Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 14: The Devil in White

The Devil in White is the penultimate Dick Tracy chapter, which is great. It means there’s only one left. And it even has an interesting cliffhanger. It doesn’t have an interesting cliffhanger resolve. It has another easy cliffhanger resolve; I don’t think the serial’s had a single good resolve.

But the cliffhanger is solid because it turns out James and Taylor can compose a good series of really intense, good shots. Not sure why they didn’t before–it’s been a long time since there’s been a big successful action sequence–but the lead-up to the cliffhanger is pretty good. So good it’s hard to believe.

It also helps mad (hunchback) scientist John Picorri has a lot to do. He’s got a good scene with Carleton Young, then another good scene–the cliffhanger–with Ralph Byrd. The serial’s underutilized him to a staggering degree.

There’s what seems to be a big hint at the secret identity of the Spider, which will undoubtedly disappoint in its reveal next chapter. Especially if it’s just the hint. It’s going to be so lazy.

The chapter also establishes it’s not just Byrd or Smiley Burnette who are dimwit FBI men–oh, right, Byrd gets kidnapped because the FBI loses touch with him even though they established handheld radios a couple chapters ago. Why he didn’t bring one… well, the FBI agents also bungle following the Spider’s men. There’s a big setup for the assignment and then they still bungle it.

FBI chief Francis X. Bushman apparently only employs idiots. Except Fred Hamilton, of course, who figures out the Spider Gang’s tricks right away. So, of course he’s not allowed to lead the assignment.

Fingers crossed Young gets some material next chapter. He gets a little here, but the serial’s really back-burnered him for a while. Turns out he doesn’t remember Byrd is his brother, which was never clear until now. Because otherwise the script would’ve had to be a teensy bit better. And Dick couldn’t handle it.

CREDITS

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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