blogging by Andrew Wickliffe


Dick Tracy (1937) ch13 – Fire Trap


So, unfortunately, Ralph Byrd (you know, Dick Tracy), doesn’t get shot in the cliffhanger resolution. He dodges. Because they all heard the Spider approach because the Spider has a club foot. Except they also all think the Spider is wearing a disguise, implying the club foot is a part of that disguise. The distinct, noisy limp the Spider walks with forecasts his appearance as well. People know he’s coming.

Seems like a dumb disguise.

But dumb is the key word for Fire Trap. Dumb or forgetful. Like how Byrd forgets he’s actually seen the Spider before. Been held prisoner by him, in fact.

After Byrd avoids being shot–in FBI West headquarters, where the Spider has gotten in because no security (he escapes by running across a wooden plank to another building so the club foot doesn’t always impede speed)–idiot, armed FBI agent Smiley Burnette manages to foul-up everyone looking for the Spider. It’s a panicked “search the building” scene and it’s terrible. James and Taylor’s direction of it is atrocious.

Turns out young Lee Van Atta has gotten a picture of the Spider, which the Spider knows about… just because. So a goon goes to Byrd’s house and foils Byrd developing the picture. But the goon eats at the wharf hangout… where the Spider gang has been known to hangout. And Byrd and the FBI shut down some chapters ago. So Byrd goes back. Because apparently he forgot they went to this place, even though the proprietor was clearly in on it.

Lazy, dumb, and forgetful are actually the key words for the chapter.

It ends with Byrd on a burning ship, left behind by brainwashed, surgically altered brother Carleton Young. Young had just discovered Byrd knew he was alive. It provoked no little reaction from Young and less for the narrative.

A terribly edited fight scene precedes the cliffhanger.

There are only two chapters left and it’s hard to imagine how much worse Dick Tracy’s going to get.


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