Weatlhy art collector Archer Coe commits suicide, but sleuth Philo Vance is convinced it was actually murder, and cancels a holiday to investigate.
Locked room mystery is enjoyable enough, but ruined by a solution that is meant to be ingenious, but instead comes across as convoluted and improbable. This was a problem with all S.S. Van Dine's source novels; at least Powell makes Vance a tolerable presence, rather than the pretentious and obnoxious fop of the novels (Raymond Chandler didn't call him "the most asinine character in detective fiction" without good reason). Not quite a masterpiece, being a bit too stiff in execution, but worth watching as a sort of rehearsal for The Thin Man, and especially for Giradot's amusingly irritable doctor. Also interesting to see a film of this vintage presenting an Asian character as other than a stereotypical waiter or laundryman (or evil underworld type).
Warner Brothers unaccountably let its rights lapse on this film, so it has fallen into the public domain, probably forever doomed to poor prints, which make an accurate appreciation of it near impossible. Certainly there is some fine technical work on display (occasional boom mike showing notwithstanding); the roving crane shot of Coe's murder definitely foreshadows the much vaunted Lomo crane pan in Tenebrae, for example.