Tuesday, September 20, 2005

lanky brunettes with wicked jaws, part 3

For years, the absence of The Thin Man set was a glaring pox upon the DVD crowd. In the Should be on DVD section of the movie buff's mind, The Thin Man was right up there with the Marx Brothers, The Jazz Singer, and Looney Tunes. The absence of The Thin Man was even more glaring when the Marx Brothers and Looney Tunes finally started to receive the box set treatment they richly deserve. That list became revised yet again on August 3, 2005 with the release of The Complete Thin Man Collection DVD box set. Warner Brothers has been the movie buff's savior in the past several years. Their box sets and special editions have given a loving, respectful treatment to many classic films. They have partnered with Turner Classic Movies to produce and include great biographies (such as the recent Errol Flynn documentary that came with the Errol Flynn - The Signature Collection anpremiereded on TCM) and documentaries that feature movie historians, as well as critics, archivists, and directors and stars. The print and sound qualities of the films have been exceptional, as they have gone to lengths to find the best source prints.

This set received no-less of a great treatment from Warners. The Complete Thin Man Collection is a 7-disc affair, including all 6 films plus a 7th disc entitled Alias Nick and Nora. The 7th disc contains two bio-documentaries on William Powell and Myrna Loy, plus the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of the film featuring Powell and Loy reprising their roles and director W.S. Van Dyke serving as narrator. Also on the 7th disc is the pilot episode of The Thin Man television series, starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk. The episode is fairly weak, but Peter Lawford showed some promise in his characterization of Nick. It's hard to judge, without having seen the rest of the series, but it is difficult to enjoy a half-hour mystery without the charm and banter of Powell and Loy.

The first disc contains the same makeup as the previous DVD release of The Thin Man, but each of the remaining discs contain both the film and other special features. In Warner Brother's DVD special editions of their films, the DVDs are rich in special features, including the favorite: Warner Brothers Night at the Movies. Night at the Movies are a feature which allows the viewer to sample a typical night at the movies in the year it was debuted; including newsreels, cartoon shorts, comedy and musical shorts, and trailers. Since these films were MGM releases, Warner's (which is a subsidiary of Time-Warner, along with TCM and owns some MGM back catalog) doesn't provide the same, but instead has some MGM shorts and cartoons on each disc. Some highlights include several Robert Benchley comedy shorts and several MGM Tex Avery cartoons, Screwball Squirrel and Slap Happy Lion. Each disc is a pleasant way to spend an evening.

The 7th disc documentaries are quite well done. William Powell- A True Gentleman is narrated by Michael York, and is an excellent portrait of Powell's start and career. Very little is touched on about his private life, but Powell was a private man. His character, charm, and talents are put forth in this feature and some excellent photographs of Powell over the course of his career take center stage. Several film historians and an archivist are interviewed in the feature. Myrna Loy- So Nice To Come Home To is hosted by Kathleen Turner. It is a somewhat lengthier examination of Loy's career and takes a closer look at her private life. It is a celebration of sorts of Loy as a strong independentnt women who was a wonderful actress and humanitarian.

The films themselves are what the fans are flocking to, and a quick look at the comment sections around DVD websites and retail sites confirm this. Most all agree: "It's about time!" The first two films, which have been discussed in previous posts, are wonderful classics, with the rare case in Hollywood that the sequel is as strong as the first. After the Thin Man also features Jimmy Stewart in an early role. Another Thin Man introduces the Charles's son, Nicky Jr. and set the couple back in New York on solving the murder of a former business partner of Nora's father. A instant classic as well, with some great supporting performances by Sheldon Leonard and Shemp Howard! Shadow of the Thin Man, is a somewhat weaker installment, but no less enjoyable. Nick and Nora solve a series of murders centering around a race track. The Thin Man Goes Home finds Nick and Nora (sans Nicky Jr.) going to Nick's hometown to visit his parents. While there, Nick gets involved in a murder case, involving industrial espionage and shaking skeletons out of the small town's closets. Some have panned this as the weakest of the series, but this is one of my sentimental favorites. Nora takes more of center stage in this one, and it features some wonderful bits of physical comedy. Lastly, Song of the Thin Man rounds out the list. It is perhaps the weakest of the series, as it is starting to show age. A still enjoyable effort, and it features a young Dean Stockwell as Nicky, Jr. Al, how little we knew ye!

All in all, The Complete Thin Man Collection is a must have. It belongs on the shelf of any movie buff. After a three-part look at the series and review of the set, it is no surprise that The Shelf rates the Box set as a Must Buy!

whaddaya mean "illiterate"? My father and mother were married right here in the city hall!

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