Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 12: The Trail of the Spider

The Trail of the Spider is the clip chapter. After the current winner for laziest cliffhanger resolve in the serial–Ralph Byrd turns a steering wheel to get out of danger–Byrd and the cast get together with three new characters to hear all about the Spider. Although Byrd’s been hunting the Spider Gang since chapter one, he didn’t think to sit down with witnesses until chapter twelve. Because if you’re going to employ an idiot like Smiley Burnette’s character, you’ve got to be an idiot yourself.

So these three witness, who’ve never actually appeared before and one of them can’t have witnessed the interior of the Spider Gang’s hideout, tell their stories.

There’s no new information for the viewer in the tales (and flashbacks) but eventually Byrd finds out his brother is still alive. Or at least was operated on.

Dick Tracy isn’t happy unless it’s sucking all the dramatic possibilities out of its plot twists.

The chapter ends with the Spider infiltrating the FBI office to kill Byrd. It’s not really a stretch, the FBI office not having any security; if they’re dumb enough to employ Byrd (who actually hasn’t solved a crime since the first chapter and, at best, has just kept a couple people alive by accident) and Burnette, you’re not going to have security.

It’s particularly godawful even for a clip chapter. Mostly because of Burnette. But also because of the lousy reveal on the brother still being alive.


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).