Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dick Tracy

I should have posted last night, but i was too wrapped up in the exciting hockey game. TCM is starting a new serial this week, with The Perils of Pauline having finished last Saturday. Anyhow, the new serial is 1937's Dick Tracy, starting at noon. It's gotten a DVD release, although it's apparently currently out of print, as TCM doesn't list it as available for purchase. My old Alpha Video catalog lists it, though, so perhaps it's also in the public domain.

This is actually the first appearance on the big screen of Chester Gould's police detective; younger readers are probably more likely to remember the 1990 film. Dick Tracy, played here by Ralph Byrd, gets involved in a plot with the "Lame One" trying to blow up a bridge, although this of course takes a bunch of episodes to transpire. More interesting is the fact that the police chief is played by Francis X. Bushman.

As for Dick Tracy's famous wrist radio, I can't help but think how much we've advanced technologically in the past 20 years. I was born in 1972, and when I was a kid, and even when the 1990 Warren Beatty film came out, the idea of being able to talk to somebody from a device small enough to wear on your wrist was futuristic and unrealistic. True, cell phones had already been coming out in the 1980s, but those were big and expensive. I remember riding in a rental car circa 1992 that had a credit-card operated cell phone in it, on this sizable armature between the driver's and passenger's seat. Nowadays, of course, cell phones are ubiquitous, and if we don't wear them on our wrists the way Dick Tracy has his wristwatch/radio, that's only because it inconvenient. Well, I don't think cellphones are quite down to the size of the wrist radio, but again that's because of how much distance there is between the human ear and mouth, which is always going to be a limiting factor on the size of cell phones. I'd also guess using a wrist radio rather than a telephone-type device in the original comic strip would have made it more obvious in showing when somebody remote was talking to Tracy.

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