The Dragon Murder Case


1h 8m 1934
The Dragon Murder Case

Brief Synopsis

Society sleuth Philo Vance looks into a murder near a mysterious "dragon pool."

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Mystery
Release Date
Aug 25, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
First National Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
First National Pictures, Inc.; The Vitaphone Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Dragon Murder Case: A Philo Vance Story by S. S. Van Dine (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7 reels

Synopsis

At the Stamm family house, everyone waits for the arrival of Monty Montague, who is engaged to Bernice. Despite the fact that she and Dale Leland are in love, and that none of the other party guests, including Greeff, Tatum and her brother Rudolph have much affection for Monty, Bernice intends to marry him. Rudolph is intent on getting thoroughly drunk, so Leland offers to pick Monty up at the gas station where his car is stalled. He is about to leave when Monty and Ruby, another guest, arrive at the door. Bernice suggests that they all go for a swim. Monty and Leland dive into the dark pool, but Monty does not surface afterward. Frantic, Bernice has lights brought in, but a search fails to find him. The police are called and Sergeant Heath arrives, bringing District Attorney Markham and his friend, detective Philo Vance. Vance notices that Rudolph is a specialist in tropical fish. He questions old Mrs. Stamm, a harmless lunatic, who insists that a water monster killed Monty. The next day they drain the pool but do not find a body. Vance spots three-toed tracks in the mud at the bottom and later finds the body in a pot hole. Dr. Doremus, the coroner, remarks that there is no water in the corpse's lungs and notes strange marks on its throat and chest. Then Trainor, the butler, is knocked unconscious with a blunt instrument and Greeff disappears. Vance again questions Mrs. Stamm, believing that she is not as crazy as she appears. He discovers that the key to the family burial vault is missing, and after a search, it is found in Tatum's bed. Tatum, however, denies any knowledge of the key. Vance gathers everyone at the pool to reenact the events of the murder. Rudolph plays the part of Monty and after his dive, fails to surface. Vance tells everyone that Monty was murdered by someone wearing a diving suit, which is what made the strange marks. They search for diving equipment in the vault and discover Greeff's body in one of the coffins and the missing equipment in another. Vance explains that Rudolph was only pretending to be drunk the night of the murder. He owed Monty money and Monty was using the debt to force Bernice to marry him. Greeff was killed because he knew too much. Now Leland and Bernice are free to marry.

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Mystery
Release Date
Aug 25, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
First National Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
First National Pictures, Inc.; The Vitaphone Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Dragon Murder Case: A Philo Vance Story by S. S. Van Dine (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7 reels

Articles

The Dragon Murder Case


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 roués. 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
The Dragon Murder Case

The Dragon Murder Case

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 roués. 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

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Motion Picture Herald notes that this was the first Philo Vance film to star Warren William, rather than William Powell. According to modern sources, the script was originally offered to directors Michael Curtiz, Archie Mayo, Mervyn Le Roy and Alfred Green, all of whom turned it down. For more information on films featuring the "Philo Vance" character, consult the Series Index and for The Kennel Murder Case.