Late at night Perry Mason (Ricardo Cortez) gets a phone call from Peter Laxter (Harry Davenport). He wants to change his will, tonight. Mr. Laxter is one of those rich old cranks that you just don’t say no to. Perry says he’s on his way. When Perry gets there the caretaker, Charles Ashton (George Rosener) holding his cat Clinker under his arm, lets him in.
Laxter wants Perry to change his will cutting his granddaughter Wilma (Jane Bryan) out entirely. She is seeing Douglas Keene (Carlyle Moore Jr.) who Laxter suspects of being a gold digger. Instead he wants his estate to be evenly split between his two grandsons Sam Laxter (Bill Elliott) and Frank Oafley (Craig Reynolds). The will further states that his caretaker Ashton must always be employed at the estate and that he is allowed to keep his cat Clinker. Perry asks him why he needed to have all this done at this hour. Laxter says that he may not be alive in the morning.
When Wilma finds out about the new will she moves out of the mansion and decides to open up a waffle shop. Before it officially opens a fire at the Laxter estate kills Peter Laxter. According to the new will the estate is now split between Sam and Frank. The problem arises when Sam threatens Clinker. Ashton visits Mason to get his help. Perry agrees to represent the cat. The plot thickens when Perry learns that Laxter had diamonds that are now missing and suspicions arise when Perry learns that Laxter was already dead when the fire started.
“The Case of the Black Cat” was released in 1936 and was directed by William C. McGann. The movie is murder mystery based on the Perry Mason story “The Caretaker’s Cat” written by Erle Stanley Gardner. Warner Brothers did six movies based on various Perry Mason stories. This was the fifth movie of the series.
First of all, the cat in the movie is not black. He’s actually white with grey tabby markings in spots. Why the title of the film referred to a black cat is a quandary. My guess is to garner some of Universal’s audience from their film “The Black Cat” done in 1934. They could have just as easily have titled the film the same as the Garner story. Although the cat used in the film is not black he is pretty formidable.
The movie was your standard mystery story of the thirties. It was good, but the best part of the film is, of course, Ricardo Cortez as Mason. This was the only film of the series with Cortez as the lead. Reportedly Gardner was not happy with Cortez being cast as Perry Mason so he was replaced in the next Warner Brothers film. Too bad since Cortez makes a great Mason.
I am a “Perry Mason” fan from way back. I’m referring to the Raymond Burr television show “Perry Mason” so I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to the characters and who represents them. Ricardo Cortez as Perry Mason I was pleased with. He has charm and character. He actually adds some light hearted personality traits that Burr was lacking.
June Travis as Della Street is OK but Garry Owen as Paul Drake is more comic relief than whiz investigator. Guy Usher as Hamilton Burger is boring.
Around 1934 or 1935, Warner Brothers started releasing a series of tie-in films with “Black Mask Magazine” called the "Clue Club". These mystery films were released under the First National banner. Youngsters could join a card club and win prizes by going to see the pictures. Warner Brothers announced twelve films released under the “Clue Club” advertising gimmick. One of the movies in this series was “The Case of the Black Cat”. The ”Clue Club” stories appear to be similar to the Universal/Doubleday collaboration in their “Crime Club mysteries” series.