Conroy, and Ralph Morgan.
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