1947. Tracy faces off against a bank robbing gang who has a secret formula that freezes people immobile for about 15 minutes. A moderately entertaining story made great by the fabulous mise-en-scene and characterizations. I’m enjoying these movies more by the minute. Here are a few screenshots and some commentary.
Once again, a seedy bar in Dick Tracy land has an awesome name. This time, it’s The Hangman’s Knot, and unlike The Dripping Dagger, The Hangman’s Knot has an actual knot hanging outside which you can see in the shadows at the upper right of the image below.
The villains’ factory hideout also has an awesome name: Wood Plastics Inc.
My favorite minor character in the film (despite the winning names of the physicist Dr. I.M. Learned and the taxidermist named Stuffum) is the lackey with the sinister, Peter Lorre lilt and the Coke Bottle glasses. He ends up being Gruesome’s helper by the very fact that he’s the only one Gruesome doesn’t kill. When we first saw him, I paused the movie and asked Jenny if he reminded her of anyone. Turns out we both thought he looked like the sinister Nazi torturer guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In this shot, he’s just learned (to his horror) that he’s supposed to burn the comatose henchman, Melody, in the incinerator. As with many of the shots containing this gentleman, I’m mesmerized by the light twinkling in his Coke Bottle glasses.
As usual, Pat Patton, Dick’s “assistant,” gets the worst of it. Like the more bumbling Watsons, Patton regularly gets knocked out (though only once in this epidose), overpowered by the villains, and looks the fool. In this scene, he’s looking for the villain in a taxidermist’s shop and he backs into a stuffed gorilla. I don’t really want to know why a taxidermist in Chicago has a gorilla to stuff, but there it is. In case you’re wondering, after Pat recovers from the Gorilla attack, Gruesome overpowers him with a tiger-skin rug.
When Melody abandons his piano to go on a crime spree with his buddy Gruesome, his boss scowls. Now that’s the kind of bit player I like to see. Check out those eyebrows!
The filmmakers made a lot of the fact that they had Boris Karloff playing Gruesome. He lurches around and scowls a lot. They give him lots of cool portraits, including this one in which he’s frozen.
Incinerators are ALWAYS cool. Two other movies I enjoy that have incinerators (or corpse-size furnaces): Grosse Point Blank, Blood Simple.
Worth my thirty-eight cents:
There’s lots of stuff in this movie worth it, but I’d put my seal of approval on Tess’ identification of one of the bank robbers. Of course, Tess was in the bank when it was robbed and, since she was sealed in a phone booth, did not breathe any of the freeze gas. When they captured one of the robbers (after Pat shot out their tire and made them crash into a tree), she’s brought in to identify him. She gives a positive I.D. — “Yes, I’m sure that’s one of them.” — despite the fact that his face is wrapped like a mummy’s.