DICK TRACY RETURNS (1938)
Article #995 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-5-2003
Posting Date: 5-3-2004
Directed by John English and William Witney
Featuring Ralph Byrd, Lynne Roberts, Charles Middleton
Dick Tracy takes on a gangster known as Pa Stark, who runs a gang with his five sons.
This sequel to the 1937 serial DICK TRACY has a reputation of being better than the original, but I have to admit to having been disappointed with this one. It’s not badly done by any means; it just came across to me as a mostly very ordinary serial, hampered by a lack of really interesting cliffhangers and a shortage of interesting characters. Byrd and Middleton are the only real memorable actors as Tracy and Stark, but Pa Stark just doesn’t seem to me to be a particularly interesting villain, though his sons have some colorful names (“Dude”, “Champ”, “Kid”, etc.). The final episode is very strong, though, which makes up at least a little for the general predicatability of the rest of the serial and the fact that two of the episodes merely rehash footage from earlier in the serial. The fantastic elements are very slight; some of Stark’s crimes involve trying to get his hands on test airplanes and test torpedo boats, and that’s about it. And one of these days I’m going to start keeping scorecards on these things to warn people how many times the cliffhanger involves a vehicular accident which is resolved in the next episode by discovering that the hero saw it coming and jumped out right before the accident; this particular cliffhanger is so pervasive it’s become a major annoyance for me.