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W.S. Van Dyke
William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell, Porter Hall, Henry Wadsworth
Writing Credits:
Dashiell Hammett (novel), Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich

A laugh tops every thrilling moment!

Nick and Nora Charles cordially invite you to bring your own alibi to The Thin Man, the jaunty whodunit that made William Powell and Myrna Loy the champagne elite of sleuthing. Bantering in the boudoir, enjoying walks with beloved dog Asta or matching each other highball for highball and clue for clue, they combined screwball romance with mystery. The resulting triumph nabbed four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture) and spawned five sequels. Credit W.S. "Woody" Van Dyke for recognizing that Powell and Loy were ideal together and for getting the studio's okay by promising to shoot this splendid adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's novel in three weeks. He took 12 days. They didn't call him "One-Take Woody" for nothing.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/1/2004 (rereleased)

Thin Man Trailer Gallery
• Cast and Crew


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Thin Man (1934)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 12, 2005)

One of the big screen’s most enduring franchises launched in 1934. The Thin Man would eventually spawn five sequels and a Fifties TV series. It seems surprising that no one has apparently attempted to revive the franchise since then, but maybe that’s a good thing, as it leaves the classic team of William Powell and Myrna Loy intact in viewers’ minds.

Absent-minded inventor Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis) works on what he calls an important idea and plans to leave town to think about it. His daughter Dorothy (Maureen O’Sullivan) gets engaged to Tommy (Henry Wadsworth), but he should return before the post-Christmas wedding more than three months in the future. Wynant won’t reveal his destination to anyone.

Before he leaves, Wynant tries to recover $50,000 in bonds. He accuses his secretary Julia (Natalie Moorhead) of taking them. She admits this but defends her decision. This doesn’t satisfy Wynant, who implies he’ll do something to get back at her and leaves.

The film jumps to Christmas Eve and reveals Dorothy’s increasing fears due to her father’s disappearance. She runs into hard-drinking detective Nick Charles (William Powell) at a restaurant and expresses her concerns to him. He helps look into Wynant’s status.

He learns that Wynant apparently has returned, but the mystery deepens when his ex-wife Mimi (Minna Gombell) gets involved. She seeks more money from Wynant. To that end, she goes to see Julia but finds the secretary murdered. Mimi finds some evidence that implicates Wynant in the killing but she withholds this from the police.

Everyone thinks Nick should take on the case, but he claims to be out of that business. At a Christmas party, Dorothy comes to “confess” to him. He quickly sees through her story, though. Intrigue increases when Mimi storms into the party and creates a commotion. Eventually Nick agrees to take on the case, largely due to the encouragement of wife Nora (Myrna Loy). She wants to see him in action and also becomes part of the investigation. The movie follows his work.

Despite a few minor disappointments, The Thin Man remains a memorable film, and I can see why the franchise endured for so long. Much of the credit goes to the leads. Powell and Loy form a delicious pair with great chemistry. They play off each other exceedingly well to create a wonderful dynamic that ignites the film whenever they appear together.

I will admit I wish Loy had more to do with the story, though. I don’t think I’d seen Thin Man or any of its sequels before I got this DVD, and I went into it with the preconceived notion that Nick and Nora were a detective team. That’s most definitely not the case, at least not for now; perhaps in future films she’ll take on greater responsibilities, but now she exists mainly as a comedic foil. That’s fine, but it would have been nice to see her as a more active participant in the tale.

Comedy often doesn’t age well, especially when it focuses so heavily on verbal gags. That’s what Thin Man emphasizes, but I’m happy to report the jokes have held up nicely over the last 70 or so years. The banter maintains a solid zing and we get plenty of amusingly quirky little moments. For instance, when a drunk hits on Dorothy, Nick states that he used to bounce her on his knee. The drunk replies, “Which knee? Can I touch it?” Granted, that line doesn’t translate well into print, but it comes out of nowhere and adds a delightful twist.

Thin Man comes chock fill of similar moments, all of which make it a consistent gas to watch. The mystery takes a back seat at times, though the film goes with an unusually strong focus on it for its first act. Indeed, we don’t even meet Nick and Nora for quite some time.

Hmm… I mentioned “disappointments” earlier, but I guess Nora’s lack of responsibility is really the only aspect of the film I didn’t particularly like. Otherwise, I can find very little I’d change about The Thin Man. It deserves its status as a classic.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus D

The Thin Man appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While perfectly adequate for a more than 70-year-old movie, the transfer never became anything special.

Like all parts of the picture, sharpness varied. Much of the film looked acceptably distinctive and defined, but many exceptions occurred. Though the flick never turned mushy, some noticeable softness came out at times. I saw no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, but a little edge enhancement cropped up along the way.

As one might expect for an old movie like this, source flaws were a significant concern. The film exhibited examples of specks, grit, grain, marks, scratches, lines and spots. A few scenes got off without too many distractions, but most showed at least moderate defects. Blacks were erratic but usually came across as reasonably dense; only occasional shots looked a bit inky. Shadows tended to appear slightly opaque and could be somewhat tough to discern, though not badly so. Enough good came out here to warrant a “C”, but I can’t say I thought the transfer was better than that.

I found the monaural soundtrack of The Thin Man was similarly passable. Speech showed metallic, thin tones but always remained intelligible and lacked much edginess. Music popped up sporadically. As with most movies of the era, this one didn’t use a lot of score. When we heard music, it seemed too bright and almost shrill, though these parts came across as fine for their era.

Effects fell into the same vein. They lacked much distortion but failed to deliver a lot of life or vivacity. As with the other elements, they were perfectly acceptable given their age but they didn’t rise above that level. I noticed some hiss and background noise at times, though not to heavy degrees. Again, this was a fairly typical mix for a movie from 1934.

Unfortunately, the DVD comes without many extras. Cast and Crew offers filmographies for actors William Powell and Myrna Loy, author Dashiell Hammett, screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, and director WS Van Dyke. Theatrical Trailers includes ads for The Thin Man and its sequels.

Bright, peppy and clever, The Thin Man remains a strong film. It has aged little over the last 70 years and it continues to provide a fun and distinctive experience. The DVD offers fairly average picture and audio, and it skimps on supplements. Despite the lackluster quality of the product, I still recommend this terrific movie.

Note that you can buy The Thin Man on its own or as a part of a seven-DVD set called The Complete Thin Man Collection. The latter includes The Thin Man as well as sequels After the Thin Man, Another Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man, The Thin Man Goes Home and Song of the Thin Man. It also comes with a disc of extras that features two documentaries and an episode of the Fifties Thin Man TV series. The package retails for $59.92 and is currently the only way to get the five sequels and the bonus disc; only the original Thin Man can be purchased on its own as of August 2005.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4193 Stars Number of Votes: 31
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