'Dick Tracy' movie now on DVD
April 02, 2002
The 'Dick Tracy' movie is released on DVD in the USA.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Warren Beatty
Produced by Warren Beatty
Written by Jim Cash, Jack Epps, Jr.
Based on Dick Tracy by Chester Gould
Starring: Warren Beatty, Madonna
Music by Danny Elfman (score), Stephen Sondheim (songs)
Cinematography: Vittorio Storaro
Editing by Richard Marks
Studio: Touchstone Pictures, Mulholland Productions, Tribune Media Services
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.
Release dates: June 15, 1990
Running time: 105 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $46 million
Box office: $162,738,726 (worldwide)
Dick Tracy is a 1990 American action film based on the 1930s comic strip character of the same name created by Chester Gould. Warren Beatty produced, directed, and starred in the film, which features supporting roles from Al Pacino, Charles Durning, Madonna, Dustin Hoffman, William Forsythe, Glenne Headly, Paul Sorvino, Dick Van Dyke, and Charlie Korsmo. Dick Tracy depicts the detective's love relationships with Breathless Mahoney and Tess Truehart, as well as his conflicts with crime boss Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice. Tracy also begins his upbringing of "The Kid."
Development of the film started in the early 1980s with Tom Mankiewicz assigned to write the script. The screenplay would instead be crafted by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., both of Top Gun fame. The project also went through directors Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Walter Hill, and Richard Benjamin before the arrival of Beatty. Filming was mostly at Universal Studios. Danny Elfman was hired to compose the film score, and the music was featured on three separate soundtrack albums.
Dick Tracy was released in 1990 to mixed reviews, but was generally a success at the box office and at awards time. It picked up seven Academy Award nominations and won in three of the categories: Best Original Song, Best Makeup and Best Art Direction. A sequel was planned, but a controversy over the film rights ensued between Beatty and Tribune Media Services, and the lawsuit continues, so a second film has not been produced.
At an illegal card game, a young street urchin (Charlie Korsmo) witnesses the massacre of a group of mobsters named Shoulders (Stig Eldred), Stooge (Jim Wilkey), the Rodent (Neil Summers), the Brow (Chuck Hicks) and Little Face (Lawrence Steven Meyers) at the hands of Flattop (William Forsythe) and Itchy (Ed O'Ross), two of the hoods on the payroll of Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice (Al Pacino). Big Boy's crime syndicate is aggressively taking over small businesses in the city. Detective Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) catches the urchin (who calls himself "Kid") in an act of petty theft. After rescuing him from a ruthless host, Tracy temporarily adopts him with the help of his girlfriend, Tess Truehart (Glenne Headly).
Meanwhile, Big Boy coerces club owner Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino) into signing over the deed to Club Ritz. He then kills Lips with a cement overcoat(referred to onscreen as "The Bath") and steals his girlfriend, the seductive and sultry singer, Breathless Mahoney (Madonna). After Lips is reported missing, Tracy interrogates his three hired guns Flattop, Itchy, and Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman), then goes to the club to arrest Big Boy for Lips' murder. Breathless is the only witness. Instead of providing testimony, she unsuccessfully attempts to seduce Tracy. Big Boy cannot be indicted and he is released from jail. Big Boy's next move is to try to bring other criminals, including Spud Spaldoni (James Caan), Pruneface (R. G. Armstrong), Influence (Henry Silva), Texie Garcia (Catherine O'Hara), Ribs Mocca (Robert Beecher), and Numbers (James Tolkan), together under his leadership. Spaldoni refuses and meets an untimely demise upon exiting (via a carbomb), leaving Dick Tracy, who discovered the meeting and was attempting to spy on it, wondering what is going on. Next day, Big Boy and his henchmen kidnap Tracy and attempt to bribe him; Tracy refuses, prompting the criminals to attempt to kill him by tying him next to a boiler rigged to explode. However Tracy is saved by Kid, who gets prized by the police with a Honorary Detective Cerificate, which will remain temporary until he decides a name for himself.
Tracy tries again to get the testimony from Breathless he needs to put Big Boy away. She agrees to testify only if Tracy agrees to give in to her advances. He resists, despite his growing attraction. Tracy leads a seemingly unsuccessful raid on Club Ritz, but it's actually a diversion so officer "Bug" Bailey (Michael J. Pollard) can enter the building to operate a secretly installed listening device so the police can hear in on Big Boy's criminal activities. The resultant raids all but wipe out Big Boy's criminal empire. Unfortunately, Big Boy discovers Bug and captures him for a trap planned by Influence and Pruneface to kill Tracy in the warehouse. In the resulting gun battle, a figure with no face (known as "The Blank") steps out of the shadows to save Tracy after he is cornered and kills Pruneface. Influence escapes as Tracy rescues Bug from the same fate given to Lips Manlis, and Big Boy is enraged upon hearing that The Blank foiled the hit. Meanwhile, Breathless shows up at Tracy's apartment, once again in an attempt to seduce him. Tracy shows he is only human by allowing her to kiss him. Tess witnesses this and leaves town. She eventually has a change of heart, but before she can tell Tracy, she is kidnapped by The Blank, with the help of Big Boy's club piano player, 88 Keys (Mandy Patinkin). Tracy falls victim to another trap. He is drugged by The Blank and framed for the murder of corrupt District Attorney John Fletcher (Dick Van Dyke). Judge Harper (Frank Campanella) has Dick Tracy remanded with no bail.
Big Boy is back in business, but he, too, is framed, in this case for Tess' kidnapping. Sprung from jail by his colleagues on New Year's Eve, Tracy sets out to save his true love with the help of the Kid, who now calls himself "Dick Tracy, Jr.". He arrives at a shootout outside Big Boy's club where all of Big Boy's men are gunned down by the police and Tracy himself. Abandoning his crew, Big Boy ties Tess to the mechanism of a drawbridge, but he is confronted by both the Blank and Tracy. Desperate to escape, he shoots the Blank. Enraged, Tracy pushes Caprice and sends him falling to his death in the bridge gears. Beneath the faceless figure's mask, Tracy is shocked to find Breathless Mahoney, who kisses him and breathes her last breath. He then frees his girlfriend and his name is cleared from the murder of Fletcher. Later, in the middle of a marriage proposal to Tess, Tracy is interrupted by a robbery in progress, and takes off with Dick Tracy Jr.
Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy: Square-jawed detective sporting a yellow overcoat and fedora. He is heavily committed to break the organized crime that infests in the city. In addition, Tracy is in line to become the chief of police, which he scorns as a "desk job".
Al Pacino as Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice: The main antagonist and the leading crime boss of the city. Although he is involved with numerous criminal activities, they remain unproven, as Tracy has never been able to catch him in the act or find a witness to testify.
Madonna as Breathless Mahoney: An entertainer at Club Ritz who wants to steal Tracy from his girlfriend. She is also the sole witness to several of Caprice's crimes and is eventually revealed to be The Blank.
Glenne Headly as Tess Trueheart: Dick Tracy's girlfriend. She feels that Tracy cares more for his job than for her.
Charlie Korsmo as The Kid: A scrawny street orphan who survives by eating out of garbage cans. He falls into the life of both Tracy and Trueheart and becomes an ally.
Seymour Cassel as Sam Catchem: Tracy's closest associate.
Michael J. Pollard as Bug Bailey: A surveillance expert.
Charles Durning as Chief Brandon: The chief of police, who supports Tracy's crusade.
Dick Van Dyke as District Attorney John Fletcher: A district attorney who refuses to prosecute Caprice; it is later revealed that Caprice is blackmailing him.
Frank Campanella as Judge Harper
Dustin Hoffman as Mumbles: Caprice's fast-talking henchman.
William Forsythe as Flattop: Caprice's top hitman. His most distinguishing feature is his square, flat cranium and matching haircut.
Ed O'Ross as Itchy: Caprice's other hitman. He is usually paired with Flattop.
James Tolkan as Numbers: Caprice's accountant.
Mandy Patinkin as 88 Keys: A piano player at Club Ritz who becomes The Blank's minion.
R. G. Armstrong as Pruneface: A deformed crime boss who becomes one of Caprice's minions. He is shot to death by the Blank.
Henry Silva as Influence: Pruneface's sinister top gunman who accompanies Pruneface in siding with Caprice.
Paul Sorvino as Lips Manlis: The original owner of Club Ritz and Caprice's mentor. He is killed by Caprice upon signing his assets over to him.
James Caan as Spud Spaldoni: A crime boss who refuses to submit to Caprice, and dies in a car bomb.
Catherine O'Hara as Texie Garcia: A female criminal who submits to Caprice.
Robert Beecher as Ribs Mocca: A criminal who submits to Caprice.
Hamilton Camp appears as a store owner. Robert Costanzo cameos as Lips Manlis' bodyguard. Allen Garfield, John Schuck, and Charles Fleischer make cameos as reporters. Walker Edmiston, John Moschitta, Jr., and Neil Ross provide the voices of each radio announcer. Mike Mazurki (who played Splitface in the original Dick Tracy film) appears in a small cameo.
Warren Beatty had a concept for a Dick Tracy film in 1975. At the time, the film rights were owned by Michael Laughlin, who gave up his option from Tribune Media Services after he was unsuccessful in pitching Dick Tracy to Hollywood studios. Floyd Mutrux and Art Linson purchased the film rights from the Tribune in 1977, and, in 1980, United Artists became interested in financing/distributing Dick Tracy. Tom Mankiewicz was under negotiations to write the script, based on his previous success with Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980). The deal fell through when Chester Gould insisted on strict financial and artistic control.
That same year, Mutrux and Linson eventually took the property to Paramount Pictures, who began developing screenplays, offered Steven Spielberg the director's position, and brought in Universal Pictures to co-finance. Universal put John Landis forward as a candidate for director, courted Clint Eastwood for the title role, and commissioned Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. to write the screenplay. "Before we were brought on, there were several failed scripts at Universal," reflected Epps, "then it went dormant, but John Landis was interested in Dick Tracy, and he brought us in to write it." Cash and Epps' simple orders from Landis were to write the script in a 1930s pulp magazine atmosphere and center it with Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice as the primary villain. For research, Epps read every Dick Tracy comic strip from 1930 to 1957. The writers wrote two drafts for Landis; Max Allan Collins, then writer of the Dick Tracy comic strip, remembers reading one of them. "It was terrible. The only positive thing about it was a thirties setting and lots of great villains, but the story was paper-thin and it was uncomfortably campy."
In addition to Beatty and Eastwood, other actors who were considered for the lead role included Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Tom Selleck, and Mel Gibson. Landis left Dick Tracy following the controversial on-set accident on Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), in which actor Vic Morrow was killed. Walter Hill then came on board to direct with Joel Silver as producer. Cash and Epps wrote another draft, and Hill approached Warren Beatty for the title role. Pre-production had progressed as far as set building, but the film was stalled when artistic control issues arose with Beatty, a fan of the Dick Tracy comic strip. Hill wanted to make the film violent and realistic, while Beatty envisioned a stylized homage to the 1930s comic strip. The actor also reportedly wanted $5 million plus fifteen percent of the box office gross, a deal which Universal refused to accept.
Hill and Beatty left the film, which Paramount began developing as a lower-budget project with Richard Benjamin directing. Cash and Epps continued to rewrite the script, but Universal was unsatisfied. The film rights eventually reverted to Tribune Media Services in 1985. However, Beatty decided to option the Dick Tracy rights himself, along with the Cash/Epps script. When Jeffrey Katzenberg moved from Paramount to the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, Dick Tracy resurfaced with Beatty as director, producer and leading man. He considered hiring Martin Scorsese to direct the film, but changed his mind. "It never occurred to me to direct the movie," Beatty admitted, "but finally, like most of the movies that I direct, when the time comes to do it, I just do it because it's easier than going through what I'd have to go through to get somebody else to do it."
Beatty's reputation for directorial profligacy—notably with the critically acclaimed Reds (1981), did not sit well with Disney. As a result, Beatty and Disney reached a contracted agreement whereby any budget overruns on Dick Tracy would be deducted from Beatty's fee as producer, director, and star. Beatty and regular collaborator Bo Goldman significantly rewrote the dialogue but lost a Writers Guild arbitration and did not receive screen credit.
Disney greenlighted Dick Tracy in 1988 under the condition that Warren Beatty keep the production budget within $25 million, which began to rise once filming started. It quickly jumped to $30 million and then $47 million as its final production budget. Disney spent an additional $54 million on the marketing campaign, resulting in a total of $101 million spent overall. The financing for Dick Tracy came from Walt Disney Pictures (North America only) and Silver Screen Partners IV, as well as Beatty's own production company, Mulholland Productions and Touchstone Pictures.
Warren Beatty hired Danny Elfman to compose/write the film score based on his previous success with Batman (1989). Elfman enlisted the help of Oingo Boingo lead guitarist Steve Bartek and Shirley Walker to arrange compositions for the orchestra. "In a completely different way," Elfman commented, "Dick Tracy has this unique quality that Batman had for me. It gives an incredible sense of non-reality." In addition, Beatty hired acclaimed songwriter Stephen Sondheim to write five original songs: "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," "More," "Live Alone and Like It," "Back in Business," and "What Can You Lose?". "Sooner or Later" and "More" were performed by Madonna, with "What Can You Lose?" being a duet with Mandy Patinkin. Mel Tormé sang "Live Alone and Like It," and "Back in Business" was performed by Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, and Lorraine Feather. "Back in Business" and "Live Alone and Like It" were both used as background music during montage sequences. "Sooner or Later" and "Back in Business" would be featured in the original 1992 production of the Sondheim revue Putting It Together in Oxford, England, and four of the five Sondheim songs from Dick Tracy (the exception being "What Can You Lose?") were used in the 1999 Broadway production of Putting It Together.
Dick Tracy is also the first film to use digital audio. In a December 1990 interview with The New York Times, Elfman criticized the growing tendency to use digital technology for sound design and dubbing purposes. "I detest contemporary scoring and dubbing in cinema. Film music as an art took a deep plunge when Dolby stereo hit. Stereo has the capacity to make orchestral music sound big and beautiful and more expansive, but it also can make sound effects sound four times as big. That began the era of sound effects over music."
Dick Tracy had its premiere at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The film was released in the United States in 2,332 theaters on June 15, 1990, earning $22.54 million in its in opening weekend. This was the third-highest opening weekend of 1990. Dick Tracy eventually grossed $103.74 million in US totals and $59 million elsewhere, coming to a worldwide total of $162.74 million. Dick Tracy was also the ninth-highest grossing film of America in 1990, and number twelve in worldwide totals.
Although Disney was impressed by the opening weekend gross, studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg expressed disappointment. He suggested that Dick Tracy had cost about $100 million in total to produce, market and promote. "We made demands on our time, talent and treasury that, upon reflection, may not have been worth it," Katzenberg reported. Disney, in particular, was expecting the film's earnings to match Batman (1989). By 1997, Dick Tracy had made an additional $60.61 million in rental figures. (Wiki)
Running Time: 105 minutes
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