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

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Charles Middleton as Pa Stark 
DICK TRACY RETURNS (15 chapter Republic serial/1938). Directors: John English; William Witney.

This follow-up to Dick Tracy has our hero (Ralph Byrd), an FBI agent instead of a cop, battling the vile villainy of Pa Stark (Charles Middleton of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe) and his five evil sons, each of whom has a criminal specialty. Over the course of fifteen chapters, Stark and his gang pull off a bank job (in which new agent, Ron Merton -- played by David Sharpe -- is murdered on his first case); try to grab an important lens from an observatory; steal special government planes; get their hands on a dangerous torpedo boat; and work with a foreign agent named Boris Zarkov (Walter Mills). Tracy is joined by agent Steve Lockwood (Michael Kent), and gets help and sometimes interference from comedy relief Mike McGurk (Lee Ford) and young Junior (Jerry Tucker); Lynne Roberts is cast as Tracy's efficient secretary, Gwen. The highlights of this exciting serial include an unconscious Tracy being put in a car that's sent hurtling down the levels of a parking garage; Tracy being thrown out of a plane with a sabotaged parachute; a huge tower falling on a rooftop where Tracy and an enemy are in heated combat; and especially the thrilling sequence when two trains rush towards each other on the same track even as Lockwood is handcuffed to the top of one of the cars. Byrd is perfection as Tracy and Middleton is great as Stark. His "boys" don't get much of a chance to make an impression, with the exception of Ned Glass, who plays the trigger-happy "Kid Stark." Followed by Dick Tracy's G-Men and the superior Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.

Verdict: Byrd vs Middleton is a winning combination. ***. 

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