The Complete Thin Man Collection: (The Thin Man / After the Thin Man / Another Thin Man / Shadow of the Thin Man / The Thin Man Goes Home / and more)
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Complete Thin Man Collection, The (DVD) (7-Pack)
The sparkling series featured the irresistible William Powell and Myrna Loy chemistry as husband and wife sleuths who solved murders with the aid of their wire-haired terrier, Asta. Set in the glamorous world of 1930s upper-class Manhattan, The Thin Man and its sequels established the standard for witty comedy, clever dialogue and urbane one upmanship. The 7-Disc set includes THE THIN MAN, AFTER THE THIN MAN, ANOTHER THIN MAN, SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN, SONG OF THE THIN MAN, THE THIN MAN GOES HOME, and the ALIAS NICK & NORA bonus documentary disc.]]>
Almost as welcome as a shaker full of martinis, The Complete Thin Man Collection represents an eagerly awaited DVD milestone for fans of the fizzy MGM movie series. The best film in the series came first: The Thin Man (1934), W.S. Van Dyke's marvelous adaptation of a Dashiell Hammet novel. The movie gods were in a generous mood when they paired William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, the upper-class sophisticates whose sleuthing escapades somehow joined the classic form of the whodunit with the giddyup of screwball comedy. Among the series' many attributes, one of its most radical notions was the idea that a married couple might find each other delightful and view life as a goofy adventure together.
It is common wisdom that the Thin Man sequels adhere to the law of diminishing returns, and while none of the follow-ups reach the diamond level of the first film, all afford pleasures. There's the cocktail-swilling chemistry of Powell and Loy, for one thing, as well as the considerable satisfaction of average movies made during the studio system: the craftsmanship of studio hands, and a gallery of terrific character actors filling in supporting roles. First sequel After the Thin Man (1936) is very good, with the couple in San Francisco and a supporting part for rising player James Stewart. The scenery moves again, to Long Island, for the rather impudently-titled Another Thin Man (1939), which adds baby Nick, Jr., to the mix (a "bad idea," thought Pauline Kael, perhaps a sign of the domestication of the series).
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) sets the action around a racetrack, and is the last of the series to be directed by the fast-working Van Dyke. The Thin Man Goes Home (1944) finds Nick escorting family to his parents' house for a visit. Song of the Thin Man (1947) engagingly adds a jazz milieu to the Charles's detective work; at this point, Nick, Jr. was played by child star Dean Stockwell. The series stuck with certain staples: the unveiling of the guilty party, a wirehaired terrier named Asta (who became a star in its own right), and booze. When Nick opines, in the first film, that a dry martini should always be shaken to "waltz time," you know why audiences fell in love with these guilt-free comedies. --Robert Horton
Top Customer Reviews
The series' six Thin Man films, ("The Thin Man / After the Thin Man / Another Thin Man / Shadow of the Thin Man / The Thin Man Goes Home / Song of the Thin Man"), revolve around the antics of Mr. and Mrs. Charles, their beloved terrier, and the mysteries they get finagled into solving, which usually involve at least one murder. Nora, a wealthy socialite married Nick, a PI who decided to give up his business to manage her financial affairs. They reside, temporarily, in a plush New York City apartment with a great view of the Manhattan skyline. Neither of them want to continue in the Private Investigation business, but trouble seems to find them, and they just cannot turn it away. Filmed smack in the middle of the Great Depression, Americans going through tough times seemed to love the frivolous Charles couple, and their slap-stick detecting style.
The first, and I think best film is "The Thin Man," completed in 1934 and directed by W.S. Van Dyke. Here the mystery takes a back seat to the couple's loving relationship, with an emphasis on shenanigans, wisecracking, martini sipping followed by morning-after hang-overs, more banter, etc.. Bottom line - an eccentric, tall, thin, moneyed inventor, named Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis), has disappeared. He is the "thin man" of the film title. Nora convinces Nick to take on the case because she wants to see how a murder is solved - if the inventor has been murdered. Or, he might, in fact, be the murderer! Straight-forward, no subplots - just dashing Nick, elegantly amusing Nora, Asta, the martinis, lots of panache and several corpses! Great supporting cast, which includes: Maureen O'Sullivan, Minna Gombell, William Henry, and Cesar Romero.
"After The Thin Man," released in 1936 is a fine, fast-paced, fun sequel, and what it lacks in noir grit, it makes up for in verve. Again, the Depression is giving folks their fill of true grit in the real world. Humor, the opulence and luxury of the Charles' world, and lots of sexy, sophisticated banter between husband and wife are what brings weary people into movie theaters. This film has the debonair duo, looking into a blackmail turned murder case. The two have just returned to their beautiful California home, and find it inundated with Nora's relatives - all uninvited. Nora's cousin's husband has gone missing, and her upper crust family would rather he stay lost than cause a scandal. He was having an affair with a nightclub singer, and apparently extorting mega-bucks on the side. Oh, Nick and Norah find him all right! Dead! And, once again, Nora's finances are on the back burner. You'll never guess whodunit! A very young James Stewart is featured here...very briefly!
"Another Thin Man," (1939), and another excellent movie - more complex plot-wise, and perhaps wackier than the first two films! Baby makes three here, four, of course, with Asta. One year old Nickie Jr., is the latest addition and he takes-up lots of his Mom's time, distracting her from distracting Dad. The Charleses have been invited to spend the weekend at the Long Island estate of Colonel Burr MacFay, (C. Aubrey Smith), a friend and former business associate of Nora's father. The wealthy munitions industrialist is afraid that an old business partner is going to kill him. Phil Church, who once worked with MacFay, has just been released after spending ten years behind bars for fraud. The man holds a huge grudge against MacFay and has threatened his life. The usual gang of martini drinkers are out on the Island, and when MacFay dies, predictably, no one is too shocked. However, Nick and Nora are on the suspect list! Nick drinks less and detects more with this one! Virginia Grey plays the Colonel's daughter Lois, and Ruth Hussey plays Nicky's nurse.
"Shadow Of The Thin Man," (1941), takes Nick and Nora to the races, literally, when murder, racketeering and mayhem win, place and show-up at the track. Nick had absolutely decided against involving himself with any more sleuth work. He definitely wants to spend more time with Nora and Nicky, Jr.,...and Asta, too. Unfortunately, he cannot say no to the head of the New York Athletic Commission, who asks him personally to take the case when a jockey is murdered. There's a hilarious episode on a department-store merry-go-round in this one, and a huge brawl, started by Asta, at an elegant sea food restaurant. Great cast and characters, including famous acting teacher Stella Adler as Claire Porter, somebody's girlfriend. And young Donna Reed makes an appearance here as well.
"The Thin Man Goes Home," (1944), is the penultimate series' offering and the movie never fails to crack me up! They say "you can never go home again." This old adage is probably true because no matter how grown-up, sophisticated and capable one might be, you can be sure to be taken down several notches when returning to the old homestead. The Charleses pay a visit to Nick's home town of Sycamore Springs. And his parents browbeat the poor retired PI, (how undignified!). They so wanted him to be a doctor, just like his father! And he cannot find a stiff drink anywhere!! When a man drops dead on the front porch, however, Nick's folks are grateful for his chosen vocation. Excellent cast: Gloria DeHaven, Edward Brophy, Lloyd Corrigan, Leon Ames, and Ann Revere as the eccentric "Crazy Mary."
"Song Of The Thin Man," released in 1947 is the sixth and last film, and finds the Charleses looking into the mysterious murder of bandleader Tommy Drake. Sultry Gloria Graham sings "You're Not So Easy to Forget," by Herb Magidson and Ben Oakland. A fine supporting cast includes: Jayne Meadows, Keenan Wynn, Dean Stockwell, Ralph Morgan, William Bishop and Marie Windsor
This outstanding boxed-set comes with some great features, including a bonus 7th disc, entitled, "Alias Nick and Nora," with two documentaries on William Powell and Myrna Loy. Other highlights are two radio adaptations of the series, as well as comedy, musical and mystery shorts, and cartoons. How can you go wrong??
But Van Dyke knew what he was doing. With a wickedly witty script by Goodrich and Hackett, proto-noir cinematography by James Wong Howe, and remarkable chemistry between the stars, MGM had a major and unexpected hit. Powell and Loy would become the public's favorite screen team overnight and would go on to make a host of films together, including five more that chronicled the further adventures of Nick and Nora, sophisticated, high-living, and solving one crime after another.
The original film was a landmark in so many ways that it still sets standards to this day. The 1934 AFTER THE THIN MAN is equally fine and the 1939 ANOTHER THIN MAN and 1941 SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN only slight less so.
With Van Dyke's death in 1944 direction passed to other hands. Directed by Richard Thorpe, the 1945 THE THIN MAN GOES HOME suffered from an incredibly weak script; although the film is amusing in its way it is a clinker in comparison with the other films in the series. Directed by Edward Buzzell, the 1947 SONG OF THE THIN MAN was a great improvement--but although the script was quite good Buzzell's handling of the material lacked energy.
Whatever the case, in each instance we are treated to the truly legendary Powell-Loy flash and dazzle, always enjoyable, and a series of remarkable supporting casts that included such names as Maureen O'Sullivan, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Stella Adler, Lucille Watson, and Keenan Wynn. Even the lackluster THE THIN MAN GOES HOME is quite amusing and entirely watchable!
Film quality is near-pristine, and these prints are clearly the best available short of a full digital restoration. Even so, the box set leaves something to be desired. Although it lays claim to considerable bonus material, in truth it offers very little worth while.
The 1934 THE THIN MAN was released to DVD several years ago and the DVD in this set is that release: the only bonus offered is a package of trailers for the series. The other disks include programs of various MGM cartoons and shorts--but there is not a single cast biography to be found, much less an audio commentary on any of the titles. Given the quality of the casts, the landmark status of the original, and the tremendous following the series has... well, it seems a tremendous pity.
The seventh DVD consists entirely of bonus material, but it proves a mixed bag. MYRNA LOY: SO NICE TO COME HOME TO is very good; WILLIAM POWELL: A TRUE GENTLEMAN is nice enough but it hardly does justice to its subject. A Lux Radio version of THE THIN MAN is entertaining, but it needs a significant remaster, and an episode from the later television series based on the films can only be described as fairly dire.
Fans of the film series--and I'm among them--will be overjoyed to have all six of the titles on DVD at long last, and I give the set a full five stars for that alone. But that joy will be tempered by the inadequate treatment the films receive in terms of bonuses. It seems an opportunity lost.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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