I was looking forward to revisiting the film on Blu-ray after not having seen it any time recently. The new high definition presentation reinforces everything I’ve always felt about it. Such care was put into every last detail of the production. It’s hard not to be dazzled by the unique, primary colors-only world that these iconic cops, robbers, and femme fatales live within. Beatty, who’d been angling to adapt Chester Gould’s comic strip for a decade and a half, was clearly bent on crafting what is arguably the rarest beast in all of Hollywood: a big-budget summer blockbuster infused with real emotion and intelligence.
About the makeup, most of the side characters were done up to look like their print sources. As a result, aside from Tracy, his best gal Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly), his “adopted” son The Kid (Charlie Korsmo), and Breathless, much of the cast looks like a bunch of live-action caricatures. Al Pacino earned an Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actor) for his over-the-top turn as crime boss Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice. Paul Sorvino slurps raw oysters as Lips Manlis, owner of the Club Ritz that Caprice seeks to take over. Dustin Hoffman has a few very funny (and intentionally difficult to decipher) scenes as Mumbles, one of Caprice’s men who just can’t keep his mouth shut. James Caan, William Forsythe, Seymour Cassel, Dick Van Dyke, Charles Durning, Mandy Patinkin, Catherine O’Hara, and Henry Silva all turn up in small roles.
When all is said and done, Dick Tracy is an ingeniously crafted visual and aural feast that’s saddled with a story that simply lacks forward momentum and invention. That’s not to say it’s bad, just considerably less than exciting. “Big Boy” wants to run Club Ritz, he wants his goons to help him run the city, and he wants Breathless at his disposal. Tracy, who stays on the streets because he feels a promotion to Chief of Police would be a copout, will stop at nothing to prevent that from happening. We’ve seen it all before and since, so it’s hard not to feel like the production team put all their efforts into the look and sound of the film, assuming incorrectly that it would be enough.
What I didn’t realize until recently was that Tracy was the first film to utilize all-digital sound recording. I guess this might be at least partly why the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix doesn’t sound like a 23-year-old soundtrack. The clarity is stunning, with very robust gunfire and other effects during the more action-oriented scenes. Disney has done a great job bringing Dick Tracy to high definition and fans of the film are likely to appreciate the results.
(Photos: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)
*Please note, the photos are promotional stills, not screencaps and should not be seen as representative of the Blu-ray transfer.