24 June 2007 | MartinHafer
An enjoyable but predictable programmer
In the 1930s and 40s, there were a long series of detective films such as THE SAINT, CHARLIE CHAN, BOSTON BLACKIE and many others. One of the lesser series that never really seemed to hit its stride was the Philo Vance series. Much of the reason the series never really caught on was perhaps because several different actors played Vance (such as William Powell, Paul Lukas, Basil Rathbone and several no-name actors). In this early Philo Vance film, Warren William plays the sleuth. As a result, it seems very much like one of the Lone Wolf films--another detective series that starred William just a few years later. As a B-movie, its budget was relatively small and the film has very modest pretensions. Unlike some of these style films, Vance had no sidekick but there was, of course, a stupid detective--this time in the form of the wonderful character actor Eugene Palette--who was wonderful as the befuddled and slightly daffy cop. In addition, Robert Warwick played a cute small part as a coroner with some of the best lines in the movie!
As for the mystery, it's not one of the better ones in the genre because I figured out who the murderer was before it even occurred. This is NOT a good sign for a detective film! By the way, I didn't figure it out because I am some genius (my kids remind me all the time that I am not), but because it just was too easy to figure out at the onset.
Still, despite there not being a lot of mystery, the film moves at a brisk pace and is a decent and watchable film of the genre. If you're a fan of this style of film, then this is a must-see--otherwise, there is better entertainment out there if you look!