Dick Tracy [Blu-Ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Touchstone Pictures/Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (8th January 2013).
The Film

1989 and 1990 where two seminal years for me as a young movie fan, in 1989 Tim Burton unleashed "Batman" on the world and comic book properties were suddenly big money for the studios wanting to build franchises. In 1990 Warren Beatty finally managed to see his pet project come to fruition with the release of "Dick Tracy" and I remember back then that there were two things I wanted most, a Batman action figure and a radio watch as seen in "Dick Tracy". While "Batman" was edgy and gothic (for its time) "Dick Tracy" was colorful and cartoony. It was a big summer romp, but it was more than that, the film featured some top class make-up effects for the time, some exciting action set pieces and a caper that kept audiences on the edge of their seats. It was a truly fun time at the cinemas and I recall it fondly. It's been exactly 23 years since I've seen the film (when it originally was released theatrically), so I'm a little excited and also hesitant to revisit it.

As a film "Dick Tracy" had been in some form of development since 1975 before it was finally made, over the course of 14 years the property had attracted directors such as John Landis, Walter Hill, Richard Benjamin and even Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese were also considered to potentially helm the project before Warren Beatty decided to take it on himself as producer, director and leading man. The problem with "Dick Tracy" while in development was differences in the creative direction. Beatty himself was constantly at war with writers and directors over the tone and style of the film. Walter Hill wanted to produce a dark and gritty crime movie, while Beatty was more interested in making a colorful homage to the original comic strip, something that was also fun and lively and not bogged down with gritty violence. In many ways that's the essence of the character and its original comic strip. In that sense I think Beatty nailed the tone perfectly. 14 years, numerous director and four studios later Beatty would finally realize his vision with The Walt Disney Company backing the project, and although it didn't make incredible box office, it still remains one of the most fun comic book adaptations ever produced.

Based on the 1930's comic strip created by Chester Ghould "Dick Tracy" tells the story of one of the toughest cops in the city, Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty). Tracy wants to bring down the biggest crime boss in the city, Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) who rose to power by killing the previous crime boss Lips Manless (Paul Sorvino). Tracy has to stop Big Boy and his syndicate, who is rallying up all of the criminals to take over the city and put an end to Tracy once and for all. But Tracy has other problems to deal with including trying to maintain his relationship with girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly), look after an orphan street urchin, the Kid (Charlie Korsmo), on top of that he's trying to dodge a sultry club owner Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) while also trying to uncover the mysterious new gangster on the scene, "The Blank" (?).

The first impression you'll have is how colorful it is, Beatty strictly maintain the exact color palette from the comic strip which meant limiting the palette to just six colors red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple (plus black and white). The colors are what make this film pop, from Tracy's mustard yellow trench coat to the lavishly colored period era cars. The colors help create a cartoony tone to the overall film, it's as if the original comic strips came to life and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro managed to not only create a look that paid homage to the original material but that also brought the property into the modern age with slick photography and a highly stylized vision.

Beatty plays the role of Dick Tracy with a ruthless efficiency, he's pretty much the straight man in the picture, played against a collection of over-the-top and incredibly ridiculous rogues gallery that features twenty-one villainous characters from the original comic strip. Portraying these villains is a who's who of old school Hollywood headlined by Al Pacino (who delivers a scene-stealing Oscar nominated performance), William Forsythe, Mandy Patinkin, Paul Sorvino, Dustin Hoffman, R.G. Armstrong, Catherine O'Hara and James Caan. How awesome is that list of actors? the best thing is that each actor owns the character they play and is as memorable as Dick Tracy himself.

The downside, the film is almost all flash, smoke and mirrors - so you're not going to get a complex and challenging plot, quite the contrary, it's rather simplistic. The film could have used a more developed story to juxtapose the colors, production design and impressive prosthetic make-up effects. By modern standards this film looks fake, the sets are quite clearly sets, the costumes are simplistic, the action is dated, but these all make up the overall charms of the film. The film was supposed to look like it was shot on a set or studio back lot - it harks back to the films of the 1930's. Modern audiences may likely brush it off as amateurish production design, but back in 1990 it was all style and looked incredible enough to win the Oscar for Best Art Direction (One of three Oscars the film won).

"Dick Tracy" may not be up to par with some of the more recent entries into the comic-book genre but it's tremendous amounts of fun. I would have previously bought the film on DVD but other titles warranted a more immediate purchase, I was also disappointed that it didn't include a single extra. Unfortunately this Blu-ray release is bare bones as well, if any film deserves supplements it's this one. I'm sure there's a plethora of behind-the-scenes footage and there's so much in regards to the film turbulent production history as well as the rich comic strip history of the character to warrant several in-depth documentaries on the making of the film and its source material. Perhaps one day we'll get to see it. Until then fans will have to cope with yet another bare release.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The first impression you'll come across is how color and bright this film is, the HD image accurately reproduces those colors well, furthermore blacks are deep and bold and skin tones appear natural. The image is crisp and clean looking, Disney has done a fine job resurrecting this catalogue title for Blu-ray. Detail is spot on, textures and depth also look good, although not nearly as good as a recently made film. Overall I spotted no evidence of compression issues, no edge-enhancement and there was a nice layer fine film grain that maintains that "filmic" look.

Audio

Four audio tracks are presented here, in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English DTS-HD audio. "Dick Tracy" was the first major Hollywood film to have its sound recorded digitally, the original source audio was used to create this DTS-HD track and it sound brilliant. The dialogue is clean and clear, action scenes pop and surround activity is complex and rich immersing the viewer instantly.
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian.

Extras

What is it about this film that warrants such a bare and uninteresting release, there are no supplements of substance here, just a collection of bonus trailers, I truly wish that one day the rumors that circulated back in 2002 of a "Director's Cut" with additional material would finally come true, come on Mr. Beatty - give the fans something special!

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

The only extras we have here are a collection of bonus trailers (1080p) for:

- "Oz: The Great and Powerful" runs for 1 minute 50 seconds.
- "Castle: The Complete Fourth Season" runs for 58 seconds.
- "Who Framed Roger Rabbit: 25th Anniversary Edition" runs for 1 minute.
- "ABC Dramas" spot runs for 30 seconds.
- "Mary Poppins Broadway Musical" runs for 1 minute 31 seconds.
- "Anti Smoking" PSA runs for 33 seconds.

DISC TWO: DVD

This is a digital copy version of the film for portable media devices.

Packaging

This release is packaged in a 2-disc Blu-ray keep case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: F Overall: C+