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Dick Tracy, Detective (194)


Morgan Conway is Dick Tracy
Anne Jeffreys is Tess Trueheart
Mike "The Boston Strong Girl's father from the Beverly Hillbillies" Mazuri is Splitface

What the box says:

The body count has mounted to fifteen victims when Dick Tracy gets involved in the investigation. The victims come from every facet of society and economic status. The one common denominator is the method of their demise...they were all slashed to pieces. Now our hero must find the linkage that will lead him to the culprit before the killer strikes again.


A night street corner, Dorothy Stafford is walking home when someone grabs her. Later, her body is found.

The police decide they need Dick Tracy on the case. The long suffering Tess Trueheart is waiting for him to take her to dinner. In an interrogation room, Dick is grilling a guy about a robbery.

On the scene, Dick questions the woman who found the body.

Back at the police station, Dick is looking through Stafford’s purse. She had some money and a note demanding $500 or would be killed by Split Face. Tess wakes up after waiting for Dick to get back.

Swirling newspaper montage ensues.

In the morning, Dick checks with Jr. who is investigating prowlers in the kitchen. Fingerprint test prove Dick and Tess raided the icebox. Dick and his partner, Pat, head off to meet with the Chief and Mayor.

In the Mayor’s office, he shows Dick a note he got demanding $10,000 or else and its signed Split Face. The Mayor is terrified that Split Face will get him.

Dick and Pat are able to find one connection from Dorothy Stafford to a Wilbur Thomas. Arriving at the guy’s house, they discover his slashed body. Suspecting that Split Face is nearby, the chase is on. Dick thinks he is hiding in a house. Checking the backyard, Pat discovered some bloodstains. Dick talks with the house owner, Steve Owens, owner of the Paradise Club. Owens turns down Tracy’s offer of police protection.

Back at the Thomas crime scene, Dick inspects things.

Later, he calls Tess and is going to take her out for dinner. The Mayor wants action and is supposed to drop the money off tonight.

Dick suspects the victims will be killed whether they pay or not.

At Paradise Club, Dick and Tess arrive. He asks about Steve when Owens’s daughter greets him. Mentioning a suspicious guy in the garden, Dick offers to check it out. Tess goes with him.

Split Face spies on them. Dick and Tess search the house when the power cuts out. Dick heads to the basement to check the fuse box. Tess stays alone in the dark house unaware of Split Face sneaking up on her. The lights suddenly flare on. Dick chases after Split Face. Hot pursuit, huhhhh-coooo-cooooo-coooo. Sorry, the inner Roscoe P. Coltrane must be unleashed every so often.

Split Face ditches the car and runs into a building.

Dick searches and winds up on the roof and meets Professor Starling, an astrologist. Searching the good professor’s room, Starling uses his crystal ball and foretells that 14 men and women who are rich and poor will die. No, it will be 15 victims. The cops bust in. Dick finds a knife and takes Starling to the station.

Dick has Tess if she recognizes Starling who seems to hypnotize her. The cops will check the knife to see if it’s the murder weapon. Split Face is watching all of this from the shadows.

Dick wonders if the scar could be a makeup job. He and Tess head back to the Paradise Club. He wants her to see Steve Owens. Judith is sure her father is gone and sometimes vanishes to gamble. She is too scared to go home. Dick offers to let her stay at his place. Tess volunteers to stay, too. A guy named Dick and 2 chicks…

Tess has been going through the mug books. Apparently, no one can find any pictures of Steve Owens. Apparently several knives like the murder weapon have been sold to an undertaker.

Pat and Dick arrive at the Deathridge Mortuary. Apparently, the guy’s scalpels vanished without him noticing them.

Later, Dick questions Starling and finds there is a connection between the astrologist and the undertaker. Later, Dick thinks having Deathridge meet Starling will reveal something but let the good professor sweat it out first.

Tracy’s home, Judith is stewing because she doesn’t have any clothes, etc…

Dick goes to check out Pat who was to bring in Deathridge. At the mortuary, Tracy finds a dead mortician. Skulking about, he finds Pat who was knocked out.

Dick learns that Starling was just released from the station and could have had enough time to whack Deathridge.

Starling heads back to his apartment and grabs a wad of hidden cash. Split Face is waiting for him. Starling wrote the letters to get some cash off the people Split Face was going to kill anyways. The scarred crazy man has taken care of Deathridge already and will take care of Starling.

Dick arrives at the apartment building and finds the mortally wounded Starling who dies before revealing anything.

Meeting the chief, Tracy reveals that Starling was exhorting money from the people, and he knew Split Face. 14 people: men and women: rich and poor. 12 jurors and 2 alternates. The Mayor remembers being on a jury where the defendant slashed his girlfriend to death and swore vengeance on the jury. Split Face’s real name is known: Alexis Banning.

Judith is about to leave Tracy’s house. Tess calls her man. Split Face sneaks in grabs Tess. He tells Tracy to call off the dogs or she’ll get it. Leaving in the car, Jr. climbs on the back of the car to follow them.

Dick puts an APB on a car with 10 year old boy on the back.

The car stops. Split Face takes Tess to a warehouse. Jr. sneaks up on them. Hearing a noise, Split is able to capture Jr.

Tracy has followed a number of clues Jr. left behind. The detective thinks that Split Face is on the old docks.

Split Face hides the car.

At the docks, Tracy finds tire tracks which lead into a shed.

Split Face ties and gags Tess and Jr.

Dick and Pat are searching the warehouse. Tracy goes after Spit Face.

Let the bare knuckle brawl begin. Dick cleans Split Face’s clock.

Later, Tracy learns that Split is in jail and got the scar in a prison fight. He’s about to take Tess and Jr. out to eat. However, another case pops up. Long suffering Tess at the end ensues.

What I say:

I've delved into a few of the more known B-movie classics and probably far too many made-for-TV movies from the 70s. Not my fault, that cheap DVDs of those movies are always so cheap and not covered by other review sites. This Dick Tracy movie isn't the serial that has the the memorable "will he survive or not" scenes every 10 minutes or so.

I don't know much about the Chester Gould comic strip: Dick Tracy. I have to admit I was expecting a something more like the comic strip based Dick Tracy with the super lantern jaw and radio wristwatch. Well, I do have another Dick Tracy movie coming up that should be closer to the feel of the newspaper funny version. It has been many years since I watched the 1990 Warren Beatty movie which had a very great color design. That may be the only movie I recognized the color design of.

Nowadays, Dick Tracy isn't even a quarter of popular as he was in his heyday. Though, this story doesn't really have the off-the-wall villains Tracy is known to have. Typical superheroes are normally only as good as their foes are evil. Batman is known for rogues gallery of the Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Rha's Al Ghul, etc. Spiderman is known the same way for his foes: Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Electro, Vulture, Mysterio, etc...Dick Tracy has quite a group of enemies, too. They all seem to be disfigured and have the typical great villain names like Pruneface, Flattop, 88 Keys, etc...

Most movies have the climactic battle where the cop manages to kill his enemy. I'm surprised by the ending that while it does have a good rip-roaring fist fight. The murderer was caught and sent back to jail. Well, this was a typical guy out for revenge not the super villain type of criminal.

Mike Mazuri who played Split Face is one of the traditional heavy guys that was in a lot of the old movies. Nowadays, we'd think of guys like Randall "Tex" Cobb. Well, Mazurki had a small cameo in the 1990 Dick Tracy movie which was one of his last roles before dying. Looking over his filmography is quite a long one even with several more recognized movies like Alligator or Amazon Women on the Moon. Thank IMDB for making me realize he was also the Boston Strong Girl's father on the . If you remember the few episodes where the Clampetts have to wrestle, you have to be a hardcore fan of Granny...

Tess Trueheart is the long suffering girlfriend that always comes second to Tracy's job. Not that would happened in any comic books. The previous sentence fragment was an attempt at subtle humor if you didn't get it please consult a comic book fan of Spiderman or Superman to help explain it to you.

A kid must be around so the readers empathize with them. Jr. is the obligatory kid sidekick that all comic strips and comic books had back in the day. Unlike say Captain Marvel Jr. who is able to transform into a nearly as powerful as Captain Marvel, most comic strips from the 30s and 40s always had the plucky kid paperboy or similar character. The kid normally becomes the dependable character that must be saved in the nick of time. Consider it the Jimmy Olsen coefficient...

Dick Tracy may be the square jawed hero but doesn't have any flaws and just seems awfully too-goody-goody. Morgan Conway is a rather bland lantern jaw police detective. Well, there is a difference between bland and being square in the vernacular of Huey Lewis and the News.

Random thought
Somehow, too bad Bruce Campbell has never played Dick Tracy. The man has the jaw for the role.


Quotable Dialogue

"Only a fiend would have slashed someone like that."
"He's in a coma."
"You're the best known unknown I've known."
"Being a doctor of mystic sciences, I'm used to persecution of the police."
"What would an undertaker want with a surgical instrument."
"Did it look like Jr.?"

Morals of the Story

Hot chicks will always stay with men who ignore them.
Deathridge is a great name for a funeral home.
Killers hide in coffins.
10 year old kids on the back of cars are inconspicious.

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