blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 8: Battle in the Clouds

Nowhere near as many wipes this chapter, but that lack doesn’t really help things. The cliffhanger resolve is another reveal one; turns out it wasn’t the bad guys shooting those guns off-screen, it was the good guys. So there wasn’t really a cliffhanger at all.

Like always. It’s never a cliffhanger in Dick Tracy and Ralph Byrd is never in danger. Except he can be sucker-punched. Even though he can literally fend off five thugs in a fist fight, Byrd goes down for the count with a single sucker punch. Byrd also doesn’t pay attention to people warning him about incoming sucker punches either.

This chapter once again brings in the two old white guys (one credited–Edwin Stanley–and one not–Louis Morrell) to remind the viewer Byrd still hasn’t found out anything about his missing brother. The missing brother has actually been brainwashed and given plastic surgery to become villain Carleton Young. That situation hasn’t changed since the first chapter. There also haven’t been any developments on it. No idea why anyone thought the expository old white men were necessary.

But most of the story has to do with (also uncredited) Ann Ainslee and her (credited) father, Wedgwood Nowell. He designs fast airplanes, she test pilots them. The Spider Gang wants the plans to the latest project. Not for themselves, but for a foreign power. It’s up to Byrd to protect the plans.

He almost succeeds, but it turns out sidekick Smiley Burnette is actually so stupid he can’t relay a message to Fred Hamilton and the bad guys get away. The latest example of Burnette’s abject stupidity comes after he says Ainslee can’t fly planes because she’s a woman. Not to her face, just behind statically smiling Kay Hughes.

Even Lee Van Atta has started picking on Burnette for being an idiot.

Without any action to distinguish Battle in the Clouds–the battle is the bad guys shooting shotguns out their aircraft’s gun portals at the super-plane–it’s a particularly trying chapter.

At least the wipes are back to a tolerable level and there aren’t crappy inserts. But it’s clearly going to be a long seven chapters to the finish.


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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