Movie Review: The Case of the Howling Dog (1934)

Synopsis: Agitated by a lack of sleep from his neighbor's howling dog, Arthur Cartwright pays Perry Mason $10,000 to represent him against Clinton Foley. A day later, he sends Mason a letter both changing his will to leave Bessie Foley all his assets and instructing the attorney to represent her instead. When Cartwright apparently runs off with Clinton Foley's mistress (Cartwright's wife, who Foley was having an affair with) and Foley is found murdered, all evidence points to Bessie as the killer.

Who's in it? The movie stars Warren William, Mary Astor, Allen Jenkins, Dorothy Tree and Helen Trenholme.

Review: I've enjoyed other movies starring Warren William as Perry Mason and, since I had some free time this evening while staying in a hotel, decided to finally get around to watching this movie (which I held off on watching until I couldn't remember how the book turned out). Overall, I have to say I was pleased with it.

I think the mystery in this one is very entertaining because, even though Bessie (Astor) was in the room when her husband (Russell Hicks) was murdered, along with the dog, there were plenty of other suspects ranging from the missing Cartwright (Gordon Westcott) to Clinton Foley's suspicious way-too-young-and-pretty housekeeper, Lucy (Tree). I especially liked how the murder scene was filmed so there were obvious ways someone could have fired the shots from outside while, at the same time, keeping some doubt as to Bessie's innocence by not showing her hands, which may or may not have had a gun in them.

Mason's courtroom strategy was also an interesting one and included everything from him confusing an identifying witness to tricking Lucy into revealing she had a diary (for reasons that weren't completely clear, especially when he only wanted one page of it). Of course, his little slight-of-hand trick involving the dog was probably one of the more memorable ones, especially when he revealed the big twist at the end.

My only real complaint about the movie is the same one I've had with other Warren William Perry Mason movies, where is Paul Drake? He's as much a part of Perry Mason books as Mason himself but the film seems to avoid having him. This one is even worse than some of the others, which at least attempted to have Spudsy Drake (Jenkins, who played Sgt. Holcomb in this movie), because it doesn't even make that much of an effort and, instead, uses what I felt were relatively generic and forgettable detectives. I just don't understand why the filmmakers wouldn't use a character they paid for when they bought the movie rights to the book.

Final Opinion: Entertaining movie with a good murder mystery. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it.

My Grade: A


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