Archive for ‘Mystery’

September 29th, 2010

The Thin Man (1934)

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Would you mind putting that gun away?  My wife doesn’t care, but I’m a *very* timid fellow!

I had every intention of writing about 1936’s Satan Met a Lady this week, mainly because I wanted to do a three part series about Golden Age productions of The Maltese FalconSatan Met a Lady is the middle child of these efforts, and also the only one to deviate from a strictly dramatic treatment.  As a comedy/crime hybrid, I was intrigued and willing to give the film a far greater latitude than I usually would when regarding incarnations of a famous work.  However, despite the best efforts of one, Bette Davis, the entire film was so haphazardly put together that I barely made it through the modest 74 minute running time.

While I certainly do not think that only “good” films are worthy of deconstruction, sometimes it only takes a single fatal flaw to kill a picture.  When that happens, there’s only so much you can say.  In this case, the failure had less to do with reconceptualizing Dashiell Hammett’s classic tale of murder most foul, and more to do with someone’s insistence that Satan Met a Lady follow in the footsteps of another Hammett property:  the wildly successful cinematic rendering of The Thin Man.  Unfortunately, the dialogue is so turgid and the laughs so forced, that instead of enhancing the criminal aspect of the plot, they create a schizophrenic effect which in turn renders both elements impotent.

Certainly Satan Met Lady was not the first, nor the last, attempt to capitalize on the success of the crime turned comedy procedural.  A whole slew of debonair detective themed pictures cropped up around the same time, indeed William Powell himself was involved in the Philo Vance pictures, a series which predates The Thin Man by a few years.  Then, of course, there is the “Fast” series that revolves around Harry Kurnitz’s novels about Joel Sloan, a rare-book dealer moonlighting as a detective.  Yet I am hard pressed to think of any effort that out performs, or even pulls fair with The Thin Man. So that, dear readers, leads us to the topic at hand. . .

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