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Enjoyable noirish conclusion to The Thin Man series 3.5 Stars

The wonderful era of Nick and Nora Charles comes to a fitting close in Edward Buzzell’s Song of the Thin Man, not the best film in the series but one which upholds the quality that was otherwise unmatched in other studios’ long-running movie mysteries.

Song of the Thin Man (1947)
Released: 01 Sep 1947
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 86 min
Director: Edward Buzzell
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Musical
Cast: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Keenan Wynn
Writer(s): Steve Fisher, Nat Perrin, James O'Hanlon
Plot: Nick and Nora Charles are on a gambling boat when someone is murdered. The two main suspects are at large and come to Nick for help. Nick turns them into the police but then sets out to figure out the mystery.
IMDB rating: 7.0
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 26 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 01/18/2022
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 3.5/5

The closest cinematic sleuths Nick and Nora Charles ever got to film noir was in their sixth and last movie investigation Edward Buzzell’s Song of the Thin Man. This 1947 mystery is darker than their other film forays into crime solving with mental instability, unhappy marriages, and threats of being knifed around every corner. The more melancholy mood of the piece and a lower comedy quotient than usual dampened the grosses of the film enough to cause it to lose money, the only film in the series to do so which promptly led to MGM canceling the series. They’d resurrect it a decade later on television with different stars, but it, too, didn’t live up to expectations and had a disappointing run.

Bandleader Tommy Drake (Philip Reed) has been employed on Phil Brant’s (Bruce Cowling) floating casino yacht for quite some time but ditches Brant’s outfit when big band producer Mitch Talbin (Leon Ames) offers him a $100,000 contract for a road tour. On the night Drake quits, he’s gunned down on the S.S. Fortune by someone seemingly out to get him. Was it gangster Al Amboy (William Bishop) whom Drake owed $12K? Perhaps it was alcoholic headliner clarinetist Buddy Hollis (Don Taylor) whom Drake had fired that night? Or maybe it was girl friend vocalist Fran Page (Gloria Grahame, vocals by Carol Arden) whom he had just jilted. Nevertheless, the murder is pinned on Phil Brant. He and his new wife Janet Thayer (Jayne Meadows) come to Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell, Myrna Loy) for help, but when Brant has a shot fired at him, Nick isn’t sure who the actual target of the first murder was: Drake or Brant. And when Janet’s overly controlling father David Thayer (Ralph Morgan) makes his objections to her new husband known, Nick realizes he’s in for a very thorny investigation.

The script for this sixth Thin Man mystery was penned by Steve Fisher and producer Nat Perrin with some additional dialogue by James O’Hanlon and Harry Crane. Because the investigation leads Nick and Nora into the smoked-filled jam joints and bebop establishments where jazz wails into the early morning hours, the screenplay is loaded with lots of jive talk (translated by the Charles’ tour guide Clarence “Clinker” Krause – Keenan Wynn) and squirrelly fog-shrouded piers and shady dives which give the film its noirish tone. There’s danger afoot, too, as Al Amboy’s knife-wielding cohort has a habit of shoving it into the ribs of anyone within spitting distance, so when another suspect turns up knifed, well, the situation becomes ever-more dire. Director Edward Buzzell brings the movie in at a rapid clip (less than 90 minutes even with all of that jazz music and Fran’s “You’re Not So Easy to Forget” sung a couple of times) and manages to work Nickie Junior (Dean Stockwell) into the proceedings for a bit (one instance of late movie tension uses his otherwise negligible character nicely jacking up the suspense).

William Powell and Myrna Loy pair as nicely as always even if the drinking jokes are thinned out considerably (at least Nick’s not on the wagon as he was in the preceding film The Thin Man Goes Home), and as usual Nick rounds up all of the suspects for the final denouement, nicely abetted here by staging the revelation on board the S.S. Fortune instead of in a locked room. Keenan Wynn is lots of fun as the reed man determined to get to the bottom of the mystery to clear his dear friend Buddy Hollis, a mostly silent performance by Don Taylor who still manages to wonderfully convey both his alcoholism and his deteriorating mental state through subtle pantomime. Jayne Meadows is steely and determined as Janet Thayer, and Bruce Cowling pairs with her most attractively. Leon Ames and Patricia Morison are fine as a couple of wealthy hipsters who support jazz musicians, the opposite of Ralph Morgan and Bess Flowers as Janet’s stuffy, less sophisticated parents. Philip Reed, Gloria Grahame, Connie Gilchrist, and William Bishop all play their small parts with aplomb. Yes, that’s Marie Windsor in a quick moment at the climax as mobster Al Amboy’s glamorous wife.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.37:1 original theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully represented in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. As with the other Thin Man films, this one has been remastered beautifully, so much so that the deep blacks in the photography are especially telling. The image is sharp and clean with no age-related problems with splices, scratches, or unwanted dust. The movie has been divided into 25 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix offers the film’s jazz-heavy soundtrack in its best aural presentation to date. Audio is rich and full, and there are no problems at all with hiss, pops, flutter, or crackle. Dialogue has also been beautifully recorded and presented with no audio difficulties whatsoever.

Special Features: 2/5

John Nesbitt’s Passing Parade: A Really Important Person (10:50, SD)

Slap Happy Lion (7:26, HD): 1947 animated short

Theatrical Trailer (3:07, HD)

Overall: 3.5/5

The wonderful era of Nick and Nora Charles comes to a fitting close in Edward Buzzell’s Song of the Thin Man, not the best film in the series but one which upholds the quality that was otherwise unmatched in other studios’ long-running movie mysteries. The Warner Archive Blu-ray disc matches the quality of the previous movies in the group and comes with a firm recommendation.

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Published by

Matt Hough

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View thread (8 replies)

Will Krupp

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Great review Matt (and I agree with you, Mark!)

The film looks stupendous and, truth be told, (I know I'm in the minority here) I've gotten a little more enoyment out of this entry over the years than a few of those that came before it (I'm the one who finds SHADOW mostly unmemorable and GOES HOME to be be ALMOST ruined by the degradation of Nora's character into silly buffoonery.)

A VERY satisfying release, IMO.
 

Capt Cheese Pro

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Now that all of the Thin Man movie series has been released indivigually, can a box set be far off? I'd much rather but the BD box set than have to purchase them one at a time? Fingers crossed!!!
 

Astairefan

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Now that all of the Thin Man movie series has been released indivigually, can a box set be far off? I'd much rather but the BD box set than have to purchase them one at a time? Fingers crossed!!!
If my own observations about WAC and Blu-ray box sets are correct, then I would say that it is very likely that there will NOT be a box set (or box sets) for this series, so I would recommend going with the individual releases.
 

Robert Crawford

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Now that all of the Thin Man movie series has been released indivigually, can a box set be far off? I'd much rather but the BD box set than have to purchase them one at a time? Fingers crossed!!!
I think the ship for a boxset has passed as WAC is even having trouble releasing individual titles as they try to fill up the pipeline for BD releases.
 

Randy Korstick

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If my own observations about WAC and Blu-ray box sets are correct, then I would say that it is very likely that there will NOT be a box set (or box sets) for this series, so I would recommend going with the individual releases.
Yes box sets from WAC have been extremely rare. I don't see them doing one for the Thin Man series.
 

Kent K H

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Yes box sets from WAC have been extremely rare. I don't see them doing one for the Thin Man series.
Personally, I wouldn't even mind them going back and releasing a box after the fact, a la Vinegar Syndrom's Rudy Ray Moore 'set,' but they seem to be heading in a completely different direction, much like how Criterion has basically phased out their Eclipse sets.