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

Thursday, May 5, 2011


DICK TRACY VS CRIME INC. 15 chapter Republic serial (1941). Directors: John English and William Witney.

In this terrific serial, Tracy's sinister opponent, the unknown "Ghost," almost inundates Manhattan -- and that's only the first chapter. The Ghost is the brother of an executed criminal, but that doesn't mean that Tracy (Ralph Byrd) or anyone else knows his true identity. All he and we know is that he's one of the members of the anti-crime "Council of Eight" [which actually seems to have only five members, but who's counting?] The Ghost can also turn invisible [these FX are well done] whenever he wants to. Sure, there's some recycled footage in this, but that doesn't stop Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. from being one of the liveliest serials ever made. Cliffhangers include a trapdoor with a long fall; a coast guard cutter inadvertently blitzing Tracy and his own boat with bullets; Tracy unconscious on a treadmill and heading straight for a fiery furnace, and others just as good. Like the best serials, this also has great stuff in the middle of a chapter, such as a lively battle between Tracy and the Ghost and Tracy rescuing colleague Bill Carr (Michael Owen) from oblivion in a smelter. The climax, with Tracy trying to trap the Ghost via use of an infra-red light bulb, is also smashing. Byrd is great as Tracy; Jack Mulhall, Jan Wiley, Ralph Morgan, and John Davidson are also in the cast.

Verdict: The action never flags! ***1/2.


Anonymous said...

Expected more from this serial since it was produced during Republic's "Golden Year." The villain, The Ghost, is interesting (love that mask!) but unimpressive. The lack of fist fights is also a downer for me since Dave Sharpe is the stuntman. There's really only one fist fight that delivers in the whole serial.

William said...

Interesting. I just remember this being very entertaining and quite suspenseful as to the identity of the Ghost.

Thanks for your comment!