THE COMPLETE THIN MAN COLLECTION
For a whole lot of years, the box set of all six Thin Man movies was the crown jewel of my Laserdisc collection and one of my most prized possessions. As a movie buff, I really love this wonderful series of films based upon the characters created by Dashiell Hammett. Now, no matter how many times Iíve seen the six Thin Man movies I never tire of watching them because they continuously deliver in terms of sheer entertainment value. Sure, the films may seem somewhat formulaic by todayís standard, but in the Hollywood of yesteryear it was some kind of formula: glamorous stars, witty banter, a bit of screwball comedy, and all of it wrapped around a murder mystery- it doesnít get any better than that. However, what really set the Thin Man series apart from other films of the same vein is its delightful stars, who demonstrated a magical sense of screen chemistry in all six their pairing here (not to mention their other wonder screen appearances together). Movie stars of the caliber of William Powell and Myrna Loy just donít exist anymore and very few of todayís thespians can light up the screen the way this duo did, which earned them a place one greatest romantic comedy screen teams of all time.
The six Thin Man films produced by MGM between 1934 and 1947, featured Powell and Loy as the husband and wife sleuthing team of Nick and Nora Charles. Nick is a retired police detective enjoying a life of leisure (and continual inebriation), along side his beautiful society wife Nora. Of course, circumstances and Nickís affiliation with law enforcement continually draw this deliriously happy couple into a series of murder mysteries that tend to baffle the police. Additionally, Nick is always running into old acquaintances, many of whom he sent to prison, while Nora remains bemused by her husbandís colorful past and occasionally rendering assistance to her husband in the solving of the various murders that they encounter. Also lending humorous assistance to the proceedings is William Powell and Myrna Loy delightful canine costar Asta, who steals a few moments of every film in the series.
THE THIN MAN is the film that started is all, and features a plot that finds Nick and Nora on a trip to New York, where they become involved with the disappearance of an old friend and a murder. The cast of THE THIN MAN also features Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell, Porter Hall, Henry Wadsworth, William Henry, Harold Hube, Cesar Romero, Natalie Moorhead, Edward Brophy and Edward Ellis. AFTER THE THIN MAN represents the film series at its absolute peak, and delivers a story that returns Nick and Nora to California, where they become embroiled in the murder of Noraís cousinís fortune hunting husband. The cast of AFTER THE THIN MAN also features James Stewart, Elissa Landi, Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Alan Marshal, Teddy Hart, Sam Levene, Penny Singleton, William Law, George Zucco and Paul Fix. ANOTHER THIN MAN transports Nick and Nora (plus their new baby) to New York where they are required to solve the murder of Noraís fatherís former business partner. The cast of ANOTHER THIN MAN also features Virginia Grey, Otto Kruger, C. Aubrey Smith, Ruth Hussey, Nat Pendleton, Patric Knowles, Tom Neal, Phyllis Gordon, Sheldon Leonard, Don Costello and Harry Bellaver.
SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN takes Nick and Nora off to the races, as well as a wrestling match, where they become involved with two separate murders- first a jockey, then a reporter. The cast of SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN also features Barry Nelson, Donna Reed, Sam Levene, Alan Baxter, Henry O'Neill, Dickie Hall, Stella Adler, Loring Smith, Joseph Anthony, Lou Lubin and Louise Beavers. THE THIN MAN GOES HOME finds Nick and Nora returning to the small town community where Nick was raised and an occasional murder occurs. The cast of THE THIN MAN GOES HOME also features Lucile Watson, Gloria DeHaven, Anne Revere, Helen Vinson, Harry Davenport, Leon Ames, Donald Meek, Edward Brophy, Lloyd Corrigan, Anita Sharp-Bolster, Ralph Brooks, Donald MacBride and Morris Ankrum. SONG OF THE THIN MAN was the cinematic swan song for the series, and featured a plot that had Nick and Nora becoming involved with the murder investigation of a much-hated jazz musician. The cast of SONG OF THE THIN MAN also features Keenan Wynn, Dean Stockwell, Philip Reed, Patricia Morison, Leon Ames, Gloria Grahame, Jayne Meadows, Ralph Morgan, Bess Flowers, Don Taylor, Warner Anderson, Bruce Cowling and Connie Gilchrist.
Warner Home Video has made all six films that comprise THE COMPLETE THIN MAN COLLECTION ($60) available on DVD in black and white transfers that frame each of the films in their proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. For the most part, the black and white transfers appear really nice, although the newer films certainly appear stronger that the older ones. None of the presentations have undergone a frame-by-frame digital rejuvenation, but some cleanup work has probably lessened the number of blemishes and more severe flaws in the fifty, sixty and seventy-plus year old film elements. Some scratches and other noticeable signs of age remain, but are not particularly bothersome.
There is a good deal of appreciable film grain present, although the level of grain seems to lessen as the series progresses. Image sharpness and detail is quite good for all the films, but the later ones do appear stronger than those that predate them. Of course, there is a bit of gauziness the black and white glamour cinematography of the past, which does create some softness here and there. Blacks are generally inky and deep, while the whites appear clean and stable. Image contrast and grayscale ranges across the series between good, very good and excellent. Digital compression artifacts are fairly well contained across the collection.
All six movies in the Thin Man series feature Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. Considering that these are fifty, sixty and seventy-plus year old sound recordings, Warner has done a more than satisfactory job cleaning them up for DVD presentation. There are general improvements as the series progresses, but the limitations in fidelity that one generally associates with recordings from this period are present. Music can be a bit tinny, while some of the sound effects sound canned. The majority of background hiss and surfaces noise have been stripped from the soundtracks. Occasional distortions crop up, but only on the oldest films and they are never particularly bad. Dialogue is always intelligible, while the clarity of the voice recordings gets smoother as the series progresses. The first three films include alternate French language tracks; subtitles are provided English, French and Spanish on all the movies, although the first feature also includes subtitles in Portuguese.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that are included on each of the individual discs. However, the main feature of THE COMPLETE THIN MAN COLLECTION is a bonus disc entitled Alias Nick and Nora, which includes two biographies- William Powell: A True Gentleman (thirty minutes) and Hollywood Remembers: Myrna Loy- So Nice To Come Home To (forty five minutes). Also featured on the bonus disc is Darling, I Loathe You, a thirty-minute episode from the 1958 television series version of The Thin Man that starred Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk.
As for the individual discs, THE THIN MAN includes a Thin Man Trailer Gallery. AFTER THE THIN MAN includes the Robert Benchley comedy short How To Be A Detective; plus the classic cartoon The Early Bird And The Worm, as well as a Radio Show featuring Powell and Loy, a Leo Is On The Air radio promo and trailer. ANOTHER THIN MAN includes the musical short Love On Tap, plus a classic cartoon The Bookworm and a trailer. SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN includes the vintage short The Tell-Tale Heart, plus a classic cartoon The Goose Goes South and a trailer. THE THIN MAN GOES HOME includes the Robert Benchley comedy short Why Daddy?, plus the classic cartoon Screwball Squirrel and a trailer. SONG OF THE THIN MAN includes the Passing Parade short A Really Important Person, plus the classic cartoon Slap Happy Lion and a trailer.
THE COMPLETE THIN MAN COLLECTION DVD set allows me to finally retire my Laserdisc box set of movies that has served this reviewer well for a whole lot of years. Warner has done a truly fine job with the DVD release of these classic movies by delivering solid presentations and enjoyable supplemental features. If you are a movie buff, or a William Powell and Myrna Loy fan, or just someone who likes to likes to be entertained, then THE COMPLETE THIN MAN COLLECTION gets my highest recommendation.
One last wish: Now all we need is a second William Powell and Myrna Loy boxed set containing MANHATTAN MELODRAMA, EVELYN PRENTICE, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD, LIBELED LADY, DOUBLE WEDDING, I LOVE YOU AGAIN, and LOVE CRAZY. I sure hope Warner is listening.
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