Dull adaptation of the S.S.Van Dine book from the Philo Vance series. William Powell doesn’t give a clue of the light comedic touch of his later movies. This is his second time as Vance. Also returning is Eugene Pallette as Sgt.Heath.
It’s almost midnight on New Year’s Eve 1929. The Greene family lawyer has everyone gathered in Mrs. Greene’s room to see if the family is keeping with the tenants of the late Mr.Greene’s will. Mrs.Greene is bedridden with paralysed legs. Also in the room are creepy Chester Greene, his over excitable brother Rex, their sister Sibella and their adopted sister Ada. Looking on is Sibella’s boyfriend Dr.Arthur Von Blon.
The will states they all have to prove they’ve been living in the house all year. That condition lasts for fifteen years. There are five to go. That’s when the survivors inherit the estate. Everyone checks out.
Midnight. Someone shoots Chester. Three minutes later Ada is wounded. D.A.John F.X.Martin and Sgt.Heath (Eugene Pallette) enlist the help of Philo Vance (William Powell). They think the crimes were committed by a burglar. Vance doesn’t buy it. They all go to the house to investigate.
Now they go back to Martin’s office. Ada comes in. She says the doctor wrote down a word describing her mother’s condition. She forgot to bring the paper with her. She says it’s in a box she and Rex referred to as their secret mailbox when they were kids. They get Rex on the phone. A shot rings out. The next voice is the butler Sproot. Someone has shot and killed Rex.
Back to the house. The murderer isn’t done yet. It’s a wacky solution. The book was miles better and the later movies were also miles ahead of this one.
The movie series started with 1929’s “The Canary Murder Case” with William Powell as Vance. He did three more. Others to play the part include Basil Rathbone, Paul Lukas and Wilfred Hyde-White. The last movie was 1947’s “Philo Vance’s Secret Mission” with Alan Curtis in the title role.