blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 2: The Bridge of Terror

The Bridge of Terror gets off to a somewhat rocky start. The special effects on the cliffhanger resolution are outstanding. The actual resolution itself? Pretty lazy stuff. It immediately goes into Ralph Byrd (as Dick Tracy) getting in a police plane to track the giant villain aircraft, just called “The Wing.” Little does Byrd know the commander of the Wing is his own brother–Carleton Young–albeit after both plastic surgery and brain surgery. The first to change his appearance, the second to make him evil.

It’s not a dramatic chase sequence, but the special effects are again great so it works out.

Far better than when it’s just Byrd sitting around his office with the supporting cast chewing the expository fat.

Similarly, the action at Byrd’s lab–he goes from the FBI office to his crime laboratory to work at night–is pretty boring. Dick Tracy relies way too heavily on Smiley Burnette and Lee Van Atta for comic relief. Burnette is the lovable, dimwit jackass FBI subordinate and Van Atta is the young orphan Byrd has adopted.

But there are also two men hanging around to tell Byrd he’s too busy to talk to them and then leave. Something similar happens in the office. It’s almost like Dick Tracy’s got too much production value and can’t reign it in.

None of it matters once Byrd and sidekick Fred Hamilton infiltrate the villain’s headquarters. There’s a strong chase sequence, a bunch of good stunts, and just really well-executed action. So well-executed the cliffhanger has to disappoint; it’s back to the models instead of Byrd’s stuntman swinging around a power plant.

Terror’s light on the plot; the action more than compensates and makes up for the draggy office and lab sequences.

Plus mad scientist John Picorri has a cute cat he cuddles while being fiendish.


Directed by Ray Taylor and Alan James; screenplay by Barry Shipman and Winston Miller, based on a story by Morgan Cox and George Morgan and the comic strip by Chester Gould; directors of photography, Edgar Lyons and William Nobles; edited by Edward Todd, Helene Turner, and William Witney; produced by Nat Levine; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Ralph Byrd (Dick Tracy), Kay Hughes (Gwen Andrews), Smiley Burnette (Mike McGurk), Lee Van Atta (Junior), John Picorri (Moloch), Carleton Young (Gordon), Fred Hamilton (Steve Lockwood), Francis X. Bushman (Chief Clive Anderson), Wedgwood Nowell (H.T. Clayton), Louis Morrell (Walter Potter), Edwin Stanley (Walter Odette), Ann Ainslee (Betty Clayton), and Milburn Morante (Death Valley Johnny).


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