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Category:    Home > Reviews > Serial > Super Hero > Adventure > Dick Tracy (1937 serial/VCI DVD)

Dick Tracy (1937 Serial)


Picture: C ††††Sound: C ††††Extras: C+†† Film: B-



Dick Tracy is a comic strip character that has been minimalized to practically nothing these days thanks to a few outlets.The first (worst?) being the 1990 Warren Beatty film, which was a very stylized film, but offered very little in terms of character development or a story that had much interest.Then there was the short-lived cartoon series that capitalized on some fresh interest in the character, but even that died within time.However, VCI Entertainment has issued to DVD the original serial, which ran back in the late 30ís.


This set is of the 1937 Republic Pictures starring Ralph Bird in the lead role.Some of the inventions from these episodes almost seem like a direct influence on the Batman TV series of the mid-1960s starring Adam West, as Tracy must battle deadly weapons such as an electronic tuning fork that could crush a bridge and the list goes on.All of the characters are based on Chester Gouldís original characters and have been developed here by Barry Shipman and Winston Miller as their script brings shape to the comic characters.


Most will be glad to finally have these hard to come by episodes, but VCI has made that easy with the DVD format.This is a 2-disc set, which runs a total of 290-minutes and is the complete 1937 serial.The show was all in black and white, which takes away slightly from the colorful character of Tracy in his comic form.However, the black and white adds a more Noir-like feel, despite the wacky nature of the episodes.The purpose here is to have fun with these and never take the material more serious than it should.


Presented in its original 1.33 X 1 aspect ratio, the black and white is certainly showing its age.Being this old and coming from a second or possibly third generation source you can tell that this is something that would need major restoration in order to secure the quality in years to come.The prints have missing information around the edges, but are rather clean giving the age and lack of care that has been placed on them.


The 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono is never impressive nor bad, but offers all the limitations one would expect.The sound range is all over the place with some parts being louder than others and a fair amount of hiss on the soundtrack as well.Max Allan Collins provides a super insightful commentary for the serial and is a major reason to own this set!His comments are very interesting as he informs us on certain aspects of each segment and various other tidbits of facts throughout.


This 2-disc set also contains other extras, like biographies, a stills gallery, lobby cards, and the Musical Radio program from 1945 called Dick Tracy in B Flat, which was designed for the U.S. Army.In this, Bing Crosby plays Tracy, Dinah Shore is Tess Trueheart, and Bob Hope is Flat-Top, howís that for entertainment!As if that isnít a line-up enough the remainder of the cast is comprised of Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra, and The Andrew Sisters.Those that still enjoy the old RKO Radio programs found on many of the Criterion Edition discs will love this!


It is becoming harder and harder to find a new target audience for such items like this.Part of the reason is that the market is flooded by such garbage, and it becomes hard to decipher the good from the bad, but this is definitely a set that is sure to please.This Dick Tracy set also ranks as one of the best from VCI alongside their Somewhere in Dreamland set, which is reviewed on this site.



-†† Nate Goss


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