Copyright 22 September 1934 by First National Pictures, Inc. Presented by First National Pictures and The Vitaphone Corp. Released through Warner Bros Pictures. New York opening at the Rialto: 22 August 1934. U.S. release: 25 August 1934. U.K. release: 26 January 1935. Australian release: 26 December 1934. Sydney opening at the Regent — Hoyts flagship cinema — as the main feature Christmas attraction. 7 reels. 68 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: During a night swim in the so-called "dragon pool" at the Stamm estate, the Stamm girl's fiancé disappears.
NOTES: Number 6 of the 15-picture "Philo Vance" series.
COMMENT: Both "The Kennel Murder Case" and "The Dragon Murder Case" were mighty popular movies in their day, in America, England and Australia. This is understandable. The first starred crowd-crowned king, William Powell, the second coasted to glory on the success of the first. Although Kennel has the reputation, I found Dragon a much more pleasing film. Firstly, because the mystery proved not only more intriguing and bizarrely exotic, but the solution as to the killer was resolved in such an ingeniously simple yet brilliantly concealed manner.
Secondly, heretic as I am, I preferred Humberstone's direction to the more critically praised Curtiz's. This is not a general statement. I believe Curtiz had an off month on Kennel, whereas Lucky was at the top of his form with Dragon. Ditto Tony Gaudio's wonderfully moody photography versus the rather over-bright (at least in the print under review) work of William Reese.
Thirdly, the acting: William Powell, as usual, makes his Nick Charles — pardon me, Philo Vance — a debonair study of affable, if somewhat patronizing charm; whilst Warren William, as usual, makes his Perry Mason — pardon me, Philo Vance — a debonair study of sarcastic, gruffly affable and considerably condescending charm. Frankly, I prefer Mr. William, but I will admit it's entirely a matter of personal taste. As for the girls, I'll take Margaret Lindsay any day, whilst Helen Lowell does more than justice to the colorful role of the mad Mrs. Stamm. And speaking of the Stamms, Robert Barrat's impersonation of the outrageously drunken head of the clan is far more convincing than Kennel's outraged lover.
Both Kennel and Dragon feature an ingratiating line-up of favorite cameo players. Dragon boasts William B. Davidson (in a decent-sized role, for once), good old George E. "42nd Street" Stone, plus that wonderfully suave cad, George Meeker. Of course, heartily bluff, wheezily argumentative Eugene Palette makes his bulky presence felt in both movies.