Movie Critique - The Dragon Murder Case
Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: A loony grandmother; a mythical curse; a superstition surrounding a pool; and a murder - all spin in a whirlpool of young people and their hormones and romances. It makes a very murky pool of mystery with everyone coming under suspicion for Philo Vance.
The Dragon Murder Case is a 1934 American mystery film directed by H. Bruce Huberstone; based on the 1934 novel of the same name by S. S. Van Dine featuring his star private detective Philo Vance. Warren William portrays the role of Philo Vance in this film along-side Margaret Lindsay, Lyle Talbot, Eugene Pallette and Helen Lowell. This is the 6th of the 15 movies made with Philo Vance as the detective.
Monty Montague dives into a natural pool of water and disappears. Private Detective Philo Vance is called into investigate by the District Attorney Markham (portrayed by Robert McWade). They find Monty's body but with claw marks on his body. Thus begins the superstition of a dragon harboring the pool; and a murder to solve for Vance.
Philo Vance is a fictional private detective who appears in 12 mystery crime novels by S. S. Van Dine; with him being introduced first in the 1926 novel The Benson Murder Case. He first appeared on screen in the 1929 American Pre-Code crime-mystery film The Canary Murder Case in which William Powell starred as Vance.
William Powell had the most films as Vance; 4 in total; of which we had already seen the 1933 film The Kennel Murder Case. Others who played Vance were Basil Rathbone, who is much more famous as Sherlock Holmes; Warren William, a permanent fixture in the 30s and 40s films; Paul Lukas; Edmund Lower and Alan Curtis; among others. Interestingly enough this film was released right after Powell's The Kennel Murder Case.
Warren William was also the first one to play Perry Mason, the fictional American defense attorney created by Erle Stanley Gardner. I had watched his second film as Perry Mason, the 1935 American mystery film The Case of the Curious Bride.
Powell made the best Vance in all of the actors who played. Perhaps that is why in the trailer of the 1934 American pre-Code comedy-mystery film The Thin Man, the first in the series, Powell used his portrayal of Vance along-side Nick Charles that he would play in The Thin Man.
Warren had done his best as Vance, but Powell cast a huge shadow that Warren had struggled hard to get out of under. Nonetheless I think he played a decent Vance in the film. He doesn’t appear in the film for at least 20 mins of it has passed.
Eugene Pallette reprises his role as Sergeant Ernest Heath as in the other Philo Vance movies. Robert McWade also reprises his role as District Attorney Markham, although he played the role only in one of the previous Philo Vance movies, The Kennel Murder Case, released prior to this film.
The opening and closing credits feature large dragon over which the credits are displayed. The key characters are shown with their live action profile; their name and the character's name they portray are displayed below their profile.
A loony grandmother; a mythical curse; a superstition surrounding a pool; and a murder - all spin in a whirlpool of young people and their hormones and romances. It makes a very murky pool of mystery with everyone coming under suspicion for Philo Vance. Entertaining and a bit predictive murder mystery from the early 20th century that is enjoyable to watch.
1) Movie Trivia:
a. Philo Vance gets a mention in the 1941 American screwball comedy film The Lady Eve.