Dick Tracy (1945)
Police detective Dick Tracy must identify and apprehend a serial killer known as Splitface.
Here is a good old-fashioned mystery to solve with just the right detective on the case — Dick Tracy himself! This older film holds up pretty well, due to an interesting and mysterious villain, known as Splitface, not to mention the cinematography, which also holds up nicely. Mike Mazurki plays Splitface as a dangerous sort, and the scar across his face explains how he got his nickname. His real name is Alexis Banning. And Morgan Conway makes a convincing Dick Tracy, a detective who drops his dates with his fiancé in a New York minute if it means running down a lead. His fiancé, Tess, is understanding but is frustrated at always playing second fiddle to Dick’s detective duties.
The film features an imaginative opening, with comic-like characters appearing on the screen as the credits roll. A comic-looking villain is seen as is a shady woman who appears to be world-wise, or a villain herself!
The movie kicks right into the mystery. A woman gets off a bus and is walking down a street at night to go home when she is followed. The next thing we know we get a brief glimpse of a figure, and hear her scream, and she falls to the ground. She has been stabbed and, unfortunately, she doesn’t survive. Her purse is found and she is identified as Dorothy Stafford, 40, a school teacher. Dick makes progress immediately when he is given the case. He learns she wasn’t robbed and a note of extortion is found. And when Dick is placed on the case, Tess knows that dinner out that night is out of the question.
The newspapers call the murderer both Slasher and Splitface and declare that Dick Tracy is on the case. However, things get worse when the mayor receives an extortion letter, demanding $10,000. Another woman is killed the same way that Dorothy Stafford was, and the mayor is fearful, demanding that Splitface be found. Dick continues to follow the small trail he has and soon believes the killer has either run through a man’s house or is hiding there. He searches to find the killer with no luck, but a humorous moment ensues when Dick’s assistant surprises him by suddenly opening a window Dick is nearby. Needless to say, the assistant is fortunate to survive after surprising Dick in this way.
In another humorous moment, Dick tells Tess he plans to take her out dancing and to look at the moon together. Tess replies, “If you examine the moon, it will be to look for fingerprints!” One interesting scene happens when the villain stepped into some oil and Dick attempts to track him.
Dick discovers some matches in a car with a nightclub’s name printed on them, and he continues to pursue the villain. Things remain unclear, especially when the daughter of the man whose house Dick swept in an effort to find the villain, meets with him, concerned for her father.
There are several pursuit scenes, including Dick and Tess pursuing Splitface in their car, and in another scene Dick chases Splitface into an apartment building, only to lose him after he enters a broom closet with a secret passageway. And does an astrologer, who looks into a crystal ball, offer any hope, or is he part of a set-up along with Splitface? The plot thickens as Dick closes in on Splitface.
Another person dies when Splitface stabs him and he falls through a glass window to his death. Was he merely a victim or killed to keep him silent? As Dick closes in on Splitface, Splitface kidnaps Tess, and Dick is determined to get Splitface before he kills her too.
The movie concludes with a satisfying ending for the viewer and in still another funny scene, when Dick hears of another case and is out with Tess, he asks her to take a boy named Junior home. “Here we go again!” says Tess.
The movie is geared toward older kids and adults and has earned our Dove seal for Ages 12+.
The Dove Take:
Everyone enjoys a good mystery and this is a good one, with an interesting villain to boot!