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The Dragon Murder Case

The Dragon Murder Case(1934)

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teaser The Dragon Murder Case (1934)

With the implementation of the restrictive Production Code by the Hollywood studios in 1934, reliable Pre-Code rogue Warren William was obliged to clean up his act in a climate that no longer tolerated seducers and rous. Luckily, fellow Warner Brothers trouper William Powell had just abdicated the role of dilettante detective Philo Vance, leaving a vacancy that the patrician and sardonic William could fill all too ably. (Powell would go on to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, playing yet another amateur sleuth, Nick Charles, in The Thin Man [1934] and its sequels.) The Dragon Murder Case (1934) was Warners' second stab at S. S. Van Dine's effete criminal profiler, who had got his cinematic start at Paramount in 1929, with The Canary Murder Case. If fans of the franchise were sorry to see Powell depart, Warners sprinkled sugar on the pill by retaining series regular Eugene Pallette (as the blustery Sergeant Heath) as well as Robert McWade (as District Attorney Markham) and Etienne Girardot (as police coroner Doremus) from The Kennel Murder Case (1933). Part whodunit, part old dark house thriller, The Dragon Murder Case flirts with full on horror by hinting that the culprit responsible for a ghastly mutilation murder might be an actual monster. William went on to play Erle Stanley Gardner's indefatigable defender Perry Mason in another Warners film series, leaving other actors to try on Philo Vance for size; he returned to the character one last time in The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939).

By Richard Harland Smith

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