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WS Van Dyke
William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan
Writing Credits:
Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich

Former detective Nick Charles and his wealthy wife Nora investigate a murder case, mostly for the fun of it.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 7/30/19

Thin Man TV Episode
• 1936 Lux Theater Radio Broadcast
• Trailer


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The Thin Man [Blu-Ray] (1934)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 2, 2019)

One of the big screen’s most enduring franchises launched in 1934, as The Thin Man would eventually spawn five sequels and a 1950s 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, as 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 the old 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 in the first flick - perhaps in future films she’ll take on greater responsibilities, but now Nora 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 85 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, so it deserves its status as a classic.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

The Thin Man appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an impressive presentation for an 85-year-old film.

Overall sharpness worked well. A smattering of shots looked a bit soft, but these failed to cause distractions, and the majority of the movie felt accurate and concise.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes didn’t appear. In terms of print flaws, I saw a couple of small specks but nothing prominent.

With a nice layer of grain, I suspected no digital noise reduction. Blacks looked deep and dark, while shadows seemed smooth and clear, and the image boasted satisfying contrast. I felt very pleased with this age-defying transfer.

Though not as good, the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack worked fine for its age. Speech could be reedy but the lines lacked edginess and remained easily intelligible.

Both effects and music failed to deliver much dynamic range, but that was expected given their vintage. These elements still seemed clean and clear, without distortion or other concerns. For an 85-year-old track, this one felt more than satisfactory.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio seemed clearer and more concise, while visuals were cleaner, tighter and more natural. The Blu-ray delivered a tremendous improvement on the DVD, especially in terms of picture quality.

Though the DVD lacked many extras, the Blu-ray comes with a mix of materials. In addition to the film’s trailer, we get “Scene of the Crime”, a 1958 episode from the Thin Man TV series.

The show runs 25 minutes, 48 seconds and features Peter Lawford as Nick and Phyllis Kirk as Nora. They’re not as good in the roles as Powell and Loy, of course, but they do reasonably well and “Scene” becomes a fun addition to the package.

From 1936, we find a Lux Radio Theater Broadcast version of Thin Man. It goes for 58 minutes, 21 seconds and features William Powell and Myrna Loy back as Nick and Nora.

Their presence adds sparkle to the program, though Thin Man loses a lot due to the purely auditory presentation. Some movies adapted for radio hold up well in this format, but not this one.

That’s because a lot of Thin Man depends on the Loy/Powell chemistry, and their spark fades when heard and not seen. It’s still a fun listen, but it’s not one of the better radio shows.

Bright, peppy and clever, The Thin Man remains a strong film. It has aged little over the last 85 years and it continues to provide a fun and distinctive experience. The Blu-ray brings very good picture along with more than competent audio and a few bonus features. This turns into a good release for a fun movie.

To rate this film, visit the original review of THIN MAN

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