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The Bishop Murder Case (1930)

Passed | | Drama, Mystery | 3 January 1930 (USA)
When the body of a man nicknamed "Cock Robin" is found with an arrow in the heart on an archery range along with a chess bishop as a clue, Philo Vance investigates.


, (as Nick Grindé)


(from the book by), (adaptation)


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Complete credited cast:
... Philo Vance
... Belle Dillard
... Sigurd Arnesson
... Professor Bertrand Dillard
... Adolph Drukker
Zelda Sears ... Mrs. Otto Drukker
... Grete Menzel
... John E. Sprigg
Charles Quatermaine ... John Pardee (as Charles Quartermaine)
James Donlan ... Ernest Heath
... Pyne (as Sydney Bracey)
... John F.-X. Markham
... Raymond Sperling
Nellie Bly Baker ... Beedle


The murders start with the body of Robin. He is found with a arrow through the heart, but Vance deduces that the body was placed and not found where he was killed. The note found dealing with the murder was part of a nursery rhyme and signed by 'Bishop'. The only witness may have been Mrs. Drukker and Adolph, but they are not talking. As the murders progress, each one is accompanied by a nursery rhyme. It is up to Philo Vance to unravel the clues and unmask the identity of the murderer 'Bishop'. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


ALL-TALKING!...ALL-THRILLS! (original poster) See more »


Drama | Mystery


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

3 January 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Biskop-Mordet  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film received its initial television showings in Philadelphia Monday 25 March 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), followed by New Haven CT 8 April 1957 on WNHC (Channel 8), by Chicago 25 May 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Amarillo 18 June 1957 on KFDA (Channel 10), by Norfolk VA 19 June 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), by New York City 1 July 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2), by Lubbock TX 4 August 1957 on KCBD (Channel 11), by Tucson 9 August 1957 on KVOA (Channel 4), by Hartford CT 2 September 1957 on WHCT (Channel 18), by Cincinnati 28 October 1957 on WLW-T (Channel 5), by Columbus 5 November 1957 on WLW-C (Channel 4), by Portland OR 22 November 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), by Indianapolis 25 November 1957 on WLW-I (Channel 13), by Durham NC 3 December 1957 on WTCD (Channel 11), by both Spokane and Honolulu 9 December 1957 on KHQ (Channel 6) and on KHVH (Channel 13), by Omaha 3 February 1958 on WOW (Channel 6), and by San Francisco 19 May 1958 on KGO (Channel 7). Obviously, despite its advanced age, it was a wide spread popular local favorite but no reliable documentation has yet been found confirming it was ever telecast in Los Angeles at this time. Now, comfortably residing in the TCM library, it's a frequent and welcome visitor to cable TV viewers on Turner Classic Movies. See more »


When the camera follows Carroll Nye to the left side of the rock in the park where he is murdered, there is obviously a cut before his head falls into camera range as the shadows change. See more »


Philo Vance: [to Markham and Heath] You know, gentlemen, this is no ordinary case. We cannot proceed in an ordinary manner. Mark my words, this is not a single murder that we are trying to solve. It is the beginning of a series of murders... ghastly and inhuman!
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Followed by The Kennel Murder Case (1933) See more »


Waltz of the Flowers
(1891-2) (uncredited)
from "The Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a"
Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Played on piano by Basil Rathbone
See more »

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User Reviews

Nursery Rhymes, Chess, and Archery
25 November 2006 | by See all my reviews

S. S. Van Dine's socialite detective is brought to film for the third time - this time having Basil Rathbone play Philo Vance. While I will not argue with some of the critical assertions that the film is static, stationary, and decidedly creaky, not too mention very far-fetched and predictable, The Bishop Murder Case was made in 1930 when sound was just coming into its own. That is very evident in this film as much of the dialog is hard to hear and comprehend. The stationary microphone was used throughout with director Nick Grinde using lots of expansive scenes with the actors standing around the screened microphone as was the case for sound pictures then. That being said, the film is a pretty decent detective mystery for its time. Rathbone makes an affable Vance. His character is given little depth, however. The mystery, while not entirely and sufficiently explained to me has some things going for it with red herrings involving chess pieces, archery, Ibsen plays, and murders emulating nursery rhymes of a kind. While Grinde directs with the limitations at hand, I did like some of his wide shots. The balcony of the building scene when the professor discovers a man killed by an arrow looked quite impressive, and you can see some wide shots that most definitely mirror German film expressionism of the 1920s with some large, long windows shot in the backdrops of several scenes. All the actors are competent with some real nice character turns by the likes of Charles Quartermaine as a chess expert, George F. Marion as a hunchbacked pseudo-intellectual, James Donlan as a police sergeant(giving the film some of its much needed light moments), and Roland Young, Cosmo Topper himself, turning in a sly, witty performance as a possible suspect. The script is unfortunately riddled with too much ambiguity to make any real sense, but when all is said and done, The Bishop Murder case is mildly entertaining - again making consideration for the time it was made.

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