The Thin Man (1934) Review

23 05 2011

Copyright 1934 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

I had heard the name of the Thin Man series for many years and seen copies of various installments of the series in the local library since I was a kid.  For some reason, however, I had never taken the opportunity to watch any of the films.  This past weekend, the first installment, aptly entitled The Thin Man, made its way through my Netflix queue and into the mailbox.

Genre wise, the film is a murder mystery caper.  When a well-to-do inventor, Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis), leaves town and doesn’t return, the local police force unravel a web of suspicious characters, all with ties to Wynant.  After several people end up dead, Wynant’s daughter, Dorothy (Maureen O’ Sullivan), decides to confide in an old friend and former private detective, Nick Charles (William Powell), to help in solving the mystery.  The only problem is that Charles no longer works as a detective.  After marrying a wealthy socialite, Nora (Myrna Loy), he quit his day job and began living the easy life.  Nick and Nora, both insatiable alcoholics, spend their days drinking, having parties and taking care of their little dog, Asta.  Nick at first declines Dorothy’s offer to get involved, but Nora, who never knew him as a detective, thinks it would be exciting and urges him to take the case.  In the end, he reluctantly agrees.  Between drinks, he begins working on the case and catches on to many more clues than the police force, who are led by Inspector John Guild (Nat Pendleton).  To identify the murderer, a large house party is held at the Charles’s with all the suspects in toe.  The final deductions are made and the mystery is solved in grand style.

This is a very fun movie to watch.  It’s a murder mystery that, at the time was breaking new ground in story and plot that we are used to all to well today.  However, the film still holds up amazingly well.  The dynamic chemistry between Powell and Loy is a large part of what make the film so fun.  They play off each other with such lovingly jest that you can’t help but smile when they are on screen together.

Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, the film was originally supposed to be a B-movie.  Because of this, the entire film was shot in only two weeks by director W. S. “One-Take” Van Dyke.  To think that a feature film like this could be made within two weeks is truly mind boggling!  In the end, the film became an immense success and garnered Oscar nominations for Best Actor for William Powell, Best Writing for an Adaptation, Best Director and Best Picture.  Furthermore, the film spawned  five sequels, all with Powell and Loy in the leading roles of Nick and Nora.





Deathtrap (1982) Review

23 04 2011

Copyright 1982 Warner Brothers Pictures

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Much apologies on the long amount of time between posts.  I have to admit that Twin Peaks has taken over my life (for the second time) since its coming onto Netflix Instant Watch.  I am happy to report that Maddie and I are currently on episode 18 or 30, so it will free its hold over me quite soon.  Yesterday, however, I took an evening break from the series with this film.

Last night’s viewing was my second time seeing the movie in addition to having once before seen the stage play many years ago at The Little Theatre in Winston Salem.  Directed by the late Sidney Lumet, this film is based on Ira Levin’s stageplay of the same name.  Washed up playwright, Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine), hasn’t had a hit in years.  He has had to live off his wealthy wife (Dyan Cannon), who has a heart condition, to survive.  When a spec play entitled Deathtrap comes to his house from a seminar student, Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve), Bruhl realizes an amazing opportunity to make a comeback.  However, is a comeback worth murder?

If you have seen Sleuth (1972), which as a side note is an amazingly good film, then you will like this film.  They share many similarities in, not only character, but also plot twists, reversals, etc.  Being a stage play to begin with, the majority of the plot takes place in one location – Bruhl’s East Hampton estate.  An almost two hour movie being limited to one location can be daunting, but Lumet does a great job at keeping the location interesting with a series of dolly, crane and other camera movements.

All of the actors do a fine job, particularly Caine and Reeve; Cannon can be a bit melodramatic, but it works for the part.  I really can’t say much more without giving certain plot points away and, in honesty, that is why you would want to watch this film.  Everything here is plot centric because of the nature of the work; it is a murder mystery in two acts.

It’s not as good to me as the original (there was a remake with Caine and Jude Law which is average) Sleuth with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier, but it is a fun watch and keeps you interested.  My only complaint is that it grows a bit long in the second act, but this again I think is due to the complications of adapting from the stage to film.








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