Movie Review: The Case of the Black Cat (1936)
Synopsis: Believing his granddaughter Wilma's many suitors are only after her inheritence, Peter Laxter summons attorney Perry Mason to his mansion in the middle of the night both write her out of his will an ensure his grandsons' inheritence is contingent on his long-time caretaker remaining employed and being allowed to keep his beloved cat. When Laxter dies in a mysterious fire, Mason agrees to investigate on behalf of the cat and ultimately ends up defending Wilma's boyfriend against three sets of murder charges.
Who's in it? The movie stars Ricardo Cortez, Jane Bryan, June Travis, Garry Owen and Craig Reynolds.
Review: I had this movie saved in my library for a few weeks but did not get around to watching it until yesterday, when I was waiting for my family to get ready for trick-or-treating. Other than the misleading title (the cat isn't black), it ended up being a good movie.
The film is based on the book The Case of the Caretaker's Cat, which I read a couple years ago and enjoyed. For the most part, the film stays fairly true to that book and this includes a solid performance by Cortez as Perry Mason. In fact, his portayal is probably the closest I've seen to the literary character and I'm disappointed this is the only time he played this role.
Much like the book, the mystery is just complicated enough to keep things from being too predictable. Fortunately, I couldn't remember how the book ended while I was watching this because it made the overall mystery that much more enjoyable, especially since Mason had a client that couldn't have looked any more guilty.
My only real complaint is the courtroom scene wasn't as fun to watch as I was hoping it would be, mostly because the witnesses were barely interrogated before Mason just tells the story about what happened.
It probably wouldn't have been that big of a deal, but Mason seemed to know an awful lot of details about the events as they happened (details that would have only been known by someone who had been there at the time) and there is no explanation about how he knows those details. Having some of that information come from a witness or during his investigation would have made the movie all that much better.
Final Opinion: This is a good movie that stars an actor that should have gotten more opportunities to play the famous fictional attorney. I would recommend taking the time to watch it if you get a chance.
My Grade: A-
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