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First things first: available DVDs of this film do not have great picture quality. This is one of the Paramount films of the '30's now owned by another studio with no interest on issuing a "restored" version. So you can only get copies of films recorded on TV years ago. So you have to put up with all the flaws that such copies upon copies have.
Previous reviewers of this film have rightly pointed out the differences between the screen portrayal of "Nero Wolfe" and the depiction presented by Rex Stout in his many novels and short stories. Some might remember that the Saturday Evening Post used to publish some of the later Stout stories and provide illustrations of the detective which fed readers' imaginations. All portrayed a very large man, said in an early novel to be 1/6 of a ton and in later novels to be 1/7 of a ton. In any case like an NFL lineman today. Well, the actors who portrayed Wolfe on the screen all fell far short of the scale, and none conveyed the seriousness, dignity, and gravitas of Stout's conception. Wolfe was not a mirthful man given to jovial humor and feigned laughter. So Walter Connolly as Wolfe with his always cocked sideways head and chuckles does not meet the physical criteria.
Anyway, some reviewer mistakes a big fact about this movie: the league of men did make compensation to their injured classmate, paying his way through Harvard and providing a stipend afterwards. It's all there in the unrolling of the movie. Archie even castigates the accused for being "ungrateful."
There are two comments that have to be made from a motion picture perspective. 1. Stander, who would go on after his career blackball, played a much more sympathetic role as helper and associate to Macmillan and Wife. Here he is abrasive, small minded, and annoying -- totally unlike the smoother Lee Horsley and Timothy Sutton who would play "Archie" in later TV versions of Nero Wolfe. 2. Ciannelli was a very intense actor whose presence on the screen always compelled attention even in the minor but title role as villain in a Republic serial "The Mysterious Dr. Satan." Watch him as the riveting leader of the Thug rebels in "Gunga Din" (the Cary Grant movie) for one of his memorable roles.
Huge plot holes can be found, including the mystery of the box left in a bookstore, how a murder could be committed in a lights out room where the murderer grabbed a gun from the victim and shot him while knocking down a third person who inadvertently entered (err, wasn't there light from the hallway?), and exactly how did Wolfe solve the puzzle, other than guesswork, and why the crazy hoax was devised in the way it was since there was no foreseeable conclusion to it. Why hoax given the deaths that had taken place?
As a previous reviewer said, this movie is for those who want completeness in their search for dramatic portrayals of Nero Wolfe, but good luck in trying to track down English versions of the various Russian and Italian films which IMDb identifies.
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