A very nervous man (Gordon Westcott) walks into Mason's office and offers to pay a $10,000 retainer if Mason will help him with his will and, more importantly, deal with the howling dog next door. Mason is baffled, even has a psychiatrist (Frank Reicher) from down the hall sit in on an interview with the new client, but ultimately takes the case.
Shortly thereafter, the man disappears...and Clinton Foley (Russell Hicks), owner of the howling dog, is murdered. Foley's wife Bessie (Mary Astor) is charged with the crime, and Mason decides to represent her.
The plot wasn't as hard to follow as yesterday's FIND THE BLACKMAILER (1943), but it got fairly close, with a real wife, a fake wife, one dog being impersonated by another, Della Street (Helen Trenholme) impersonating Bessie, and so on. Truly one of those movies where you need a scorecard to help lay out who's doing what to who where. One wonders if the screenwriters of such mysteries became confused themselves!
What made the film worthwhile was the inimitable William, who's always such fun to have on the screen. He's charismatic and watchable even as the plot spins out of control.
Perry has a romantic relationship with Della in this, which makes it interesting; it's initially subdued but becomes more apparent as the film goes on.
Helen Trenholme, the Canadian actress who plays Della, was in only one other movie, which was not a Perry Mason film. It's a shame, as I enjoyed her. Claire Dodd would play Della in two of the later Warren William Perry Mason films, with Genevieve Tobin taking over the role for a single film.
Of course, Astor is always good to watch, and it's also fun to see Allen Jenkins turns up as a police detective.
When the camera pans the reporters in the courtroom, don't blink or you'll miss a shot of Gordon "Wild Bill" Elliott in one of his many bit roles of the '30s.
The cast also includes Grant Mitchell, Addison Richards, Dorothy Tree, and Harry Tyler.
THE CASE OF THE HOWLING DOG was directed by Alan Crosland and filmed by William Rees. It runs 74 minutes.
THE CASE OF THE HOWLING DOG is part of the six-film, three-disc set Perry Mason: The Original Warner Bros. Movies Collection, from the Warner Archive. The first four films in the set star Warren William, with one starring Ricardo Cortez and one starring Donald Woods. The trailer is included on the disc.
THE CASE OF THE HOWLING DOG was worth seeing for the cast but could have been more interesting. Hopefully the next film in the set will be stronger.