1944 100 min MGM b&w
As his investigation proceeds, Powell puts a number prominent citizens under an unpleasant light and they threaten to withdraw funding from the hospital his doctor father is building if he doesn't lay off the case. Powell's father, Davenport, is unconcerned about this threat and tells his son to go on with his detecting. Powell learns that the victim's mother is a local eccentric named "Crazy Mary" who lives in a shack outside of town. When he goes to see her, he finds her murdered, but also finds a sketch that confirms his suspicions. He calls all the suspects together in his usual fashion and reconstructs the case until he reveals that there is indeed a spy ring operating in town, and the mysterious couple buying the paintings, Vinson and Ames, are part of it. But it is Corrigan, who had been helping the investigation so he could keep a leash on it, that is the spymaster.
Perhaps the new sobriety of Nick and Nora were to blame for the flatness of this instalment, or perhaps it was the way Nora's IQ, once a match for Nick's, seemed to have fallen through the floor since the earlier films, or the fact that Woody Van Dyke, who had helmed all the series to this point, was dead. Loy had not acted in three years, being kept busy with her war work and her marriage, and some of the chemistry that she and Powell once had was definitely gone. On the plus side, though, audiences were happy to be rid of little Nick, Jr., and the inevitable cloying cuteness he always brought, and the performances of the MGM stock company of character actors were fine as always, particularly Watson and Davenport as Nick's parents. The film was a big hit at the box office, and although the series would produce one more episode, the fizz was definitely gone.
Credits: p, Everett Riskin; d, Richard Thorpe; w, Robert Riskin, Dwight Taylor, Harry Kurnitz (based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett); ph, Karl Freund; m, David Snell; ed, Ralph E. Winters; art d, Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno; set d, Edwin B. Willis.