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PCR #393  (Vol. 8, No. 40) This edition is for the week of October 1--7, 2007.

"The Heartbreak Kid"  by Mike Smith
DVD Review: "The Dick Tracy Show, Volume 1"  by ED Tucker
Let's Scare Jessica to Death..."Blecch"?  by Andy Lalino
Conquering Thrush .... Pay Up .... Passing On .... Gee Wally .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 29: Daniel J. Travanti  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

DVD Review:
“The Dick Tracy Show, Volume 1”

Released By: Classic Media
Release Date: August 7, 2007
Number of Discs: 1
Approximate Running Time: 80 Minutes
Special Features: Bonus Crimestopper Tips.
Suggested Price: $12.95

The Source:
By the early 1960’s, Chester Gould’s yellow-coated detective was already a household name thanks to newspaper and film exposure. United Productions of America’s decision to bring Dick Tracy to the small screen was a logical one but that was about all the logic that entered into the venture. The resulting 130 five minute cartoons reduced Tracy to a bit player in his own series and chose instead to concentrate on a group of generic caricatures matching wits with some of the detective’s most popular villains. The final product did not prove popular for obvious reasons and after a few years in local kiddie show circulation, the cartoons faded into obscurity.

The Fanboy Factor:
Dick Tracy is one of the most endearing pop culture icons to ever grace a newspaper’s comic page. His square jawed, no nonsense approach to cleaning up crime made him an instant hit with children who could relate to his black and white sense of clear cut morality. When UPA decided to produce this series for television, they were obviously more enamored with Tracy’s colorful rouges gallery than with the lead character himself. Dick Tracy serves only as a framing device in these cartoons, never taking an active part in the actual story. The heroics are turned over to a quartet of broad (and often racist) stereotypes clearly aimed at younger children. Tracy’s elite squad of Crimestoppers in this series consists of Hemlock Holmes (an English bulldog with a Carey Grant accent and a supporting group of Keystone-like cops dubbed the Retouchables), Heap O’Callory (an Edgar Kennedy style beat cop), Jo Jitsu (a martial arts expert from the Charlie Chan school of detective work and English mispronunciation) and Go-Go Gomez (a sombrero sporting law enforcement officer from way South of the border). The standard format of each cartoon had Tracy apprised of some crime committed by one or more of his stable of villains and, in turn, assigning one of his men to the case. After several minutes of slapstick antics, the crooks are apprehended with Tracy arriving just in time to run them down to the station and presumably take all the credit! These five minute cartoons were originally designed to be used by television stations as filler in their locally-produced children’s programs in whatever increments they desired. When the 1990 film starring Warren Beatty looked like it might spawn a whole new craze of Tracy-mania, the cartoons were re-packaged into a half hour show that played more coherently but proved no more successful than the original run.

The Product:
Volume 1 of Classic Media’s Dick Tracy Show contains 16 of the cartoons. Apparently Go-Go Gomez did not join the group until later in the series because he is nowhere to be found on this disc. Each cartoon contains the original opening and closing segments (a police car speeding down busy streets with its sirens blazing). It’s nice that the cartoons are complete but the credits get annoying very quickly and the average viewer will be reaching for the fast forward button after the second installment. The quality of the transfers is very good and this is most likely the best these cartoons have ever looked. This tends to underscore the fact that the animation in the wraparound segments is much more elaborate than in the stories themselves. It would have been interesting to see what UPA could have done if they produced a legitimate Dick Tracy cartoon based entirely on the comic strip. The only extra on the disc is a medley of Crimestopper tips that were carried over from the strip and originally used as bumpers between the cartoons. Considering the datedness of the some of the material, these often prove to be more amusing than the cartoons. Classic Media has done an admirable job with the packaging and production of this release and the subsequent volumes (including a boxed set of the entire series).

The Bottom Line:
The Dick Tracy Cartoon Show is strictly for animation completists or students of the politically incorrect. The true laughs are few and far between and fans of the source material are likely to be displeased by both the quality and the quantity of what makes it to the screen. Dick Tracy is conspicuous by his absence but considering the mistreatment given to his villains, who possessed a pronounced air of menace in the comic strip but are reduced here to ineffectual foils, he was probably wise to keep his distance!

"Retrorama" is ©2007 by ED Tucker.   All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.