DICK TRACY MEETS GRUESOME (director: John Rawlins; screenwriters: based on the comic strip by Chester Gould/based on the story by William Graffis; cinematographer: Frank Redman; editor: Elmo Williams; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Boris Karloff (Gruesome), Ralph Byrd (Dick Tracy), Anne Gwynne (Tess Trueheart), Lyle Latell (Pat Patton), Howard Ashley (Dr. Lee Thal), June Clayworth (Dr. I. M. Learned), Tony Barrett (Melody), Milton Parsons (Dr. A. Tomic), Skelton Knaggs (X-Ray), Jim Nolan (Dan Sterne), Joseph Crehan (Chief Brandon), Lex Barker (Ambulance Driver); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herman Schlom; RKO Radio Pictures; 1947)
“The reason this lively B-film reaches greatness is the thoroughly delicious performance by Boris Karloff as the vicious thug Gruesome.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John Rawlins (“The Arizona Ranger”) directs this fun Dick Tracy film, with Ralph Byrd starring as the hard-nosed detective. It’s based on the comic strip by Chester Gould and is the best in the series by RKO. The reason this lively B-film reaches greatness is the thoroughly delicious performance by Boris Karloff as the vicious thug Gruesome.
Escaped convict Gruesome (Boris Karloff), looking much like Frankenstein, calls on his criminal piano playing pal Melody (Tony Barrett) at the Hangman’s Knot bar. Melody takes him to see in a plastic factory Dr. Lee Thal (Howard Ashley) about pulling a bank heist. The next day Gruesome, Melody, and X-Ray (Skelton Knaggs), Lee’s disreputable scientist assistant, rob the bank near closing time by planting a bomb in the waste basket with a secret formula that paralyses everyone for 12 minutes and when they recover no harm is done to them. Tess Trueheart (Anne Gwynne), the girlfriend of Dick Tracy’s, was in the phone booth at the time and was the only one not frozen in time and who managed to call Tracy about the robbery in progress. After robbing the bank of $100,000 the trigger-happy Melody fatally shoots a bank guard in the street while they were making their getaway by car. The robbers return to the plastic factory and Gruesome informs Lee that they’re partners and will split the loot in half.
Tracy soon learns that genius scientist Dr. A. Tomic (Milton Parsons), who invented the experimental freeze bomb, vanished, and later learns that his nervous pretty assistant Dr. I. M. Learned (June Clayworth) stole the secret formula from her boss to give to her crooked boyfriend Lee. It’s then up to Tracy, with the help of his assistant Pat Patton (Lyle Latell), to capture this dangerous gang before the 2 a.m. deadline agreed upon so that snoopy reporter Dan Sterne (Jim Nolan) will hold back until then printing about the freeze bombs and thereby not cause a possible run on the banks.
With monikers like A. Tomic and I. M. Learned and a chase through a taxidermist place called Y. Stuffem, this Dick Tracy episode has a blast with its silly story and characters.
REVIEWED ON 3/16/2007 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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