Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dick Tracy Detective - 1945

As I'm not in the Middle East for the time being I thought I'd use the blog to share impressions of the fun old movies I've been watching lately. These all come from the great website a really excellent source for public domain movies that you can watch for free.

Tonight's movie is Dick Tracy Detective.
Morgan Conway as Dick Tracy
Anne Jeffreys and Tess Trueheart
Mike Mazurki as Splitface
Jane Greer as Judith Owens

The opening image, classic film noir, the night, a vacant storefront, high contrasts, long shadows, distorted perspectives. Dick Tracy's got it all and more, taking it from the level of style to the next level, a world all its own. The mysterious figure in black, as you will find out in moments, is the mysterious "Splitface" and he is on a rampage of unexplained, seemingly disconnected murders. We don't see him, only his silhouette...

 Dick Tracy himself, the man in charge, rock hewn jaw, eyes as cool as blued steel, a man's man.
And then, of course, there's Tess Trueheart, Dick's love interest, ever patient in her satin negligee and curls. She's no wimp though. She may be patient but she let's him know about it. And she's not about to be left behind when the chase for the villain gets hot. She's a real man's man's woman.
In Dick Tracy's world evil has an ugly face... in this case, Splitface... From behind the window he sees without being seen, but the window mullions not only frame him, they cage him. Evil is its own prison.
The set design is spartan. Like a cartoon strip there is no excess in the image. Here we are on a roof top, guarded by a metal barrier. There's no clutter. In the background are only just enough lights to suggest the skyline at night.
Vertiginous perspective, another hallmark of the style. Splitface watches from above, unseen. The strong horizontal light places him above the lit action, where he can watch in safety.
The undertaker, it's always convenient to have one around, if for no other reason than to have the hero walk through a room full of caskets. This man's balding head suggests an overactive intelligence, his beady eyes, a cunning mind, and his weak mouth and chin, a weak moral character. The slashing shadows behind him create an atmosphere of chaos and torment. All this is accentuated when in motion. That is part of the art of the "motion" picture.


Good triumphs over evil.