blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 9: The Stratosphere Adventure

The Stratosphere Adventure isn’t much of an adventure, but it is a fairly interesting chapter. The entire chapter takes place right after the cliffhanger resolve. A cop-out cliffhanger resolve, where federal agent Ralph Byrd puts his own safety before civilian Wedgwood Nowell (big surprise), but still–it’s continuous action, something the serial hasn’t done.

There’s also very little Kay Hughes (though her introduction title card makes her sound like a double agent–she’s not), Smiley Burnette, or Lee Van Atta, which is quite the boon at this point.

After surviving a plane crash, Byrd gets on to the enemy aircraft–the Wing–where his brainwashed, plastic surgery altered brother Carleton Young doesn’t recognize him in disguise. Byrd doesn’t do anything to disguise his voice and he’s just wearing the goggles on a flight suit. Whatever.

Byrd then gets over to the foreign agents’ dirigible. He’s got to stop them from getting the super-fast airplane motor. He’d be able to stop them too, if he could successfully tie up a bad guy. But Byrd can’t and the bad guys turn the table on him, just as Fred Hamilton shoots out the dirigible (not knowing Byrd’s aboard).

Not an exciting chapter. Byrd’s too boring to be exasperating but, come on, he can’t tie someone up? Really? And the FBI’s San Francisco office doesn’t have a more powerful radio than Byrd’s home–where Hughes, Burnette, and Van Atta are congregating (thankfully off-screen most of the chapter).

The miniature aircraft effects are outstanding. And the pacing is sort of cool, one chapter through the next to finish up this particular plot line. It’s not a recovery, but it’s certainly nowhere near as bad as Dick Tracy has been lately.


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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