Archer Coe (Robert Barrat) is a member of the Long Island Kennel Club. He is showing his Scottish terrier. Philo Vance (William Powell) is also a member. Unfortunately his terrier doesn’t make the finals. That’s OK; he’s headed overseas the next day. As for Archer, he goes home and appears to commit suicide. In a locked room. That’s enough for Philo Vance to cancel his trip and head directly to Archer’s home.
When Vance gets to the scene it takes no time for him to figure out that Archer was actually murdered. Archer is found in his bedroom sitting in a chair. There is a bullet hole in his head and a gun in his hand. District Attorney Markham (Robert McWade) and Detective Heath (Eugene Pallette) call in the coroner. The coroner, Dr. Doremus (Etienne Girardot), finds that in addition to the bullet hole in his head Archer has a bruise on his head and a stab wound in his back. Murder is now on the table.
The list of suspects includes anyone who knew Archer. At the top of the list is his niece Hilda Lake (Mary Astor). Archer controlled her estate and her. She made no bones about her hatred for the man. Her fiancé Sir Thomas MacDonald (Paul Cavanagh) believed Archer killed his dog to ensure his own would win the Kennel Club competition. Archer’s lover Doris Delafied (Helen Vinson) and her new lover Eduardo Grassi (Jack La Rue) each had reason as well. Archer found out about their affair. He cut her off and cancelled a business deal with him. His cook Liang (James Lee) helped Archer amass a fortune in Chinese artifacts. When Archer decided to sell them Liang was angry that the collection would be passed to someone who didn’t appreciate them. His secretary, Raymond Wrede (Ralph Morgan), was angry when Archer laughed at him. He was in love with Archer’s ward Hilda and wanted to marry her. Even his own brother Brisbane (Frank Conroy) despised him.
All this and a dead man in a locked room. Vance has his work cut out for him and when there is another murder and an attempted murder and an injured dog, Vance must take a winding path through the clues and suspects to get to the truth.
“The Kennel Murder Case” was released in 1933 and was directed by Michael Curtiz. It is a mystery based on the novel “The Kennel Murder Case” by S. S. Van Dine. This one is on the cusp of being pre-code. The death of MacDonald’s Scottish terrier and the beating of the Doberman, though both off screen, place it in the pre-code realm.
This is William Powell's last movie as Philo Vance. His character is not as much of a pompous ass as in previous movies. In his other films as Philo Vance I found him to be a little insufferable but here I liked his character a lot better. He still managed to pull rabbits out of a hat in putting the clues together and explaining the sequence of events. But this time, he did it with style.
I enjoyed the movie a lot. It was fast paced and the dialogue was quick. The characters were well defined, the acting was good and the story was interesting.