11 October 2015 | AlsExGal
The last and the best of the Paramount Philo Vance films
The Benson Murder Case is the best of the three Philo Vance movies that Powell made at Paramount. That was partly because of advances in sound technology and partly because this script is more complex and the characters are more fleshed out.
Anthony Benson is a stock broker - and he does not seem to be a crooked one as the synopsis states, though he is a bit of a rogue. The day is that of the great stock market crash, October 1929. As so many brokers did, those investors that had their stocks bought on margin were sold out when they could not cover those margins, and many lost everything.
Add to this the complication of several people who have personal grudges against Benson that have nothing to do with the crash - two of which break into Benson's mansion that night - and you have a large number of suspects and a rather complex plot. Philo Vance (William Powell) comes calling on Benson that night and is having a discussion with dapper gangster Harry Gray (William Stage Boyd) about how Vance has only been able to solve the murders he has because the perpetrators were not professionals. At just about that time a shot rings out and Benson - minus the toupee he always wore if he was in the presence of anyone - rolls down the stairs, dead at Vance's feet.
So here Vance has a house full of people who are glad to see Benson dead, yet they all seem to have alibis, and you have some proof (the missing toupee) that Benson must have been alone when he died, yet he did not commit suicide! What a mystery Vance must unravel, but he does.
This one will keep you guessing as it is not quite so easy to figure out as the others. Also, there are a couple of other mysteries that Vance figures out but keeps mum about because they have nothing to do with the murder and because he is such a gentleman.
I'd say watch this one, but watch it carefully, because there is quite a bit going on. Thus the plot is good and it is another fine chance for William Powell and Eugene Palette, as Vance's police detective friend, to show off their acting abilities.