Dick Tracy (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
December 8, 2012 by Dennis Amith
“Dick Tracy” is a stylish, unique film that pays amazing homage to the original 1930’s detective. Featuring a wonderful cast, amazing set and costume design and music, “Dick Tracy” may not be known to the younger generations of movie viewers, but this is one iconic hero who received the best film adaptation thanks to director, producer and actor Warren Beatty, who successfully paid homage to the comic-strip. Whether or not we will ever see anything “Dick Tracy” related in the near future is unknown, but for those who are familiar with the iconic detective, will surely want to give this Blu-ray release a chance!
TITLE: Dick Tracy
FILM RELEASE: 1990
DURATION: 106 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish Language Tracks, Subtitles: Englis SDH, Spanish and French
COMPANY: Touchstone Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Directed by Warren Beatty
Characters by Chester Gould
Written by Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.
Produced by Warren Beatty
Co-Producer: Jon Landau
Executive Producer: Art Linson, Floyd Mutrux, Barrie M. Osborne, Jim Van Wyck
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro
Edited by Richard Marks
Casting by Jackie Burch
Production Design by Richard Sylbert
Art Direction by Harold Michelson
Set Decoration by Rick Simpson
Costume Design by Milena Canonero
Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy
Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice
Glenne Headly as Tess Trueheart
Madonna as Breathless Mahoney
Mandy Patinkin as 88 Keys
Paul Sorvino as Lips Manlis
Charlie Korsmo as Kid
Michel Donovan O’Donnell as McGillicuddy
Jim Wilkey as Stooge
Stig Eldred as Shoulders
Neil Summers as The Rodent
Chuck Hucks as The Brow
Lawrence Steven Myers as Little Face
William Forsythe as Flattop
Ed O’ Ross as Itchy
The comic strip detective (Beatty) finds his life vastly complicated when Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) makes advances towards him while he is trying to battle Big Boy Caprice’s (Pacino) united mob. Winner of three Academy Awards (1990), including Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Makeup and Best Music (Original Song for “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)”).
In 1931, Chester Gould’s “Dick Tracy” would be featured in the publications “Detroit Mirror” and distributed by the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate. With its popularity, the comic strip would lead to a radio program that lasted from 1934 through 1948 and film adaptations in the 1930’s thanks to RKO. By 1950-1951, a live action TV series was created and in the early ’60s, an animated series was created.
A story that revolves around a detective during the 1930’s in Chicago, Dick Tracy would catch his criminals using forensic science, high technology and intelligent wits, audiences were entertained by Dick Tracy’s ability to chase down the criminal.
But in 1990, the live action film was written and directed by Warren Beatty (“Bonny & Clyde”, “Reds”, “Bulworth”) would be released in theaters. But the journey to make the live action film was a concept that Beatty head since 1975. But as the plans for a live action films went through different creative hands and different perspectives of what kind of film would be made. But in the end, for Warren Beatty, he wanted the live action film to pay homage to the comic strip and not deviate from that.
And with Disney now having control of the film and working out a deal with Warren Beatty to write, direct and produce the film, “Dick Tracy” was officially made into a live action film. The film would star Warren Beatty but also talent such as Al Pacino, Genne Headly, Madonna, Al Pacino, Kathy Bates, Mandy Patinkin and Paul Sorvino.
And would go on to earn over $162 million worldwide in the box office.
And over 20-years-later, “Dick Tracy” will be released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2012.
“Dick Tracy” begins with a group of mobsters playing an illegal card game, a young orphan named “The Kid” (portrayed by Charlie Korsmo) stumbles into a warehouse, watching the gangsters gamble. But not long after, gangsters Flattop (portrayed by William Forsythe) and Itchy (portrayed by Ed O’Ross), who work for the mobster Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice (portrayed by Al Pacino), begin shooting and killing the mobsters. And we learn that this aggression against other mobs is part of Big Boy’s scheme to grow his crime syndicate and rule the city.
Meanwhile, the Kid manages to steal a watch from a person, right next to famous detective Dick Tracy (portrayed by Warren Beatty) and his girlfriend, Tess Truehart (portrayed by Glenne Headly). As Dick Tracy chases after the Kid, the Kid arrives home to his guardian, who roughs him up for not stealing anything that would bring them a lot of money. Dick Tracy shows up and beats up the aggressor and ends up treating the Kid out for some dinner with his girlfriend Tess.
As “Big Boy” Caprice continues his domination in the city by coercing Lips Manlis (portrayed by Paul Sorvino) into signing over the Club Ritz to them. But instead of keeping him alive, they kill Lips by having him encased in cement and stealing his girlfriend and club singer, Breathless Mahoney (portrayed by Madonna).
With Lips Manlis now missing, this leads to Dick Tracy interrogating “Big Boy” Caprice’s employees….Flattop, Itchy and Mumbles (portrayed by Dustin Hoffman). But as Breathless Mahoney is the only witness, she doesn’t turn Big Boy in and is more interested in trying to hook up with Dick Tracy.
Eventually, Dick Tracy takes in The Kid temporarily, gives him new clothes and feeds and houses him. And even having The Kid having save him from time-to-time and being a sidekick.
But as Dick Tracy tries to find a way in putting these criminals behind bars, his life comes crashing down when Tess catches him kissing Breathless, the orphanage takes away “The Kid” and with “Big Boy” Caprice and his men starting trouble, there appears to be a mysterious person named “The Blank” also causing trouble.
Will Dick Tracy find a way to prove his innocence and finally put “Big Boy” Caprice and his men behind bars?
“Dick Tracy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). While the film does look very good on Blu-ray and does feature a new digital restoration, what makes this 1990 film look very good is its artistic direction. Warren Beatty wanted only seven colors to be used in the film in order to capture the original look of the comic strip. So, red, green, blue and yellow and a few other colors are utilized. Add in colorful outfits which look amazing with one another, such as Dick Tracy’s yellow fedora and coat with the Kid’s red hat and coat, the film evokes a style similar to German Expressionism, especially how buildings and the city are featured throughout the film. Set design is fantastic and the limited colors made the film look much more artistic and beautiful.
I didn’t notice any artifacts, I did notice slight banding but for the most part, picture quality was good.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Dick Tracy” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and French 5.1 Dolby Digital along with Spanish language tracks. There are scenes with action and machine gun shots, but primarily the film is dialogue and music driven. The film score by Danny Elfman evokes a similar musical style that he used with his previous film “Batman”. So, while the musical score sounds great, as did Madonna’s music which features lyrics written by acclaimed songwriter Stephen Sondheim. So, dialogue and music are crystal clear and sound great via lossless compared to its older DVD counterpart. It’s important to note that “Dick Tracy” was the first film to use digital audio.
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
“Dick Tracy” comes with no special features.
“Dick Tracy” comes with a slipcover case and a code for the digital copy of the feature film.
I can easily remember “Dick Tracy” from my teenage years. It was a film that was featured all over television because of the couple at the time, Warren Beatty and Madonna. Plus, the major marketing that Disney put into the film. Dick Tracy was all over television and while one side featured promotion for the film and its iconic character, there was a lot of promotion for Madonna starring in the film.
For the most part, “Dick Tracy” was a fascinating film back when I saw it. I saw the film as a unique artistic expression for Warren Beatty, as he wanted to keep the homage of the comic strip in his live-action film. It was also a film that would feature Hollwood heavyweights Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman and for me, it was a bonus treat to have my favorite film composer at the time, Danny Elfman, scoring the music for the film and legendary writer Stephen Sondheim collaborating with Madonna on the songs for “Dick Tracy”.
I enjoyed “Dick Tracy” because Warren Beatty was able to create world where the seedy underground and the characters that represent the crime infested area with a different look. Humans were oddly shaped (ie. big heads or flat heads) or looked grotesque, among the criminals who looked like seedy criminals, there was a city that was featured with beautiful colors and its people sporting colorful outfits. The limited colors made “Dick Tracy” look like art and so unique, I was quite pleased with set and costume design.
And because the world of “Dick Tracy” looked different that reality and is based on a ’30s comic strip, the film doesn’t look like it was created in 1990, nor does the picture quality on Blu-ray make this film looked aged. Picture quality was very good and to hear the music in lossless was also a major plus for this Blu-ray release.
Personally, I felt that Warren Beatty did a remarkable job with “Dick Tracy”. It’s original in presentation and for its time, the use of limited colors really distinguishes the film from others. If there was any fault, unfortunately it would be the perception of the audience of its time. 1930’s heroes are not easy to promote for modern viewers. Sure, heroes such as “Superman” or “Batman” can continue to be strong thanks to its continuing push as comic books, animated series, video games and via merchandise. But with “Dick Tracy”, “The Shadow” and even “The Green Hornet”, these are heroes that emerged from comic strips and radio series that ended with those strips/radio series. They are no longer featured as comic book stores, animated series or in store merchandise that unfortunately, these classic heroes have been forgotten.
As I watched this film with my nine-year-old, he asked me questions of why Dick Tracy was popular since he had no special abilities. And I would make the comparison to Sherlock Holmes, Dick Tracy was a wonderful detective. But for children today, a hero in a film that saves people without special powers, is not too exciting for them. While those of us who grew up earlier enough to have known about Dick Tracy, know how iconic that character was from the ’30s through the ’70s and once again, in the ’90s thanks to Warren Beatty.
But the biggest misconception that Disney of that era and Jeffrey Katzenberg had towards the film. Katzenberg has reportedly said that they hoped that “Dick Tracy” would earn the same box office figures as “Batman”. Batman is a superhero and people are attracted to iconic superheroes and even to this day, many of those films do extremely well in the box office. But while “Dick Tracy” was profitable, part of Katzenberg’s disappointment was because the film was expensive to produce and market.
But the film did well as a VHS and DVD release and now, this film is finally getting an HD treatment on Blu-ray. The film looks wonderful, the lossless soundtrack is way better than any previous home video release but unfortunately, there are no special features included.
So, while this Blu-ray release features the definitive version of “Dick Tracy” on home video, it’s also a barebones Blu-ray release which in this day and age, is unacceptable. Not even the theatrical trailer is included. With so much work in trying to make this film so unique, there must be a featurette out there that could have been included on this Blu-ray release! So, while “Dick Tracy” is a pretty enjoyable film, this Blu-ray release is a bit of a let-down when it comes to the lack of special features.
Overall, “Dick Tracy” is a stylish, unique film that pays amazing homage to the original 1930’s detective. Featuring a wonderful cast, amazing set and costume design and music, “Dick Tracy” may not be known to the younger generations of movie viewers, but this is one iconic hero who received the best film adaptation thanks to director, producer and actor Warren Beatty, who successfully paid homage to the comic-strip. Whether or not we will ever see anything “Dick Tracy” related in the near future is unknown, but for those who are familiar with the iconic detective, will surely want to give this Blu-ray release a chance!
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