Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Dick Tracy

US live-action/Animated Movie (1990). Touchstone/Silver Screen Partners IV. Pr Warren Beatty. Exec pr Art Linson, Barrie M Osborne, Floyd Mutrux. Dir Beatty. Spfx Bruce Steinheimer. Vfx Harrison Ellenshaw, Michael Lloyd. Mufx John Caglione Jr, Doug Drexler. Art dir Harold Michelson. Screenplay Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr. Based on the Dick Tracy comic strip by Chester Gould (1900-1985). Novelization Dick Tracy * (1990) by Max Allan Collins. Starring Beatty (Dick Tracy), Glenne Headly (Tess Trueheart), Charlie Korsmo (Kid), Madonna (Breathless Mahoney), Al Pacino (Big Boy Caprice). 103 mins. Colour.

The basic plot of DT is not fantasticated, merely exceptionally implausible: it is a gangbusting caper in which Tracy, aided by orphan lad Kid, counters the plans of megalomaniac hood Big Boy to take over the city. The fantastication comes about through the movie's devoted portrayal of the Comic strip on screen, rejecting – unlike Batman (1989) and Superman (1978), for example (see Batman Movies; Superman Movies) – any urge to transform fantastic material into "realism": backgrounds are overtly painted (often part-animated) rather than solid; sets are stripped down to their basics; the colours, done in matt slabs, tend towards the primary; thanks to superb mufx, crooks like Pruneface and Littleface are portrayed in full comic-strip grotesquerie; distances (especially in chases) are distorted to conform with the plot; and the dialogue, morality, characterization, motivation and depiction of violence are all of the comic-strip rather than the cinematic genre. The result induces a curious shift of Perception: after the initial shock, we experience DT as if ourselves living for a time in a gaudy comic-strip world. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.