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The Benson Murder Case (1930) DVD-R

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Starring William Powell, Natalie Moorhead, Eugene Pallette, Paul Lukas,
William 'Stage' Boyd, E.H. Calvert, Mischa Auer
Directed by Frank Tuttle

Print: black/white
Runtime: 65 min.
Genre: mystery

A ruthless, crooked stockbroker is murdered at his luxurious country
estate, and detective Philo Vance just happens to be there; he decides to
find out who killed him.

The Benson Murder Case is the first novel in the Philo Vance mystery novels by S.S. Van Dine, which later turned out to be a bestseller. The author’s original name was William Huntington Wright. This was later made into a movie The Benson Murder Case in 1930 directed by Frank Tuttle and starred William Powell as the lead character Philo Vance. He has a powerful speaking voice along with other qualities such as stage training and comic timing. This helped him to enact the role of the detective in this particular movie. The movie was faithful to the plot of the novel. This movie was one of the various Paramount Productions that was filmed between 1929 and 1949 and was sold to Universal in 1958 for television production. It has been controlled and owned by Universal ever since. This movie, The Benson Murder Case is part of the early era of sound movies. The movie runs just under 70 minutes. It is a murder mystery where the murder does not happen until almost the middle of the movie. Anthony Benson is an unlikeable stock broker who cheats his clients out of their money. He has plenty of enemies who want their money back. He escapes to his hunting lodge near New York along with one of his associates, Harry Gray, a Broadway gambler. He is one of the people whom Benson has cheated. They are followed by three other people who want their money back. One is Adolph Mohler, whose forged check Benson has. Another is a widow, Mrs. Paula Banning in love with Mohler, whose assets have been wiped out. Yet another is Fanny Del Roy, a Broadway actress who states that the pearls held in lieu of Mohler’s check were stolen from her.

The lead character is not shown as the protagonist of the movie until the second half of the film. Philo Vance is an amateur detective who investigates the murder of a disreputable businessman during a house party, when he is murdered. Vance is present among the guests at this party and decides to find the murderer as he is challenged by a professional criminal to do so. All the people present at the murder scene have a motive for wanting the man dead but no one had the chance to do so. Finally, the solution turns out to be a complex scheme that involves a mechanical device, a silencer, and some clever misdirection. The movie appears to be much static than the others in the series. The Benson Murder Case is a brilliant puzzle with floor plans and diagrams included. The murdered man is found sitting in a chair in the middle of the living room in his spacious New York apartment and dressed in a housecoat with a book in his hands. He is without his hairpiece and dental plate and is shot in the head. It is a standard locked room murder mystery. Vance, the detective claims that the clues and evidence can be misleading and does not lay much emphasis on them. He focuses on understanding the psychology behind the crime. He joins the conflicting clues together and reenacts the crime and proves Gray’s guilt. Gray is shot when he attempts to escape.

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