Dick Tracy (1990)

You mind if I call you Dick?

The Doctor needs help

movie poster Visually stunning fantasy based on the popular comic strip, with a star-studded cast. Even Siskel & Ebert were impressed by Al Pacino as master villain Big Boy Caprice, "I'm looking for generals; what have I got? Foot soldiers! I want Dick Tracy dead!" Director Warren Beatty, who also stars as Tracy, painted all the sets, props, backgrounds and even cars in the basic 7 colors used in Sunday Comix pages in order to look like the original strip.

Madonna as Breathless sings "new" 1930s torch songs written for the production by Stephen Sondheim. She seems to want to help Tracy, but is she really working for the other side? Among the stars who donned sometimes heavy makeup as grotesque villains is Dustin Hoffman of MonsterVision movie Tootsie, Charles Durning, Paul Sorvino, James Caan, Michael J. Pollard of Skeeter, Estelle Parsons, Mandy Patinkin, Catherine O'Hara of "Home Alone," and Dick Van Dyke as the corrupt legal eagle / D.A. To continue the other-worldly look (and avoid charges of product-placement, which he HATES), Warren Beatty had automobiles specially built for the movie that don't look exactly like any GM, Ford or Chrysler product ever made. There were previous Dick Tracy films made based on Chester Gould's comic strip, but this is the only one so far in full color.
1990 Academy Award for Best Art/Set Direction
Best Make-up
Best Song
And Al Pacino was nominated for Best Supporting Actor
Other Dick movies:

Dick Tracy (1937)

In this first version, shown in 15 chapters in theaters, Tracy (Ralph Byrd) goes up against club-footed villain The Spider and his hunch-back mad scientist partner Moloch, who captures Tracy's brother and turns him into a zombie slave. Tracy survives attacks by a wingless plane and a death-ray in attempts to stop the villain's plan to destroy the new bridge across San Francisco's Bay using a flying wing bomber and a sonic vibration device. Smiley Burnette is around for comic relief as Mike McGurk, Lee Van Atta as the kid Junior, but Tess Trueheart of the comics is gone - producers didn't like her name - replaced by new girlfriend Gwen, played by none other than future movie star Jennifer Jones (listed in the credits as Phyllis Isely). The cast also included movie Tarzan Francis X. Bushman. Re-released as edited down 60-minute feature "Dick Tracy: The Spider Strikes."

Dick Tracy Returns (1938)

Standard crime serial with Tracy taking on Paw Stark and his gang.
15 chapters

Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939)

Dick captures international spy Zarnoff, who is executed in the gas chamber for his crimes.
But you can't keep a good villain down and Zarnoff is resurrected by a powerful new drug and goes after Tracy for revenge.
15 chapters
Not only is Jennifer Jones back as Gwen, Zarnoff is played by Irving Pichel, better known as the director of "Destination Moon" (1950)

Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (1941)

Fourth and last of the 15-chapter serials has Dick up against the Ghost, an invisible villain terrorizing the city. The Ghost is working for a foreign power, dynamiting harbors and stealing defense secrets, so Tracy uses a technology that isn't stopped by invisible mortals - bloodhounds.
Assisting Tracy is none other than future "Wizard Of Oz" actor Frank Morgan, who doesn't survive the serial because...
Re-released in 1952 as "Dick Tracy & The Phantom Empire"

Dick Tracy (1945)

In his first feature, Tracy is up against Splitface, who murders a schoolteacher and threatens the Mayor. Tracy is baffled because following murders are of people from different social and economic backgrounds, so he consults a professor who uses a crystal ball!
Morgan Conway, Anne Jeffreys, Mike Mazurki, Jane Greer, Lyle Latell
62 minutes, re-released as Dick Tracy, Detective

Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946)

Standard crime feature, 62 minutes

Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947)

In this third feature, Tracy is up against the Claw
60 minutes

Dick Tracy vs. Gruesome (1947)

1950 tv ad Ralph Byrd ended his role as Dick Tracy after going up against none other than Boris Karloff himself in this fourth feature. Gruesome (Karloff) and his partner Melody rob banks using a gas invented by Doctor A. Tomic that turns its victims into statues. The authorities are afraid that if the public finds out, there will be a run on banks, collapsing the economy. Even Lex Barker (another Tarzan actor) has a bit role as an ambulance driver.
65 minutes. Anne Gwynne returns, as Mrs. Dick Tracy, Tess Trueheart
Re-released as "D.T. Meets Karloff" and as "D.T.'s Amazing Adventure"

The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946)

Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes cartoon, directed by Bob Clampett.
Daffy Duck as Duck Twacy investigates a series of baffling piggy bank thefts. He takes a streetcar to Gangster's Hideout (complete with arrows and neon sign), where he follows visible footprints to Mouse Man in his mouse hole. Then he runs into Snake Eyes, 88 Teeth (a piano keyboard in his mouth), Hammerhead, Pussycat Puss, Bat Man (as in bats, not the crimefighter), Double Header, Pickle Puss, Pumpkinhead, Neon Noodle, Juke Box Jaw, Wolf Man, Rubber Head (who tries to wipe out our favorite cartoon character).
Daffy wipes them out with a machinegun and turns Pumpkinhead into pumpkin pies with a grenade.
He finds his piggy bank and kisses it, then wakes up - kissing a pig on the farm where he lives. The pig reacts by doing a popular catch-phrase of the time: The Great Gildersleeve's maid saying "Love that man!"
"Dick Tracy" availability on video and on DVD from Amazon

1990 Trivia (courtesy the Internet Movie Database)

* The main colors in the 1990 film are the six that the original comic strip appeared in: red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple, plus black and white

* Fifteen villains from the Chester Gould comic strip appear in the movie:
- Big Boy Caprice
- Lips Manlis
- Flat-top Jones
- Itchy
- Pruneface
- the Influence
- Mumbles
- Spud Spaldoni
- Little Face
- the Brow
- Shoulders
- Stooge Viller
- Numbers
- 88 Keys
- Breathless Mahoney
- The Blank plays a major role in the movie, but the character is very different from Gould's Blank, alias Faceless Redrum. A minor character named the Rodent appears early on, but is an original creation.
* The Rodent was a new character created for the movie, loosely based on The Mole, a character from the original comic series.
* The character of the Rodent, one of Lips Manlis' henchmen seen playing poker in the opening scene, is indeed from the comics. He appeared in 1959, and his name was called "The Rhodent". The Mole is a different character entirely, who appeared in the early 40's comic strips.

* The five villains appearing in the beginning playing cards are: Littleface, Shoulders, The Brow, Stooge and The Rodent.
* Right before the characters at the poker game are killed, one of them gets two pair, aces and eights. This is widely known as the "dead man's hand".

* Some of the minor characters are also comic strip villains. Ribs Mocca and Texie Garcia, seen in various scenes working for Big Boy, were henchmen of Big Boy's in the very early comics. Also, the character of Steve the Tramp was a recurring character who eventually turned good. The story of the Tramp and the Kid in the movie comes straight out of the strip.

* During the make-up tests it was suggested that Warren Beatty be given the detective's famous hooked nose. But after some initial tests the make-up artists decided that it would have been a crime to hide one of the cinema's most famous faces behind putty and latex. In The Shadow (1994), star Alec Baldwin is seen with that character's famous hooked nose only briefly, in a cabby's rear-view mirror

* The make-up used for all of the villains was based directly how they were drawn by Chester Gould in the original comic strip. This is especially evident in Little-Face, Pruneface and Influnce. The only exception was Big Boy Caprice, whose make up was designed by Al Pacino himself.
* Al Pacino designed the make-up and overall look of Big Boy himself, completely abandoning the look of the original comic book character, who was big and fat and had a little pointed nose.

* When Big Boy's (Al Pacino), goons go on a crime spree after Dick Tracy is in jail, one of his goons kills a man and some oranges fall. In the Godfather, also starring Al Pacino, whenever a murder is committed, there are oranges nearby.

* First feature made in digital sound.
* The backup dancers and singers supporting Madonna/Breathless were all skilled Broadway performers who were taught how to intentionally sing poorly for comic effect.

* The movie was originally conceived in the early-'80s by United Artists and was to be written by Tom Mankiewicz who had the movie's only villain, The Blank. Mankiewicz's idea for the start of the movie was to have a beaten up cop who was on his death bed having a police artist show his drawing of the killer without a face yet drawn. The beaten up cop says, "That's him!" and dies. Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould loved the idea and wanted him to do the script, but due to Gould's demands on the picture that no one could meet, the project was shelved. After Gould's death, the demands weren't as drastic from his family members and the project was in development again. With Disney involved with the picture, Mankiewicz's ideas and script was thrown out and two new writers wrote a different story.

* The highest-grossing film of Warren Beatty's career.
Madonna was paid just $35,000 for her performance in this film.
* Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson were offered the role of Dick Tracy.

* John Landis was set to direct at one point.
* Earlier in pre-production, Tim Burton was offered the chance to direct the movie, but declined because he was already in production with Edward Scissorhands (1990)

* A fan of the comic strip, Warren Beatty wanted to put in as many characters from the comics into the film as he could. This was a measure used by Beatty in case the film didn't have a sequel.

* Charles Fleischer, who plays one of the reporters, was the starring voice in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and the voice of the robot in Deadly Friend, as well as a cameo role in Back To The Future

* Kathy Bates, star of Stephen King movies "Misery" and Dolores Claiborne, appears as Mrs. Green

* Cameo: Mike Mazurki, actor who appeared in the original movie version of Dick Tracy, as one of the men sitting in the lobby of the hotel where Dick Tracy is set up as the murderer of the DA (Dick Van Dyke)

* Spoofed in:
Madonna: Blond Ambition - Japan Tour 90 (1990 Video)
Madonna: Blond Ambition World Tour Live (1990 TV)
The Simpsons (1991 episode)
Inspector Gadget (1999)

Referenced in:
Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991)
Fatal Instinct (1993)
Cats & Dogs (2001)
Round Up: Deposing 'The Usual Suspects' (2002) (Video)

Version of:
Dick Tracy (1937 serial) and Dick Tracy (1945)

Return to Oz (1985)
Ishtar (1987)

Three of the original black & white Dick Tracy movies are available on the Classic 50 Mystery Movie Pack on DVD Collection featuring over 70 Hours of Timeless Classic Mystery Films on 12 DVDs including:
* The Shadow Movies
* Sherlock Holmes Movies
* Nancy Drew, Reporter
* Orson Welles
* Frank Sinatra
* James Cagney
* Bulldog Drummond
* Bela Lugosi films

Back to Monstervision or Sci-fans
Joe Bob's review of Madonna in Truth Or Dare

Bill Laidlaw. All Rights Reserved. That's my 2 worth