THE KENNEL MURDER CASE was solved in 1933 by urbane sleuth ‘Philo Vance’, played for the 4th and final time by dapper William Powell, the year before he switched characters but kept the suave, upped the humor and added a lovely partner to begin the ‘Thin Man’ series. The cluesman Vance was played by ten different actors in 15 B-films between 1929 and 1947, with this one, directed by Michael Curtiz, considered the best of the lot.
Curtiz makes neat use of the once-fashionable ‘wipes’ and ‘dissolves’ as an editing device to keep the pace zipping along in a complicated case with two men and a dog murdered, another pooch clobbered, and seven suspects to sort through. Resentment, jealousy, trysts, and mistakes in the heat of the moment are puzzle pieces that confuse the cops but delight the brilliant Vance, done with breezy panache by Powell.
Entertaining artifact from the days before detectives became hard-boiled loners packing surly attitudes along with their 45’s. Philo’s a gentleman, but no sap. Made by Warner’s for $272,000, coming in 65th in ’33 with a rewarding $1,300,000.
With Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette, Jack La Rue, Robert Barrat, Helen Vinson, Etienne Girardot, Paul Kavanaugh, James Lee and George Chandler. Script by Robert N. Lee and Peter Milne from the same-year book by Vance creator S.S. Van Dine, pen name for the quite interesting Willard Wright (1888-1939). 73 minutes.