Scripted by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. and directed by Warren Beatty, Dick Tracy got a lot of press prior to its 1990 release for its dynamic approach to filmmaking. The special effects were mind-boggling for the time and the make-up, very impressive. Dick Tracy was expected to be a real blockbuster, but Disney was disappointed by the $162.74 million worldwide box-office, given that it cost about $100 million to produce, market and promote.
Based on the 1930’s comic strip by Chester Gould, Dick Tracy (Beatty) centers squarely on Tracy as a hero, going up against mobsters. With the help of Dick Tracy, the people of the city have held their own against crime. Tracy’s dedication to his work has caused his personal life to suffer, as he leaves girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) is left in the lurch each time he’s called via his two-way wrist radio. Tracy’s personal life is further complicated by the The Kid (Charlie Korsmo), an orphan Tracy chases down after he sees him trying to steal a watch. Tracy and Tess look after the streetwise youngster. Despite saying, “it’s the law,” Tracy keeps finding excuses not to send The Kid back to the orphanage.
In the midst of all this, mobster Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) is determined to gain control of the city’s racket. In the first step of his plan, Caprice sends his enforcers, Flattop (William Forsythe) and Itchy (Ed O’Ross), to take out the top lieutenants of rival Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino) at a card game. Next, Lips himself must be taken out, leaving Caprice in possession of the posh Club Ritz, and a new girlfriend, the Club’s star attraction, Breathless Mahoney (Madonna).
From there, Caprice figures to unionize his fellow hoods, so they can overwhelm the police while sharing in the profits from their various rackets. Much like the comic strip, Caprice’s fellow hoods are bold, with appearances and personalities that match their monikers: the wrinkled Pruneface (R. G. Armstrong), the large-headed Little Face (Lawrence Steven Meyers), accountant Numbers (James Tolkan), pianist 88 Keys (Mandy Patinkin) and for obvious reasons, Mumbles Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman). Since Caprice has the District Attorney (Dick Van Dyke) in his back pocket, Dick Tracy is the only thing between him and running the city unchecked.
Meanwhile, Caprice’s moll, Breathless Mahoney, has eyes for Tracy, but fearing for her life, is afraid to testify against her boss. Things take a dramatic turn when Tracy is framed by a faceless figure for the District Attorney’s murder. With Tracy in jail, crime runs wild in the city.
Dick Tracy lends itself to comparisons with 1989’s Batman. Yes, both come from comics, but the parallels go farther. Danny Elfman scored both and frankly, much of the music sounds similar. Most importantly, some scenes directly correspond; when Tracy leaps through the skylight, jacket flapping, it’s impossible not to think of the Caped Crusader.
Warren Beatty plays it straight, reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. Madonna has long been vilified for her acting ability, often for good reason. However, then at the “Blonde Ambition” phase of her career, she has the perfect look and attitude for a sultry nightclub singer. Al Pacino plays Big Boy Caprice with the same relish that Jack Nicholson brought to the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. Hidden behind the amazing makeup of John Caglione and Doug Drexler, well known faces such as Seymour Cassel, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Sorvino and Charles Durning among others, appear to be having a good time. That seems fitting, because Dick Tracy might not be a perfect film, but it sure is fun.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Disney has delivered a solid 1080p transfer of Dick Tracy. The film’s brightly colored palette comes across very well. Blacks are nice and inky and detail is excellent (the facial make-up and clothing come up aces). Film grain is visible and natural, without evidence of artificial filters.
The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is solid as well. Dick Tracy was Disney’s first completely digital soundtrack and it has undeniable life. From Stephen Sondheim’s songs to the sound of Tommy Gun rounds, things are fairly enveloping. All effects sound deep and tight. Dialogue is perfectly intelligible throughout.
The Blu-ray includes a Russian dub and subtitles and Portuguese subtitles in addition to the standard French and Spanish language options.
Other than a Digital Copy, there are no special features included.
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