The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
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DETECTIVE-PALOOZA: ODDS AND ENDS

THE KENNEL MURDER CASE (1933) **

William Powell stars as dapper detective Philo Vance. And boy is he having a busy day. First, a dog is murdered, and then a guy commits suicide. Vance doesn’t buy the official story, so he investigates further. Naturally, more people turn up dead before Vance can solve the mystery.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, The Kennel Murder Case is an OK little mystery; no more, no less. There are a few nice touches (like the way Philo figured out how the killer was able to lock the door behind him), but nothing to really make or break the film. Curtiz never kicks things into gear though and the film never quite finds its stride. Despite the sluggish pace, the scene where Philo recreates the murder is fairly well done, but the flick really needed one or two more of these sequences for it to have been worthwhile though.

William Powell isn’t bad in this movie. Like the film itself, his performance is adequate, but he never quite fires on all cylinders either. He fared much better playing another detective (and dog lover) in the next year’s The Thin Man.

Nearly a decade later, Curtiz went on to direct Casablanca; and I don’t know about you, but I think that flick is slightly better than this one.

NANCY DREW… REPORTER (1939) ***

Bonita Granville stars in her second of four appearances as teenage sleuth Nancy Drew. This time out, Nancy goes on a field trip with her journalism class to write a story for their local paper. Unsatisfied with the fluff story she is assigned; Nancy steals a press pass and takes it upon herself to cover a murder trial. Convinced the accused woman is innocent, Nancy sets out to clear her name.

Granville has all the spunkiness you’d expect from the character. I liked the way she carelessly threw herself headfirst into trouble (like when she aggressively goes after a hit-and-run driver). It’s also pretty funny how she’s always roping her clueless boyfriend into her misadventures. The scene where she cons him into posing as a boxer is especially funny. And the scene in a Chinese restaurant where Nancy and her gang are forced to literally sing for their supper is also quite enjoyable.

Look, I’m the last guy you’d expect to like a movie about a teenage girl reporter, but Granville’s charm really makes the film. Most fast-talking wise-cracking girls in these films are annoying, but Granville’s energetic performance is a lot of fun. The film pretty much falls apart by the last reel and the final chase is a bit of a letdown, but there’s still plenty to recommend about the first hour or so to make it worth a look.

Well folks, that’s all for Detective-Palooza this month. Next month’s Palooza: Kung Fu-A-Palooza!

Tags: comedy, k, n, sequel, thriller
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