School teacher Dorothy Stafford (Mary Currier) is found murdered. Dick Tracy (Morgan Conway) and his partner Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) are assigned the case. In her purse Tracy finds an extortion note signed by a character named Splitface (Mike Maurki) demanding $500. The next day the mayor gets an extortion letter demanding $10,000. The next to be found killed is Wilbur Thomas. Tracy arrives at Thomas’ house right after the murder. He sees a man go into the back yard of a neighbor, Steven Owens (Morgan Wallace). Owens owns a nightclub called the Paradise Club. He lets Tracy search his house but is acting a little squirrely.
Thomas paid the extortionist $1,000 but was killed anyway. When the extortion money from the mayor is paid, no one shows to pick it up. Tracy is stumped. Why are people from all walks of life being coerced into paying different amounts of money? And why are they being murdered?
Tracy takes his girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Anne Jeffreys) to dinner at Owens Paradise Club to have a chat with him. Owens doesn’t show up, but his daughter Judith (Jane Greer) is there. She says her father has disappeared. She’s worried and she saw a strange man in the yard. Tracy heads over to her house with Tess to check it out. While they are there Tess is surprised when Splitface runs from a closet and out of the house. Tess is now the only one that knows what Splitface looks like.
Tracy follows Splitface to the home of Professor Linwood Starling (Trevor Bardette). Tracy finds a knife under Starling’s mattress and believes that Starling knows something but the occult fanatic is playing dumb. Tracy gets another clue that leads him to a mortician named Deathridge (Milton Parsons). But when both Starling and Deathridge are murdered Tracy is back trying to figure out what all these people have in common that puts them in the sights of a murderer.
“Dick Tracy” AKA “Dick Tracy, Detective” was released in 1945 and was directed by William Berke. It is an American crime film based on the “Dick Tracy” comic strip and is the first in a series of four films produced by RKO Radio Pictures featuring the cartoon detective. It was also the first feature film done about the character. The Dick Tracy character and comic strip were created by Chester Gould.
The opening to the movie is really cool. It has a comic strip feel to it with an overhead view of a shady character in the shadows watching a woman walk down the street. It looked almost hand drawn. There are also some noirish touches to the cinematography that adds an interesting vibe to the film.
The film got some wishy-washy reviews but I actually liked it. The mystery was set up nicely right from the beginning. Even though you knew who the killer was you didn’t know why and the added layer of the extortion letters deepened they mystery. It was fun and fast paced. The movie is not deep by any means but is entertaining and great for Dick Tracy fans of all ages.