While The Bishop Murder Case is more of interest for curiosity value, it's not a bad detective film. A large part of what is wrong with it is related to when it was made; in 1930, films were still trying to come to grips with sound. Like many other films from the era, Bishop is quite static -- and the sound is so poor that the dialogue is frequently incomprehensible. It also suffers from "acting schizophrenia," also not uncommon for the time, in which part of the cast is fairly comfortable with dialogue-centered acting, while another part is still acting as if in front of a silent camera. Fortunately, star Basil Rathbone belongs in the former category (as does the estimable Roland Young). Both turn in very good performances, Rathbone's of a quality that makes one wish he had been given the opportunity to make more Philo Vance films. Of course, one could argue that his future Sherlock Holmes films are closely related to Vance entries anyway. This is especially the case in Bishop when Rathbone delivers a "what you were doing last night?" speech that is positively Holmes-ian. The basic story of Bishop is quite solid and the screenplay is pretty good, but the direction is terribly sluggish. Nonetheless, fans of the detective genre -- or of Rathbone -- should definitely check this one out.
by Craig Butler review