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Dick Tracy attempts to stop the crime spree of Big Boy Caprice. Based on the famed detective hero of the comics.
For more about Dick Tracy and the Dick Tracy Blu-ray release, see Dick Tracy Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on December 10, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Warren Beatty, Madonna, Al Pacino, Mandy Patinkin, Paul Sorvino, Dick Van Dyke
Director: Warren Beatty
» See full cast & crew
Dick Tracy Blu-ray Review
Batman This Ain't (and That's a Good Thing)
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, December 10, 2012
Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy is the bright, cheerful cousin to Tim Burton's Batman. When Tracy was released the year after Burton's film, it felt something like an also-ran. (It didn't help that Danny Elfman scored both pictures.) But now, after over two decades of tortured heroes in dark films inspired by comics and graphic novels, Tracy's sunny retro look is positively refreshing. The late Chester Gould, who created the character and drew the strip for years, was reportedly an impediment during the film's long gestation period, but it was Gould's distinctive vision that ultimately made Tracy unique. No one would ever mistake Tracy for a film based on a Marvel or D.C. character. Anyone who ever dealt with Gould (I met him briefly when I was very young) instantly recognized that he was an eccentric of the first order, but he was also an individual of strongly felt traditional values. The square-jawed Dick Tracy was Gould's ideal of the tough, righteous cop who couldn't be bought, scared or thrown off the track, and who could always be relied upon in a crisis. Tracy's foes were always distorted lunatics, because in Gould's imagination you could see criminals for what they were: warped and dangerous. His cops didn't talk much, but his criminals were full of chatter, much of it repetition of catchphrases. It was Gould's way of conveying that they lived in their own world. It seemed ironic at the time that Warren Beatty, who began his career playing rogues and criminals (most famously, Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde), should end up portraying one of fiction's most stalwart cops. But one glimpse of that famous mug under a yellow fedora was all it took to convince Tracy fans that Beatty was their man. After numerous writers, many potential directors and several casting changes (notably, the replacement of Sean Young by Glenne Headly in the pivotal role of Tess Trueheart), Dick Tracy finally went before the cameras under Beatty's notoriously persnickety eye, which drove everyone crazy. A tumultuous production left rumors in its wake of a two hour and fifteen minute "director's cut" shortened at the behest of then-Disney president Jeffrey Katzenberg, but its existence has been consistently denied. Reliable reports indicate that the current version, which runs one hour and forty-five minutes, is Beatty's cut.
Dick Tracy takes place in a lustrous metropolitan landscape where the police have been holding their own against crime, but only barely. One gets the sense that, without Dick Tracy (Beatty), the battle would be lost. This wouldn't be an entirely unwelcome result to Tracy's long-suffering girlfriend, Tess Trueheart (Headly), who always gets abandoned when Tracy is summoned by a call on his trademark two-way wrist radio. Let someone else look after the city for a while, thinks Tess. Her man can take a desk job. Tracy loves Tess, but the running joke is that the man who is fearless when facing a hail of bullets becomes timid when staring into the eyes of the woman he loves. The film's plot is driven by the efforts of top hood Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) to seize control of the city's rackets. As a first step, Big Boy has his enforcers, Flattop (William Forsythe) and Itchy (Ed O'Ross), mow down the chief lieutenants of rival Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino) at a card game. Then it's Lips's turn to go, leaving Big Boy in possession of a new headquarters, the swanky Club Ritz, and a new girlfriend, the Club's star attraction, Breathless Mahoney (Madonna), a hybrid of ingenue and femme fatale. "You don't know if you want to hit me or kiss me", she tells Tracy. "I get a lot of that." Tracy's private life is complicated by the The Kid (Charlie Korsmo), an orphan whom Tracy chases down after the boy steals a watch, but then rescues from the cut-rate Fagin to whom The Kid reports (Steve Epper). Tracy and Tess look after The Kid—Tess calls him "the eating machine"—and Tracy keeps not sending him to the orphanage, even though "it's the law". Meanwhile, The Kid keeps following Tracy on calls. He proves useful, too. By using Big Boy's plan to take over the rackets as an excuse, the screenplay by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. (with uncredited work by Bo Goldman) stuffs the plot with a dozen or more Gould characters that Gould himself never brought together. Beatty's clout as a producer allowed him to get an amazing cast, even though many familiar faces are hidden behind elaborate make-up and costumes. Dustin Hoffman is almost unrecognizable as Mumbles (so named for obvious reasons), as is Dick Van Dyke as D.A. Fletcher. Mandy Patinkin can be spotted as Breathless' piano man, 88 Keys, but he's never looked so homely (and in the world of Chester Gould, looking homely is a bad sign). Blink and you may miss Beatty's old Bonnie and Clyde co-stars Estelle Parsons and Michael J. Pollard as, respectively, Tess's mother and a cop named Bug Bailey. And see if you can recognize the familiar voice of familiar bad guy R.G. Armstrong behind the elaborate wrinkles of Pruneface. The only hood who isn't hidden behind major makeup is James Caan's Spaldoni. In a scene rife with subtext, Spaldoni challenges Big Boy at a conference of the city's bad guys. Again, this is Gould's world, so that when the former Corleone Brothers clash, the one with the least distorted features behaves more honorably. Of course, in gangland, honorable behavior is not rewarded. All of this plays out in a world designed to look like a comic strip, but a Chester Gould comic strip. Richard Sylbert won an Oscar for his inventive production design that relies on vast expanses of the basic colors that Gould used in his panels: red, blue, yellow, orange, green and purple. Costume designer Milena Canonero created a variety of patterned but monochromatic looks so that every crook in Tracy became his own variation of Jack Nicholson's Joker. (Indeed, Nicholson's purple-clad prankster would have fit right in.) Matching the colorful surroundings is the jazzy soundtrack with songs by, of all people, Stephen Sondheim. In a varied and unpredictable career, Sondheim probably never expected to compose songs for a major pop star. Madonna doesn't have the Broadway-trained diction for which Sondheim usually writes, but she delivers his tricky lyrics with the enthusiasm of the nightclub chanteuse she's playing, and they're the perfect accompaniment to the montages of crime and law enforcement assembled by Beatty and his editor. The film doesn't set a definite time period, but it feels like the Roaring Twenties, and even law enforcement is a blast. Just ask The Kid.
Dick Tracy Blu-ray, Video Quality
In the hit-and-miss world of Disney catalog releases, Dick Tracy comes up a clear win, with a 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray presentation that beautifully reproduces the film's carefully delineated palette as photographed by Beatty's Reds collaborator, Vittorio Storaro. Blacks are solid and deep, detail is excellent (check out the facial make-up and the clothing detail), and colors are fully saturated without bleeding. Film grain is visible and natural, without evidence of high frequency filtering or artificial sharpening. High-def enthusiasts may be struck by an apparent lack of depth to the image, but be assured that it's by design. The film has always looked two-dimensional, consistent with the effort to recreate the look and feel of Gould's comic strip. Dick Tracy's appearance on Blu-ray accurately recreates that look, which is aided by the flatness of the obvious matte work. Yes, you can spot that it's drawn. It's supposed to look that way.
Dick Tracy Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dick Tracy was famously the first film recorded all digitally, and it was released in both a 70mm blow-up with six-track sound and the short-lived "CDS" digital format. This mix is presumably the source for the Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which sounds terrific. There is major activity in all channels for big scenes like a long buildup to a boiler explosion (good guys in jeopardy! steam erupting left and right!) and a massive shootout between the police and the crime gang (roaring tommyguns!). Discrete rear channel effects appear throughout the film, such as a cat that makes the mistake of interrupting the card game in the opening sequence, and a distant roar of thunder that begins in the rear channel, then progresses to the front. On both sound effects and the jazzy band performances at the Club Ritz, the bass extension is deep and tight, and the clarity at the high end is sharp without being fatiguing. Both dialogue and sung vocals are clear (except for certain spoken sections that are meant to be otherwise). Danny Elfman's score sounds terrific, and it's a tribute to Elfman that his work blends seamlessly with Sondheim's.
Dick Tracy Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Disney has included its usual introductory trailers and "Sneak Peaks", which in this case include Oz: The Great and Powerful, Castle: Season 4 on DVD, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on Blu-ray, ABC TV on Blu-ray, Mary Poppins on Broadway and an anti-smoking PSA. Otherwise the disc has no extras—and that's a shame. Dick Tracy was a massive production involving numerous participants in front of and behind the camera. Doesn't someone want to capture their recollections while it's still possible to do so? Even if the answer is no, some materials already exist, because I remember seeing at least one EPK at the time of the film's release. Someone could have checked the archives.
Dick Tracy Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Al Pacino's portrayal of Big Boy Caprice has often been criticized as "over the top" and "scenery chewing". These criticisms started when Dick Tracy was first in theaters, and they've never disappeared. (Indeed, they seem to pop up whenever Pacino's name is mentioned, regardless of the specifics of the actual performance.) I sometimes wonder whether viewers complaining about Pacino in Dick Tracy have watched the rest of the movie. Every crook with major make-up is performing at the same level; Pacino just has more screen time. Look at Forsythe's Flattop, who's generally spared the need to deliver lines; or Armstrong's Pruneface, with his threats to "rub Tracy out"; or Sorvino's Lips Manlis for the brief time he survives. For that matter, look at Hoffman's Mumbles—the only reason he isn't chewing the scenery is because he never opens his mouth wide enough. (He's still talking the whole time.) Pacino's performance is perfectly pitched for Dick Tracy, and he demonstrated his power as an actor by holding his own against an army of well-seasoned hams. Despite the lack of extras, highly recommended.
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Dick Tracy Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: December 11-18 - December 9, 2012
For the week of December 4th, Universal Studios Home Entertainment is bringing The Bourne Legacy to Blu-ray. This picture, the fourth installment in the Bourne franchise, works as a "sidequel." Much of the film runs parallel with The Bourne Ultimatum, and Gilroy ...
• Dick Tracy Blu-ray - October 3, 2012
Disney/Buena Vista is bringing the yellow-coated detective, Dick Tracy, to Blu-ray. Specs and special features have yet to be revealed. The comicstrip-noire classic starring Warren Beatty, Madonna and Al Pacino, shoots to its Blu-ray debut December 11th.
• Dick Tracy Blu-ray in the Works - June 11, 2011
According to our friends over at Aintitcool.com, Warren Beatty has confirmed that a Blu-ray for his Dick Tracy (1990) is in the works. A possible release date, however, has not been revealed. In 1991, Dick Tracy won three Oscar Awards, including Best Art Direction-Set ...
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