October 29, 2006

DVD Review: The Dick Tracy Show - The Complete Animated Crime Series

I never was a big fan of Dick Tracy. I had nothing against him, but I was never exposed to the character all that much. To tell you the truth, my only frame of reference was the colorful Warren Beatty film. Anyway, I thought that this series would be a great way to become acquainted with a character that has been around for a long time and I think I would like.

Unfortunately, this series doesn't quite do it for me. Although, I have to admit that I wasn't expecting what I got with this series. Yes, I know that shows a lack fo research on my part, it happens from time to time. I guess, I was expecting a series that had Tracy facing off with his colorful rogues gallery of baddies. I should probably look elsewhere for that.

The Dick Tracy Show was a series of 5 minute cartoons produced by UPA in the early 1960s and ran in syndication throughout the decade, oftentimes being used as a wrapper for other series, or combined into a multi-star show, like being paired with Popeye. A total of 130 episodes were produced. They were made on a very low budget, evidenced by the simplistic animation style, and the reuse of backgrounds and such.

The show has Dick Tracy sitting behind a desk, never really getting involved in the action. Each episode would start with a dastardly deed being perpetrated by one of Tracy's motley crew of foes, guys like Mumbles, Prune Face, The Brow, and Itchy. The act is followed by Dick dispatcing one of his equally outlandish operatives to put a stop to the crime in action. His men include the hefty cop Heap O'Callory, the diminutive Asian Joe Jitsu, a British Bulldog named Hemlock Holmes, and a gaggle of inept policemen called the Retouchables (modeled on the popular Untouchables television show).

The collection may not have won me over as a fan, but it is a delightful piece of nostalgia. Of course, I wasn't around for the original airings, not by a long shot, but it is definitely fun to get a little slice of the televised animation that played at the time. It doesn't match up with the output of, say, Warner Brothers, but they were theatrical animations with much larger budgets. There is something to be said about the output that UPA had with their considerably lower budgets, between this and another hit, Mr. Magoo.

I think the biggest problem I had with the disks has nothing really to do with the show itself. You see, I was watching the episodes one after the other. After about 75 minutes or so worth of shows, I was burning out on them. The episodes are rather repetitious, each one following the same format as the one before, only the characters were different. It works much better in small doses, like maybe 1-3 cartoons between an episode or two of something else, or in conjunction with a movie.

The set is nicely presented in a bright yellow book-like case housing four disks inside. My only complaint being that it follows the current trend of two overlapping disks on a single hub, I've never liked that style, and likely never will.

The technical presentation is also very nice. Each episode is presented in a full frame aspect ratio and is generally free of dirt and marks. Of course, the source is over 40 years old and is not free from defect, still, the transfer is commendable.

The only real downer is the lack of extras. I am sure that there is something that could have been dug up or created on the making of the series. As it stands, there is nothing extra here.

Bottomline. While it is not exactly my cup of tea, it is a fun flashback to a different age. Any fan should rush out and pick it up. It is nicely presented and a treat for anyone who has fond memories of the show.

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