Blu-ray Review: The Thin Man | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, May 31st, 2020  

The Thin Man

Studio: Warner Archive

Aug 16, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Oh, to be half as charming as Nick Charles. Of all the many suave heroes we were given through Hollywood’s Golden age, none made it seem quite as effortless as William Powell’s semi-retired detective. With a highball or martini glass persistently in hand, he never allowed panic or fear to register a blip across his face, even if a murderous gangster had a pistol pointed at his noise, dismissing danger with one quick quip or another. Nick Charles was the era’s smoothest operator.

Of course it’s impossible to picture Nick without Nora, his equally well-equipped wife played by Myrna Loy. Whip-smart and witty, she’s a perfect foil and partner to her husband romantically and as on-again, off-again sleuths.

Together they’re one of cinema’s most charming couples, whether they’re nursing simultaneous hangovers or cornering a killer. It’s incredible how natural the two actors make it feel; their movies make such great date night films, as most of us in happy, healthy relationships will recognize some of their own mannerisms in these two.  

The duo would appear in six films together from 1934 to 1947, starting with The Thin Man—the series’ most essential entry. When the daughter of an old friend appears to tell Nick her father has gone missing, Nora goads him to take on the case. While Nick would prefer to steer clear and enjoy his retirement, pops’ mistress turns up murdered and the once-famous gumshoe can’t help himself. Half the people who knew him seem to have reasons to want him dead, and perhaps a few who never even knew the man. With a little snooping around and some calm, cool deduction, Nick and Nora are able to crack the case.

While the movie’s central mystery holds up as a thrilling whodunit—it’s based on a novel by genre giant Dashiell Hammett—The Thin Man is an even more effective comedy. Released mere weeks before the Hays Code went into enforcement, The Thin Man has a few jokes capable of dropping jaws in 2019. Among the most outright racy, a cop asks Nick upon finding an illegal pistol in a bedroom drawer, “Have you ever heard of the Sullivan Act?” Before he can say anything to defend himself, Nora pipes up: “That’s all right, we’re married.” Later the movie offers up one of cinema’s funniest euphemisms for testicles, as Nora tells Nick as he’s recovering from a bullet graze: “I read you were shot five times in the tabloids.” Nick: “He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids.”

Much of the movie’s humor also derives from the fact its heroic couple spend a good portion of their screen time three sheets to the wind. The Thin Man may be one of the most booze-positive movies ever made. The few times Nick and Nora don’t have a drink in their hands, it’s often because they’re hung over. The rampant alcoholism on display here would make W.C. Fields look twice—yet, Nick and Nora make it all look so carefree and fun.  

Warner Archive has brought the first (and best) Thin Man movie to Blu-ray, and we must hope and pray the others will eventually follow. Newly restored for 4K, this is easily the best the movie’s ever looked on home video, with a clear black-and-white image that shows off a great level of detail. The extra features are also appreciated, including a radio play version of the story from 1936 in which Loy and Powell reprise their famous roles, and an episode of the short-lived Thin Man television series from the 1950s. A classic that’s easy to recommend to any fan of old Hollywood comedies or thrillers, the new Warner Archive Blu-ray is a no-brainer for most movie collections.



Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.