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It's kind of funny that the Warren Beatty Dick Tracy movie and Tim
Batman movie were released so close to each other. Each movie tried
valiantly to recreate the atmosphere of their respective comics with high
impact visuals. However, Batman did a much better job carrying the comic's
look and feel over to the big screen. The new Dick Tracy movie's wild
and cheesy backdrops took away from the all-star cast that the producers
together. The original Dick Tracy movie featuring Morgan Conway is much
realistic and doesn't try as hard to be a live action comic strip and is
better movie for it.
First off, things must be said about Morgan Conway's portrayal of everyone's favorite detective. He bears a decent resemblance to his 2-D counterpart, but not one nearly as uncanny as Ralph Byrd's look. Nevertheless, Conway does a good job getting across Tracy's tough as nails yet sympathetic family-oriented character. You can't help but think that Conway looks and sounds too much like Humphrey Bogart to be Dick Tracy though.
Anne Jeffries and Mickey Kuhn as Tess and Junior do decent jobs as well. Pat Patton is a little deemphasized though, something that would remedied in future films. The scarred Splitface doesn't have the personality that some of the comic strip characters do, but he's passable as an original character. The whole movie doesn't try to be exactly like the comic as the 1960's Batman and the latest Dick Tracy movie did later. Rather, it's more true-to-life with some subtle hints of its comic roots. It keeps the stereotypical police department, the daring feats of courage by the heroes and the rogues gallery of characters from the strip while giving Dick Tracy's world a more real feel. That real-world feel puts this movie a cut above the 1990 movie.
I suppose everyone has his or her own idea of what Dick Tracy should
look like out of his cartoon realm. It seems from reading some of the
comments that Morgan Conway was no one's idea. I guess in my head I've
always thought of John Larkin, the original Mike Carr on "Edge of
Night" to be a good person for Tracy. Conway seems more of a character
actor and less of a lead than I imagine Tracy. He has a pleasant smile,
Anne Jeffreys, now at 80+ and absolutely gorgeous to this day, was asked about the Dick Tracy series a few years ago, and she denied ever making any Dick Tracy movies. It wasn't that she disdained them, but they were turned out so quickly, she had no recollection of doing them.
This was a decent programmer but not much came through as far as personalities, except perhaps from Mike Mazurki as Splitface. The film moves along well. The subplot with Jane Greer seemed totally superfluous and never was resolved. Oh, well, soon enough, she would be on to better things.
If you're expecting MALTESE FALCON you're in the wrong place. This
first in the RKO Dick Tracy movies based on Chester Gould's hardboiled
policeman is very faithful to the source material and a LOT of fun.
The cast is well chosen and Morgan Conway looks like he stepped right off the comics page.
What is unexpected is the inky black noirish camera work, something that was very rare for a B-picture. The entire series was entertaining, with Ralph Byrd replacing Conway for the third and fourth installments, and the two earliest entries were geared towards an adult audience as shown in the violence depicted.
Pull the stick out of your crack, sit back and enjoy some very entertaining little films from a more innocent time, when our good guys were someone to look up to.
Despite a rather routine production, this B-mystery is worth watching for the story, which is not bad. The beginning sets things up rather well, with Tracy trying to figure out both who the elusive 'Splitface' might be, and how he chose his apparently unconnected victims. There are several fairly interesting characters that he encounters along the way, and things move at a good pace most of the time. With a bigger budget and perhaps a little better writing here and there (in particular, to give poor Tess some better lines), it could be quite good. But there's no reason to quibble too much with it the way it is, since it's more than enough to provide decent entertainment for an hour or so.
The first of four Dick Tracy films that were made by RKO Studios in the
Forties is a straight action filled drama so unlike the live cartoon
that Warren Beatty did and cast with a bunch of Hollywood names. Morgan
Conway plays the square jawed detective with Anne Jeffreys as the
eternally faithful and eternally exasperated Tess Truehart. If ever a
man was wed to his job it was Dick Tracy as a homicide cop.
The villain here is Mike Mazurki excellently cast as Splitface and one look at him and you know why he's named that. He's responsible for a string of brutal stabbings and those scars he bares both give the city fright, but also make him impossible to trace since they were acquired in prison and render him unrecognizable. He's picked a cross section of citizens as his targets and while I think the viewer will figure it out before Conway puts it together, it's still a lot of fun.
A subsidiary villain in the film is Trevor Bardette playing a con man astrologer and hypnotist. Bardette has a real field day with the part.
Dick Tracy Detective is a fairly good B film from RKO Studios and the cast looks like they're having a good time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You can take this as intended, a minor story with familiar characters
cast more of less (however incongruously) in noir terms -- noir at
least in terms of the out-of-the-blue deaths of the victims.
Or you can watch it as one in several in a line bridging comics and movies. It wasn't until Tim Burton's "Batman" then Beatty's "Tracy" that we will really have a comic reality with abstractions specific to comics.
It is a major addition to the vocabulary of film realities, still evolving but probably as important as noir and the detective narrative. You could probably skip this movie in tracing the history back, but if you happen to stumble on it there are some interesting features.
One is the very deliberate attempt at noir. The detective clearly emulates Bogart's speech. The girls are noirish, which is to say that they are halfway between characters and props. The photography is deliberately in that direction.
But instead of referencing the comic itself, it derives from the radio version of the comic in the way the story moves. (A mutilated con takes revenge on the jury that convicted him.)
Along the way, we have a smooth night club owner (who doesn't know how to manage apostrophes), a creepy mortician named "Deathridge," and a spooky "student of the occult" who seems to have deep insights into the noirish fate to come.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
DICK TRACY has the film noir look of the '40s and some interesting plot
devices involving a slasher out for revenge. With its brief running time and
low-budget values, it's strictly the kind of fare that used to play the
lower half of double bills for the Saturday matinee crowds.
Still, it's not bad as far as these B-pics go (some excellent B&W photography)--but MORGAN CONWAY is nobody's idea of what the famous sleuth should look like. RALPH BYRD was a much better choice in those Tracy serials--he must have been busy when they got to making this one. Anne Jeffreys is pert and pretty as Tess but has little to do. (Did Hollywood ever give her a substantial role?) Little Mickey Kuhn (he was Beau Wilkes in GWTW and the young man Vivien Leigh flirted with in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) is delightful as the boy detective who helps solve the case.
For the villain of the piece, we have Mike Mazurki wearing a scar that looks like a decent make-up job and hulking in the shadows whenever the next murder takes place.
Not bad, and certainly one of the better entries in the DICK TRACY films of the '40s--but what it needed was square-jawed RALPH BYRD in the title role.
Summing up: a good programmer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dick is faced with a series of brutal murders in which the victims, all
from different social and economic backgrounds, are viciously slashed
to pieces. Suspects abound but Tracy, getting a clue that there will be
fifteen murders in all, must find the common thread among the victims
before more are killed.
Dick Tracy is a legendary character, and it seemed only natural that he would have several movies featuring him, and so I decided to watch a few of them. Granted, while I don't think that this movie is a classic of the action or crime genre, I do have to say that it is at least entertaining and fun, and hey, that's how a movie should be, entertaining. Dick Tracy is a fun, exciting, and in some aspects, thrilling film which does the original character proud. The movie is only about one hour long, but in one hour, we get plenty of fun. Personally, I like the 1990 Dick Tracy movie better than I do this one, but I still enjoyed this movie all the same. The plot is pretty basic, simply a police detective going after a killer (which has been done countless times before and after), but what makes it a real pleasure is the fact that the character who is doing the investigating, the legendary Dick Tracy, and seeing somebody like him going after bad guys is always a joy.
Morgan Conway plays the titular character, and he did an exceptionally well job. Conway brought all of the traits that and qualities that made the comics character likable, and he does it very well. Anne Jeffreys was well cast as Tess, Tracy's girlfriend who is constantly irritated by him seemingly to be more committed to his work rather than to her. Mike Mazurki was downright menacing in his role as the main antagonist, Splitface. Surprisingly, Splitface actually was a well written villain, every single instant that he appeared on screen, a sense of danger appear, well, but just looking at his face, you know he's a bad guy. Simply put, the entire cast did well work in their acting roles, but Conway and Mazurki stood out the most.
All in all, if you have about an hour of time to kill, and want something exciting, then Dick Tracy just might be the movie for you. Apparently some people must've liked the movie, or else there would not have been a few sequels. I'm not sure as to how good the sequels are, but I will say that this movie is surprisingly good given the time and the budget. And I can say that regardless, you will definitely be rooting for Tracy as he goes after Splitface, although that was pretty much a given fact, that you would be behind Tracy all the way. So basically, if you haven't seen this movie, then it's worth a viewing, and it's definitely entertaining, as well as exciting.
The first installment in RKO's short Dick Tracy series of films in the 1940s. This one sees Tracy (Morgan Conway) working on a case involving a string of murders committed by Splitface (Mike Mazurki). This series was churned out quickly and cheaply. So don't expect an "A" production from them. That being said, it's a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an hour. Fast-paced, fun detective stories with action and some comedy. Mike Mazurki is a great villain. Conway does fine as Tracy. Lyle Latell plays Tracy's bumbling sidekick Pat Patton. He's the movie's comic relief. Anne Jeffreys plays his Tracy's girlfriend Tess Trueheart. Also an early role for Jane Greer. Give it a shot and I'm sure you'll find it an enjoyable time-killer.
If you had given Dick Tracy's name to any police type in any movie of the forties, it would be indistinguishable. The fact is that while this is a modestly entertaining movie, the comic strip being of it is just not there. Where is the technology, the distinctive sense of the comic strip? It's just not there. There is some semblance of humor, the byplay among the other detectives and Tess's frustration with dating the great detective (she never gets to go to dinner), but it still doesn't reproduce the comic strip. All that considered, it's a decent movie with an interesting plot. Like so many Tracy characters, Split Face is carrying around his angst, wanting to get back at those who convicted him. He is nasty, but has the fatal flaw of carelessness. Tracy is pretty dull, but I was a religious reader of the comic strip as a child and liked his silence. His romantic relationship always seemed forced to me. A real comic book hero shouldn't have time for women, right.
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