Monday, February 18, 2013

Philo Vance Murder Case Collection

First the good news. The Warner Bros. Archive Collection has released the Philo Vance Murder Case Collection, a 2-disc, 6-film collection featuring the famous suave dilettante detective. Philo Vance was the creation of writer S.S. van Dine, who authored a series of bestselling novels which were turned into popular films. The set includes The Bishop Murder Case (1930), The Kennel Murder Case (1933), The Dragon Murder Case (1934), The Casino Murder Case (1935), The Garden Murder Case (1936), and Calling Philo Vance (1940).

The bad news is that the set does NOT include the first film in the series, The Canary Murder Case (1929), which features William Powell as Philo Vance and Louise Brooks as the Canary. Not only did The Canary Murder Case start it all, cinematically speaking, it is also one of the better films in the series.

Why Warner Bros. Archive chose not to include The Canary Murder Case isn't known. That film was released by Paramount Pictures, as was The Greene Murder Case (1929), the second film in the series. The films included in the Philo Vance Murder Collection were released by Warner Bros., M.G.M, and First National. So, maybe it is a matter of rights. Other Philo Vance films are also absent from the collection. Most notable among them is the zany Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939), starring Grace Allen and Warren William.

Despite the set's incompleteness, I think it is worth checking out, especially if you enjoy period detective films like The Thin Man (which also starred William Powell) or original Perry Mason film series. Wikipedia has an informative page on the various Philo Vance books and films. Here is a brief clip from The Canary Murder Case.

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