blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Dick Tracy (1937) ch11 – Harbor Pursuit

Harbor Pursuit starts and finishes in the harbor. For some reason, crackerjack G-Man Ralph Byrd never pieces together the harbor might be a base of operations of the Spider Gang. Just one of the many obvious connections Byrd’s been missing since chapter one.

Or two. Byrd at least seems competent in the first chapter.

After an incredibly lazy–even for Dick Tracy–cliffhanger resolution, there’s a newspaper headline about a missing government engraver. The engraver’s been gone a week, without the FBI concerned. The Spider Gang has had him the whole time, presumably tied up in the same chair; again, whatever.

Byrd’s sidekicks stumble upon a coded communication thanks to resident idiot Smiley Burnette going on the radio to give an address warning about crime. It doesn’t go well, but is apparently supposed to be hilarious. Screenwriters Barry Shipman and Winston Miller are shockingly bad when it comes to humor. The radio announcer who looks mortified at Burnette’s performance (in character, on the radio) is probably the best performance in the whole serial.

Then it’s back to the harbor for an almost decent boat chase. The shots of the actual boats in the harbor–never together–are good. The composite shots with the rear screen projection are godawful.

It might just be Tracy’s imminent conclusion–only four more to go–but Harbor passes smoother than most of the serial’s bad chapters have done. There’s nothing to distinguish it, though–as always–Carleton Young and Fred Hamilton are the ones who give the best performances. They just don’t have anything to do.

Also eye-rolling is how Byrd can’t manage to beat up a single dock worker but can easily best a (presumably experienced) thug.

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