In 1990 Warren Beatty produced, directed and starred in the film, Dick Tracy. The film was based on a long-running comic strip character created by Chester Gould.
While the film was not critically well-received, it had its fans, myself one of them. That combined with a massive hype machine made it the 9th highest-grossing film of America in 1990 and number 12 in worldwide totals. Unfortunately, even with that money, a film that appeared ready-made for a sequel never got one.
And so Dick Tracy has languished. That was until 2010 when seemingly out of nowhere, Beatty donned the yellow trenchcoat once more for the 30 minute, Dicky Tracy Special.
It was unclear to fans at the time why this was released. Was it an attempt to revive the character? Was it a passion project for Beatty? It turns out it was something much simpler.
Beatty needed to make something featuring the great detective or he might wind up losing the rights. Because of this, the Dick Tracy Special only aired once and has become a curiosity for Tracy fan on the internet.
Filmed at Walt Disney Studios, the special has Warren Beatty, in character as Dick Tracy, interviewed by Leonard Maltin.
The entire special is tongue in cheek with an acknowledgment that Tracy is the real detective that the comic character was based on. Which should be impossible. Yet there he is, in the flesh, at 107 years old. When asked how he looks so good after all these years, Tracy/Beatty attributes his longevity to small portions and pomegranates.
The interview is supplemented with some nice history of the character. Spanning from his birth in the comic, the Republic Serials of the 1930s, the RKO feature films, the UPA Animated Series, the unaired 1960s pilot, and finally leading up to the Beatty film.
Peppered with clips from every incarnation of Tracy, the film acts as a fun reminder for fans of the 1990 incarnation. Unfortunately, the meta-comedy of Beatty playing Tracy and commenting on himself in character doesn’t land. Add to that the weird flirtiness and hero worship of the supporting cast, and it doesn’t really inspire a casual viewer to explore the original.
I am glad this weird artifact was made, but I can’t help feeling let down by it. Some amount of money was spent here, couldn’t a bit of it have been thrown towards something resembling a cohesive script? Still, I got to admit, even though it is strange, short and disjointed, I enjoy watching it. If you are a fan of Tracy, you might as well.