Monday, March 29, 2010

“Come on, let's get something to eat. I'm thirsty.”

You know, there’s six Thin Man movies in total, and you and I are going on a magical adventure of crime solving and booze with the Charles’s till the bitter end. Next up is 1936’s After The Thin Man.

Picking up where we left off in the first movie, we find Nick & Nora arriving in San Francisco hoping to spend a quiet New Year’s at home. Of course it doesn’t happen and the two end up spending time with family, much to Nick’s dismay. They also get dragged into family business when Nora’s cousin, Selma, is having a nervous fit because her louse of a husband’s been missing for a few days. They find him in a Chinese nightclub and send him home, and then he ends up murdered with Selma as a likely suspect. Now Nick & Nora try to figure out whodunnit. Hilarity ensues.

Nick Charles: William Powell shines again, especially when he’s sarcastically interacting with his in-laws. Naturally, he is still the hard-drinking private eye that he was established as.

Nora Charles: Myrna Loy gets to do a bit more since Nora’s dealing with family issues. She even tries to do some sleuthing on her own which doesn’t end according to plan. Nick & Nora remain the collective badasses of the movie.

Asta: There’s a comic subplot with Asta coming home to find Mrs. Asta hasn’t been faithful to him while he was gone.

Selma Landis: Elissa Landi is Nora’s fragile-minded cousin. Sympathetic, but also kind of loopy (in the bad way), she plays the part convincingly.

Aunt Katherine Forrest: Jessie Ralph plays the complete bitch who runs the Forrest mansion. She keeps Selma under her thumb and Nick can’t stand her.

Robert Landis: Alan Marshall is Selma’s asshole husband. He’s a drunk and a cheat, carrying on an affair with a nightclub singer. Fortunately, this waste of air shuffles off his mortal coil before too long to trigger the mystery.

David Graham: James Stewart (yes, THAT Jimmy Stewart) is an old friend of Selma’s who’s carried a torch for her ever since she spurned him and married Robert. Seems like he’d do anything to try and protect her.

Polly: Penny Singleton (as Dorothy McNulty), who’s probably best known to this reading audience as the voice of Jane Jetson, is a singer in a shady nightclub and Robert’s other woman. Turns out she’s also part of a scheme to get a lot of money out of Robert.

Dr. Kammer: George Zucco is the shady doctor who Aunt Katherine has watching Selma. It’s a small role, and I only mention him because he popped up in a few of the Universal Horror films looked at during last year’s Octoverride.

“Dancer”: Joseph Calleia is the owner of said seedy Chinese nightclub. He knows the Charles’s, though its far from the friendliest interaction.

Lieutenant Abrams: Sam Levene is the local cop who investigates the murder and gladly accepts Nick’s help. Abrams is a fun character and a good, solid sidekick to Nick & Nora, at turns competent and flabbergasted.
W.S. Van Dyke returns as the director and that same kind of fast-paced, playful visual style returns in this movie. Things move fast, there are some interesting shots and the whole film breezes by like a refreshing, uh, breeze.

Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett return to adapt a Dashiell Hammett story, and there’s not a whole lot to say that I didn’t for the first one. Dialogue is awesome, pacing is fast and the whole product is immensely entertaining. The plot does mirror the first movie a bit too much with the whole “murder, investigate, gather all the suspects for a finale,” but since its an excuse to have more Nick & Nora, I can’t really consider it a bad thing.

The original music by Herbert Stothart & Edward Ward gets the job done nicely, though it doesn’t really stand out.

After the Thin Man is a good, solid sequel that delivers “more of the same, only MORE!” quite successfully. The characters and dialogue are still solid. Recommended viewing.

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