After four popular serials, Chester Gould’s famous funny strip detective starred in his first feature length film. It’s a lot better than that Warren Beatty crap.
Morgan Conway stars as Dick Tracy, a hardnosed detective who is trying to find the hideously scarred extortionist known as “Splitface” (Mike Mazurki) who is on a rampage of revenge, killing the twelve jurors who put him away for murder. Along the way, Tracy has a run-in with an astronomer/fortune teller/hypnotist who uses a crystal ball and holds eerie séances and meets a creepy mortician who ends up with a scalpel in his back. In the end, Tracy and Splitface go toe to toe for an extended fight scene and he brings the no-good criminal to justice.
Conway looks nothing like the cartoon strip incarnation of the character, but does have a stern no-nonsense attitude that’s appropriately fitting. Splitface is far removed from the cartoony villains of the strip (I guess if they wanted someone who looked like the characters in the strip they would’ve hired Rondo Hatton and saved money on make-up) and Mazurki imbues him with a realistic sense of menace.
The film clocks in at just over an hour, and any fan of the character, or B Movie Detectives in general will enjoy it wholeheartedly. There are some terrific bare knuckle fight scenes (the final brawl between Tracy and Splitface is especially rousing) and one particularly great stunt where someone gets thrown through a skylight.
All the characters that you loved from the comic strip are here like Tracy’s long suffering girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Anne Jeffreys), his bumbling partner Pat Patton (Lyle Latel) and the scrappy Junior (Mickey Kuhn). The supporting cast really holds the movie together and I liked the way that Tracy was always standing Tess up for dinner because he was too busy fighting crime.
Conway returned the next year in Dick Tracy vs. Cueball.
AKA: Dick Tracy, Detective. AKA: Splitface.