Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Dick Tracy Collection...

This 4-disc DVD set houses all 130 short-subject episodes of The Dick Tracy Show. I purchased this collection earlier this year and have probably watched it 7 or 8 times...well, not in one sitting and not each and every disc. I watched all four of the DVD's sprinkled throughout a week-long span and ever since that time I've often reached for DVD #1 and #3 the most even though DVD #2 and #4 are just as good. There's roughly 30-32 short episodes per DVD. Each and every adventure opens and closes as if it's a full-length half hour cartoon and so you'll find yourself seeing the same opening and closing sequences over 30 times per DVD. One of the things I would have done differently is have an opening at the start of the DVD and then just air each episode back to back to back and not show a "closing sequence" until the final cartoon on the DVD airs. However, that isn't the way it is on this collection.

In this series Dick Tracy doesn't participate too much in the crime solving. Instead, that part of the work is handled by a series of leg men who star in the individual episodes. First up is Hemlock Holmes, a white dog with a Cary Grant voice, who goes about his work with the aid of the bumbling Retouchables. This group of inept police are patterned after the Keystone Cops but have a name based on The Untouchables. Joe Jitsu is a parody of Charlie Chan and often uses his unassuming super-strength to punish his opponents. Go-Go Gomez is a Mexican character who has super speed...sort of like a human depiction of Speedy Gonzales. One of the ironies about Go-Go is even though he has super speed he speaks rather lazily. Heap O'Callory is a bumbling policeman with a voice similar to Andy Devine. Heap is featured on the outside cover of this collection chasing after Flat Top.

A lot of the voices are based on celebrities. Flat Top's voice is based on Peter Lorre. The Brow has a voice similar to James Cagney. B.B. Eyes has a voice similar to Edward G. Robinson. Itchy's voice often comes across sounding like the exaggerated voice made famous by Joe Besser. Once you see an episode with Itchy you'll understand what I mean. Prune Face has a voice similar to Boris Karloff's natural speaking voice. Some of the other villains have the typical dumb-bell voice or the stereotypical gangster voice...those voices can be heard via Oodles, Stooge Villar, The Mole...a French accent is given to Sketch Puree. The voice of Mumbles is hilarious. Some of the voice actors in this series are Everett Sloane as Dick Tracy; Benny Rubin as Joe Jitsu; Paul Frees as Go-Go Gomez and Flat Top; Jerry Hausner as Hemlock Holmes, Itchy, Stooge Villar, etc.; Johnny Coons as Heap O'Callory. Mel Blanc voiced Flat Top and Go-Go Gomez on an infrequent basis.

One disc is devoted almost entirely to adventures featuring Joe Jitsu while another has a majority of Go-Go Gomez adventures. Heap O'Callory isn't featured nearly as much while Hemlock Holmes is confined mostly to the first and second disc. In one of the episodes Hemlock Holmes and the Retouchables have to be rescued by Joe Jitsu...marking one of the rare moments where two of Tracy's underlings are featured in the same episode. The Retouchables are a spoof of The Untouchables but with a comedic twist inspired by the Keystone Kops. One of the running gags is how the Retouchables can never remember their orders. For example: suppose there's a robbery at a shoe store on piper street. Well, the Retouchables in unison would mangle their orders by saying something like "there's a pipe robbery at a shoe story" and another may 'correct' that description by saying "no, there's a pipe store being robbed on shoe street", etc. etc.

I found the cartoons to be completely entertaining...I loved them as a kid/teenager in the early '90s but seeing that I'm a bit older now I get the biggest kick out of the vocal work and the culture references. The banter between Prune Face and Itchy is hilarious as well. "Itchy, STOP that scratching!!" is something of a catchphrase. Another recurring feature is a scene where the cop on patrol can freeze time, typically at a crucial part of the story, in order to call in to Tracy with an update. Typically this feature requires comical commentary from whichever underling is reporting back to Tracy.

If Hemlock Holmes, for example, is about ready to fall into a burning building he'd holler "Hold everything!!!" and then the action would stop and he'd relay to Tracy, via wrist watch radio, the latest happenings by referencing the current situation. Hemlock would say something like: "I'm hot on their trail, Tracy, it's getting hotter each second!". Tracy, going only by the words Hemlock used and unaware of the true danger, would say something like: "Keep cool, Hemlock, I'm on my way...".

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