Saturday, February 3, 2007

AFTER THE THIN MAN (MGM 1936) Warner Home Video

After the Thin Man (1936) is the aptly named sequel to W.S. Van Dyke’s wildly popular crime thriller; The Thin Man (1934). It stars William Powell and Myrna Loy as loveable husband and wife Nick and Nora Charles. Immediately following their return home, and on New Year’s Eve no less, the duo are summoned to the home of Nora’s Aunt Katherine Forrest (Jessie Ralph) by a frantic phone call from her daughter, Selma (Elissa Landi). Seems Selma’s husband, Robert (Alan Marshall) is a philandering cad, driving his wife to a near nervous breakdown with his ill-gotten ways.

Nick and Nora discover Robert plotting his next liaison with Polly Bernes (Penny Singleton) a crass nightclub hoofer at a seedy Chinese restaurant. Polly’s not really on Robert’s side, though she pretends as much. After fluffing off Nick and Nora’s pleas to return home, Robert is about to make a deal with someone and steal away into the night when he suddenly winds up quite dead in the foggy mists beyond the club. So, who killed this lowly Lothario? Was it the restaurant’s owner and racketeer, ‘Dancer’ Lichee (Joseph Calleia); Floyd Casper (Teddy Hart), Dancer’s crooked attorney or Selma’s one time lover/now good friend, David Graham (James Stewart)? It might even be Selma herself who oddly, cannot account for her own whereabouts.

Like its predecessor, After the Thin Man is not terribly concerned with either the crime or its list of usual suspects. These films excel because of the witty and scathing banter between Nick and Nora. This alone links together a series of vignettes that miraculously come off as one riotous tale of murder most foul – yet utterly fun. The delightful magic so indelible in the original Thin Man makes a remarkable comeback in this film. The sequel is just as good, if not better than its predecessor. We get tears and laughter and charm and grace and snobbery and death – it’s like low brow Shakespeare for the fast talking/easy going masses, and it goes like gangbusters.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is above average, which is saying something since previous incarnations of this title rated well below on the quality scale. True, the near pristine quality inherent on the original Thin Man is lacking here. The gray scale, while nicely balanced, continues to moderately suffer from age related artifacts and a concentration of film grain in certain scenes. But overall, the image is sharply contrasted with fine details solidly represented throughout. There is a hint of edge enhancement but nothing that will distract. The audio is mono but nicely represented. Short subjects are the only extra.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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