The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

As the title so subtly substantiates, this time around the story has Nick and Nora visit the ancestral Charles family home to have a quiet holiday away from all the crime (solving) and murder. But thanks to a mischievous little prank by Nora that makes the entire town think Nick is investigate a case, it’s no time time at all before the couple is embroiled into yet another murder mystery. The Thin Man Goes Home is the penultimate installment in the series, and to much surprise it manages to make itself feel rather new and refreshing despite still adhering to its old and familiar formula. W.S. Van Dyke, the director of all the previous Thin Man movies, had died a couple of years earlier, meaning that for the first time in the series there was a new director running the show, a fella named Richard Thorpe, and he does a superb job at giving the series some new invigorating juice.

Whether or not this can be entirely attributed to the new director I have no idea, but one of the few noticeable small changes to the formula is that there is no Nick Jr. Well, he still exists, but physically he is nowhere to be seen. There is only a brief mention of him being stuck at school, which apparently did not stop his parents from going on a (seemingly indefinite length) holiday by themselves when they felt like it. Ah, old school parenting values. I didn’t particularly miss him, but it did feel a bit odd because you had more or less been conditioned to expect to see the little tyke grow a little with each new movie. Another new, and welcome change was changing the setting. The story now takes place in a small town rather than a big metropolitan city, a decision that certainly helped to make the mystery feel more intimate than usual.  Adding to the alterations, Nick is shown to drink considerably less than in the other movies, though this has more to due with the war time rationing and the concern that it might not be appropriate to showcase drinking in such vast quantities. So instead we have Nick mostly sticking to cyder, that he hilariously keeps in an enormous booze flask that he carries around in his coat pocket. The whole thing was even cleverly tied to the story by having Nick’s father disapprove of Nick’s lighthearted alcohol consumption, making Nick’s cyder stash sort of a compromise to keep him enough juiced to survive to another day.

As per usual, you have to wait until the climactic parlor room scene to find out who the killer was and how it all to ties together to make sense, because the clues are scant (or maybe it’s just me failing at paying attention) and in this regard too the movie really manages outdo all the previous movies. The gathering of all the suspect in one room and letting them sweat it out while the tension builds before Nick finally starts to weasel out the truth manages to be very humorous and highly entertaining affair. One of the true highlights of the scene is when many of they people gathered to the parlor are revealed to be hiding gins in their person. The background context and and the way the murder itself was committed also impressively complex, so I really had fun with this one. I might even say it’s my personal favorite of the five movies I’ve seen so far, and the prospect of only having one more left to go is a bit disheartening.

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