By Dan Skip Allen
The '80s and '90s were full of campy comic book movies. Filmmakers and studios still hadn't figured out how to make great comic book movies yet. Yes, there was the occasional Batman, The Crow, or Blade to speak of, but mostly these films were overcooked with campiness and colors or just plain darkness and shadows. They overcompensated on the actual comics themselves.
Dick Tracy is meant to be a campy, colorful movie. It's based on the comic strip of the same name and later animated TV show. It's full of colorful characters like Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino), Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman), Flattop (William Forsythe), Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino), Prune Face, and The Brow. The streets and buildings are also very colorful and fit this movie. Even though it's set in a world full of gangsters and guns in the 1950s, it is all a big exaggeration. It's not meant to be taken too seriously. All of this adds to the overall feel of this campy comic strip turned big-budget summer blockbuster.
Warren Beatty has made a big name for himself over the decades. He's been nominated for Oscars and won one for directing Reds. He dabbled a bit in this genre before with Bonnie & Clyde in 1967. So he was right at home starring and directing in the period piece based on the famous comic strip of the same name. He is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the cast goes. He assembled an all-star cast that includes cameos by James Caan, Dick Van Dyke, Mandy Patinkin, Charles Durning, and Michael Pollard. This entire cast is terrific in the film. It's really cool to pick out all these great actors from scene to scene.
Madonna, of course, is not only known as one of the greatest pop singers of her generation but of all time. She is in a long line of singers-turned-actors over the decades. She might have been perfectly cast though as Breathless Mahoney. She has an aloof nature to her character. She's a woman who has a dark side to her. She the classic femme fatale we have seen in plenty of Hollywood films in the past — the perfect character for this kind of film. Dick is a man torn between his job and the lady he loves, but Breathless doesn't make his life any easier with her advances on him. She's dressed beautifully as well. Along with all the other actors in the film, her outfits were made by costumer Milena Canonero. Madonna also performed the original song "Sooner or Later" that won William Sondheim an Oscar for Best Original Song. He did all the musical numbers in the film.
Even though the sets and costumes are all colorful and bright, it doesn't mean the story is all light and fluffy. It's not! It's like plenty of gangster films before. It has a great script helped by the creator of the comic strip Chester Could, Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. There is a lot of violence, explosions, and death in the film. It has a classic film noir nature to it. The story had some great twists and turns in it. Everything is in place to make a fun summer blockbuster. And that's what Dick Tracy was.
There were so many great pieces that came together to make Dick Tracy a memorable film. Even thirty years later it still stands up. The time it came out has nothing on the time it was set. Warren Beatty put all the pieces together to go back in time to this fictional world set in reality. WB knew what they had and ran with it. The acting and everything else was terrific. This film really played homage to the classic comic strip and to the movie of the time it came in 1990. I still love this film thirty years later.
The Snake Hole
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