The Set of 400: #196 – My Favorite Faceless Villain

Today! Because for a tough guy you do a lot of pansy things –

Dick Tracy (1990)

Directed by Warren Beatty

Starring Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Madonna (x2), Glenne Headly (x2), Charlie Korsmo, Dustin Hoffman (x3), Paul Sorvino (x2), Mandy Patinkin (x2), Seymour Cassel (x2), Charles Durning, William Forsythe, James Tolkan (x2), James Caan (x2), Michael J. Pollard (x3), Kathy Bates (x3), Dick Van Dyke, Ed O’Ross, R.G. Armstrong, Catherine O’Hara (x2), John Schuck (x2), Charles Fleischer (x4), Henry Silva, James Keane, Frank Campanella, Allan Garfield, Colm Meaney (x2), Bert Remsen (x2), Estelle Parsons

Look, we all wanted Dick Tracy to be the second coming of Batman in the summer of 1990, and no one more than Warren Beatty. They were using these hyper-stylized, primary color posters and design schemes, and they packed the film with movie stars from the smallest bit roles to the leads. And so what if the movie doesn’t 100% work – there is so much obvious effort in every inch of this film that you can’t help but be impressed as hell.

It’s a film exploding with color, and bullets

And no, no one enjoyed this thing like it was Batman – it wasn’t fair for anyone to expect that sort of mania out of this creaky, ancient comic strip property, which bore zero relevance on a young, up-and-coming comic book movie culture. This was a film for your grandfather, disguised as a fun childrens’ romp. And being the living embodiment of your grandfather’s tastes – even when I was all of ten years old – I really enjoyed Dick Tracy.

But come on, I think most people enjoyed Dick Tracy, didn’t they? It’s not an inherently unlikable film. Okay, maybe you were a little weirded out by the wildly oversexed Madonna character Breathless Mahoney – who basically makes an innuendo or pun about wanting to bang Tracy every time she opens her mouth – or maybe they just introduced way too many characters to really connect with almost anyone (had to find roles for all the James Caans and Dick Van Dykes who signed up!). Maybe you didn’t like all the hijinks with the Kid, even played by one of the greatest child actors of all time, Charlie Korsmo. I mean, I’m not saying there aren’t flaws, but for what their aims appeared to be, it’s a movie that mostly succeeds.

It’s as erotic as a PG film can possibly be

Beatty makes a solid yellow coated detective, Glenne Headly is the perfect Tess Truehart, and the parade of villains buried in rubber masks and extensive prostheses is very entertaining. Hell, whether you like the character or not, you have to admit Madonna is pretty great in her (spoiler alert!) dual role. But what really elevates this from vibrant gangland hokum to comic art is the wonderful, left field performance of Al Pacino as enemy #1 Big Boy Caprice. Without him, I argue, this movie wouldn’t work at all – so flat are all the other villains by comparison (and I’m not just talking about William Forsythe’s head).

I got on a Dick Tracy kick when this movie came out – I’ll admit, I bought into the hype big time. I remember clipping the strip from the Scranton Times for a while afterward, always disappointed when Flattop and Itchy didn’t make appearances. Maybe it was the Scranton Tribune. Not sure. I think the papers merged in ’90, so hard to say. Do they still have comic strips of Dick Tracy? I haven’t looked at a comics section in quite a while, I realize.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, believe it or not, including Pacino’s awesome performance, cinematography, costumes, and sound, it won three – art direction-set direction, make-up, and Stephen Sondheim’s only Oscar for “Sooner or Later.” It was also nominated for Best Picture Comedy or Musical at the Globes!

Weirdly, Warren Beatty still talks about making a sequel to this movie, despite him now being – by my eyeball estimate from recent Oscar broadcasts – 133 years old. I’m not going to recount it here, but for a laugh, go look up the lengthy litigation history of the Dick Tracy rights since 1990 – it’s classic Hollywood bullshit all around. But here’s hoping Dick Tracy 2 is on the horizon!

As of this minute, Beatty and Madonna literally combine at 142 years of age. Let’s hope the sequel happens soon!

This giant cast obviously was going to feature lots of Two-Timers, but we are advancing a bunch of folks too, including Four-Timer Charles Fleischer (#344 Back to the Future II, #278 Zodiac, #212 Funny People, and again, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? didn’t even make the list – still sitting down there in the #460s!) and Three-Timers Dustin Hoffman (#236 Lenny, #311 The Graduate), Kathy Bates (#296 Titanic, #385 Bee Movie), and Michael J. Pollard (#227 Scrooged, #275 Melvin and Howard).

It wasn’t a massive hit, but hey, still better than Ishtar, right, fellas?

Coming tomorrow! The moment you entered her life, she was dead –

1 Comment

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One response to “The Set of 400: #196 – My Favorite Faceless Villain

  1. Pingback: The Set of 400: #197 – My Favorite Runaway Cat | Knowingly Undersold

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