Three years after solving yet another impossible murder case, Nick and Nora Charles came back with W.S. Van Dyke’s Another Thin Man, the third in the wildly popular series of mystery-comedies produced by MGM.
The Production: 4/5
Three years after solving yet another impossible murder case, Nick and Nora Charles came back with W.S. Van Dyke’s Another Thin Man, the third in the wildly popular series of mystery-comedies produced by MGM. The married sleuths are as charming as ever, but now with a one-year old Nickie, Jr. to worry about, their adventures aren’t quite as carefree or larkish as before. His well-being is always in the back of their minds as they’re once again on the trail of a killer while being in the line of fire of several different entities out to make sure their criminal enterprises don’t get disrupted by one of the greatest detectives in the history of the movies.
Colonel MacFay (C. Aubrey Smith), who manages Nora Charles’ (Myrna Loy) considerable fortune, calls on Nick Charles (William Powell) to help deter former business colleague Phil Church (Sheldon Leonard) from threatening and potentially killing him. Church had gone to prison for some questionable business dealings with MacFay, and now he wants restitution, but MacFay refuses to give him any money. When MacFay turns up dead, Lieutenant Guild (Nat Pendleton) and ADA Van Slack (Otto Kruger) go on the lookout for Church while also trying to protect MacFay’s adopted daughter Lois (Virginia Grey), her fiancé Dudley Horn (Patric Knowles), and MacFay’s secretary (Tom Neal) from any further trouble from Church’s entourage which include his moll Smitty (Muriel Hutchison) and his enforcer Dum-Dum (Abner Biberman). When two additional deaths occur, the dragnet spreads even wider with a ridiculously large number of suspects that Nick and Nora must sift through to finally arrive at the murderer’s identity.
The team responsible for the delightfully intricate third helping of Charles’ chowder are the same cooks who concocted the first two series entrees: screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett (who based the plot on the Dashiell Hammett short story “The Farewell Murder”), director W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke, and stars William Powell and Myrna Loy (with an assist from Nat Pendleton who was also in the original movie). Once again, there are murders on top of murders (three total in this entry), wickedly disguised clues flying everywhere, a long list of suspects with colorful names like “Dum-Dum,” “Diamond Back,” “Creeps,” and “Wacky” as well as many hoodlums and some red herrings along the way, too, ready to lead armchair sleuths down the wrong paths constantly. And then there is the wonderful wire-haired terrier Asta doing back flips, Nick drinking everything alcoholic in sight, and even a priceless sequence with Marjorie Main as a helpful landlady quite taken with the personable and famous Nick Charles. With so many characters this time out (and how great it is in the intricately staged denouement to feature telling close-ups of all the suspects as in the earlier movies), director W.S. Van Dyke has his work cut out for him keeping the plot ever-expanding without completely bogging down into confusion, but despite it all, he manages to throw in an excursion to the West Indies Club featuring a rhumba sequence with specialty dancers Renee and Stella which might seem superfluous on the surface but which contains lots of clues and also Nora’s hilarious encounter with a gigolo (Rafael Alcayde) who refuses her money just to be in her company.
Another Thin Man marked the return of William Powell to MGM after a long absence due to the tragic death of his fiancé Jean Harlow and an experimental treatment he underwent for colon cancer. His Nick is as astute (and as thirsty) as ever, and he and Myrna Loy engage in the same wonderfully playful banter that helped bolster the comedy of the earlier entries in the series. The supporting players all do fine work with special nods to Virginia Grey as the vulnerable Lois MacFay, C. Aubrey Smith as the curmudgeonly first victim, Otto Kruger as the feisty ADA, Phyllis Gordon as the suspiciously concerned housekeeper Mrs. Bellam, Sheldon Leonard as the crafty Phil Church whose seemingly simple plan contains much disguised complexity, Don Costello as the slimy mobster Vogel, Abner Biberman as the loving and loyal henchman Dum-Dum, and Muriel Hutchison as Church’s sweetheart Smitty. Look for Doodles Weaver, Harry Bellaver, Ruth Hussey, and Shemp Howard in small bits.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. As with The Thin Man and After the Thin Man, the visual quality of the movie is absolutely pristine. Gone are all traces of dirt, splices, reel cues, and scratches. The greyscale is beautifully solid with deep black levels, crisp whites, and sterling contrast. One couldn’t wish a minute of the transfer any better. The movie has been divided into 39 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is exactly what one would expect for a 1939 production. Dialogue (and there is a lot of it) has been beautifully recorded, and it has been combined with Edward Ward’s music, and the necessary sound effects to make a solid aural experience. There are absolutely no problems with hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter.
Special Features: 2/5
Love on Tap (10:47, SD): 1939 musical short directed by George Sidney
The Bookworm (8:24, SD): 1939 animated short
Theatrical Trailer (2:36, HD): welcoming back William Powell after his extended absence from the screen but showing the wear and tear of the decades totally missing from the feature on the disc.
W.S. Van Dyke’s Another Thin Man takes its well-deserved place among the six Thin Man films which are all considered classics. The Warner Archive Blu-ray disc is as gorgeous as the previous two entries in the series in high definition, and one can only hope that the remaining three films in the franchise will be handled equally well. Highly recommended!
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