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The Casino Murder Case (1935); Philo Vance, where are you?
Topic Started: Jul 10 2008, 11:48 AM (564 Views)
Chandu
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Champeen of Justice and Seeker of Knowledge, but rascal at heart!
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I watched The Casino Murder Case last night. Although this mysery film has a fine plot with a great red herring, Philo Vance is played by Paul Lukas, who does a creditable job except that if you close your eyes, you'd swear it was Bela speaking. With his heavy accent, IMO the part was badly miscast. I've seen other Vance films with William Powell and Warren Williams cast as Vance and enjoyed them thoroughly, but for me, Lukas just doesn't bring the character off well and detracts from an otherwise enjoyable movie. I continue to enjoy Eric Blore's portrayal of Currie, Vance's butler. He plays that same role in some of the other Vance movies I've seen and interacted particularly well with Warren Williams, I thought.
Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog. It's just little ol' me...
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riddlerider
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Just for the record, Chan, Eric Blore plays the butler Jamison (sometimes spelled Jameson) in the "Lone Wolf" films with Warren William. CASINO is his only Philo Vance movie.

I agree with you about Lukas. That thick Hungarian accent is all wrong for Vance, and he's too stolid for the role. Ideally it needs the insouciance of a William Powell or Warren William.

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mort bakaprevski
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riddlerider
Jul 10 2008, 03:23 PM
Ideally it needs the insouciance of a William Powell or Warren William.

But, probably NOT Alan Curtis or William Wright!! Of course, with the latter you DO get William Beaudine!!! :P
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Chandu
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riddlerider
Jul 10 2008, 04:23 PM
Just for the record, Chan, Eric Blore plays the butler Jamison (sometimes spelled Jameson) in the "Lone Wolf" films with Warren William. CASINO is his only Philo Vance movie.

I agree with you about Lukas. That thick Hungarian accent is all wrong for Vance, and he's too stolid for the role. Ideally it needs the insouciance of a William Powell or Warren William.

Thanks, rr. You are correct, as usual, and the Lone Wolf series is indeed where I so enjoyed Blore's interaction with William.
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Laughing Gravy
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The Casino Murder Case (1935) Dir. Edwin L. Marin
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
82 min. / B&W / 1.37:1
DVD: Philo Vance Murder Case Collection (Warner Archive)

Philo Vance is back; he's received an anonymous note that a wealthy society guy is going to be murdered in his uncle's casino. Sure enough, he's poisoned, although he survives - and while Vance and the cops are tied up there, the guy's wife is also poisoned, and isn't so lucky. Vance's investigation centers on a very dysfunctional family led by a old woman who soon commits suicide after confessing to the crime - but although her note and gunshot wound are genuine, our guy Philo is convinced there's more mystery afoot.

The fourth (of six) Philo Vance thrillers in the Warners boxed set, and you can consider this the On Her Majesty's Secret Service of the group: a good installment with a rotten leading man. Oh, nothin' really against Paul Lukas, but he's no William Powell, now, is he? He's no Warren William for that matter, either. And the fact that this is such a good plot, a superior MGM production with a wonderful supporting cast, really makes Lukas stand out like a sore thumb. A swollen, bleeding sore thumb.

Alison Skipworth is the head of the family; Roz Russell is wonderful as her secretary, and Philo's love interest; Ted Healy is okay as the comic relief cop; Eric Blore is wonderful as the comic relief butler; and Donald Cook, Arther Byron, Isabel Jewell, Louise Fazenda, and Leo G. Carroll are various suspects, victims, witnesses, or all three.

Million-dollar Dialog:
Mr. Vance: "What did you find?"
Coroner: "Well, she didn't die of old age, if that's what you mean."

As a general overall rule, I am against detectives who take up so much time solvin' the case that several additional bodies pile up needlessly (I call it "The Charlie Chan Syndrome"), and this movie in particular has a high body count, but the charm of Rosalind Russell in particular keeps the film rolling along and it turns out to be a pretty good, if complicated, installment in the series. I just wish it had a different Vance.

We also watched yet another Porky Pig cartoon from the 101 set (Porky imitates band leaders, including going in blackface to do Cab Calloway!) and the trailer for the next in the series, The Garden Murder Case.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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