Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Phyllis Isley [Jennifer Jones] and Ralph Byrd
DICK TRACY'S G-MEN (15 chapter Republic serial/1939). Directors: John English; William Witney.

Criminal genius Zarnoff (Irving Pichel) manages to escape execution, and for 15 chapters matches wits, guns and devious plots with his nemesis, Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd). Tracy gets out of many of his predicaments in a clever and realistic fashion. The more memorable of these predicaments include a death trap in chapter two; a crane dropping tons of lumber on Dick in chapter seven; a horrifying dirigible fire in chapter nine; and a room with a fiery dynamo in chapter ten. The climax with Tracy and Zarnoff squaring off in the desert is also memorable. Plenty of fisticuffs and a good use of pre-existing locations. Zarnoff tries to sell plans to a foreign power as well as steal a new explosive formula. If there is any problem with the serial it's that Pichel is rather colorless as the villain. Phyllis Isley plays Tracey's secretary and has little to do. There is absolutely nothing about her that would suggest she'd become a major star under the name Jennifer Jones. Not quite as good as Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc.

Verdict: More fun from Republic studios. ***.

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