Fifth of the Thin Man films is certainly the least. Nick returns home to visit the folks in Sycamore Springs, Nora and Asta in tow (Nick Jr. is handwaved away and not seen). Everyone there is sure he is investigating something, though he denies it. He obviously is, but it's never clearly defined, evidence of last minute tampering to salvage a poor film. Once again, Nick gets involved with murder and intrigue, this time with a wartime slant (espionage).
This is a poor film precisely because the scriptwriters and director did not have a firm handle on the characters. Van Dyke, the director of the first four films, had died, and the sense of consistency is lacking. Certainly a better director than B-movie churner Thorpe was needed.
Nick doesn't drink in this film, something brought about by wartime rationing, but that's the least of it. The whole thing with Nick's parents and the stifling, puritanical hometown does not jibe with Nick's character (or what Hammett wrote; in the books he's Greek, not a WASP). Nick is not the calm, in-control character he is in the other films; in fact, here he is presented as a bit of a buffoon. I don't know if Powell was tired of playing the character, or if it's an attempt at something like 'man returns home and reverts to childhood in front of his parents', but it does not work. Further, all the other characters in the film are rude, tired and irritable.That certainly reflects the war-weary audiences of 1945, but it makes for a very trying viewing experience today--the opening train scene is a good example. Also, way too much Asta. A major disappointment. . .
Followed by one more film, Song of the Thin Man, which was a definite improvement, especially in terms of the mystery element.