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Dick Tracy's Dilemma (DVD)

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Genre: Music DVDs / Theatrical Release: 1947 / Director: John Rawlins / Actors: Ralph Byrd, Lyle Latell, Kay Christopher, Jack Lambert, Ian Keith ... / DVD released 2002-09-24 at Alpha Video / Features of the DVD: Black & White, DVD-Video, NTSC

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      20.07.2009 09:31
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      Dick Tracy takes one last run at movie stardom

      Dick Tracy first appeared in 1931, the creation of cartoonist Chester Gould. The intelligent, hard nosed cop was a mainstay in newspapers from that date onwards written and drawn by Gould himself for close on 46 years, finally giving up having at least some involvement in his strip and hanging up his pen and pencil in 1977.

      Tracy became a national icon and forged a career catching criminals in a whole host of media during the 30's and 40's. He had a long running radio career that spanned almost 15 years, starred in 4 movie serials between 1937 and 1941 and then 4 B-movies between 1945-47.
      He made a brief return to prominence in 1990 when a spectacularly colourful movie starring Warren Beatty and Madonna was released, though it was pretty faithful to the character it did crash and burn quite spectacularly.

      Tracy always had a couple of regular co-stars, his girlfriend Tess Trueheart and his partner Detective Pat Patton, who always helped and hindered him in his crook catching enterprise.


      Dick Tracy's Dilemma was made in 1947, starred Ralph Byrd once again as our favourite square jawed detective and was the last of the four B movies starring the character made during that era.

      This time around we have a very similar plot to 'Vs. Cueball' that was released the previous year.
      A thug named 'The Claw' is hired to steal a consignment of furs, but in doing so he kills the night watchman who was guarding the plant they were stored in.
      This brings in not only the homicide squad, led by Tracy and Patton, but also makes disposing of the furs nigh on impossible. No one who would normally buy stolen goods is willing to get caught up in a murder investigation.
      With the insurance companies investigators also involved in the case 'The Claw' and his boss soon realise that they have big problems.

      Dick Tracy's Dilemma has a reasonably decent storyline behind it and there is also more of a mystery in it as, for once, you don't know who the boss is right from the get go. Still the pace of the story, even though it is only 59 minutes long, is more ambulatory than racing.
      There are a number of good moments in Dilemma. The character of 'Sightless' for example is a great addition to the cast. 'Sightless' is a blind beggar who is a great informant for Tracy because not only is he pretty much ignored by everyone but he also isn't actually blind.
      When you compare him to Vitamin, a great friend of Dicks (for some unfathomable reason), who is some kind of Shakespearian actor, then 'sightless' is a creation akin to Macbeth. Sightless is interesting, funny and comes as a nice guy, even if he is conning people by pretending to be a blind man.
      Vitamin on the other hand is superfluous, annoying and the kind of character you would just like to practice a few UFC choke holds on.

      Lyle Latell is still playing Pat Patton and in this movie isn't used only as a comedy foil for a change. Maybe the writers realised that Vitamin and Patton both acting as fools meant there was way too much stupidity and toned Patton down, making him more like the kind of partner Tracy would have really had, a competent partner.
      This does make sense but Patton was a likeable fool while Vitamin is completely the opposite. So the reasoning, while sound in reality, really does a disservice to the film. Patton worked well as a comedy foil in the other three films so, while his naïve innocence and stupidity was a little bit annoying his replacement is even more so.

      Byrd shows once again that he does make a very good Tracy. This time with less 'family' non crime related moments he also gets more screen time to show his true forte... his ability as a detective.

      The direction is perfunctory; you can tell that the director knows what he is doing as there are flashes of style there. A scene with 'Sightless' and 'The Claw' is particularly tense and shows a level of skilful camera work. The nature of the film and the speed it was almost certainly made at doesn't allow for any real attempts at innovation and style. The fact that they made 4 Tracy films in two and a bit years shows how fast B movies were created. Once you had a popular character the idea was to get them made and out before the popularity waned. They didn't really concentrate on making a top quality movie, just a damn good B movie. But then that was the idea of a B movie, there reason for existing was to bring in people on a regular basis to see major films that they might not have gone to see normally.

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