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Dick Tracy Returns

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dick Tracy Returns
Directed by
Written by
Produced byRobert M Beche
CinematographyWilliam Nobles
Republic Pictures
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release dates
  • August 20, 1938 (1938-08-20) (U.S.)[1]
  • July 17, 1948 (1948-07-17) (U.S. re-release)[1]
Running time
15 chapters / 254 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$156,991 (negative cost: $170,940)[1]

Dick Tracy Returns (1938) is a Republic Movie serial based on the Dick Tracy comic strip. It was the eleventh of the sixty-six serials Republic produced and a sequel to the 1937 serial Dick Tracy, with Ralph Byrd reprising his role as the title character. It was successful enough that two further sequels were released in 1939 and 1941, and Byrd become so connected with the character he went on to play him in a subsequent television series.

This serial charts Tracy's efforts to capture the gang of Pa Stark (Charles Middleton) and his five criminal sons....Champ, Trigger, Dude, The Kid and Slasher.


Tracy and his group must battle saboteurs and spies in his effort to bring down the Stark gang, a major crime family syndicate led by the vicious and brutal Pa Stark. A young promising G-Man named Ron Merton (David Sharpe) is murdered by the Starks while trying to help Tracy bring the gang to justice. With the help of his friends Gwen, Junior and Mike McGurk, Tracy battles the vile criminal gang, and kills off Stark's sons one by one, until the only ones left are Pa Stark and his son Champ. Tracy faces off against Stark in a final battle aboard an out-of-control airplane three miles up in the sky in the final episode.



Dick Tracy Returns was budgeted at $156,991 although the final negative cost was $170,940 (a $13,949, or 8.9%, overspend). It was the most expensive Republic serial of 1938 and the most expensive Republic serial until The Lone Ranger Rides Again in 1939.[1] It was the second most expensive of the four Dick Tracy serials (the most expensive was the last, Dick Tracy vs. Crime, Inc. at $175,919[1]).

It was filmed between 10 June and 18 July 1938 under the working title Return of Dick Tracy.[1] The serial's production number was 791.[1]

Like in the other three serials of the Republic series, Tracy is depicted as a West Coast FBI agent instead of being, as he is in the original comic strip, a local police detective for a large Midwestern city.

This serial and all the sequels of the original 1937 Dick Tracy serial were permitted by an interpretation of the original contract, which allowed a "series or serial". Therefore, Chester Gould was not paid again for the right to produce this serial.[3]

Special effects

The special effects were created by Republic's in-house team, the Lydecker brothers



Dick Tracy Returns' official release date is 20 August 1938, although this is actually the date the seventh chapter was made available to film exchanges.[1]

The serial was re-released on 17 July 1948 between the first runs of Dangers of the Canadian Mounted and Adventures of Frank and Jesse James.[1]

VCI released the serial on 2 dvd discs in 2008. It was later released together with the other three Dick Tracy serials in a boxed dvd set by VCI in 2013.

Critical reception

Cline states that the Dick Tracy serials were "unexcelled in the action field," adding that "in any listing of serials released after 1930, the four Dick Tracy adventures from Republic must stand out as classics of the suspense detective thrillers, and the models for many others to follow."[2]

Chapter titles

  1. The Sky Wreckers (29min 51s)
  2. The Runway of Death (16min 34s)
  3. Handcuffed to Doom (16min 20s)
  4. Four Seconds to Live (15min 39s)
  5. Death in the Air (16min 35s)
  6. Stolen Secrets (15min 23s)
  7. Tower of Death (14min 34s)
  8. Cargo of Destruction (16min 12s)
  9. The Clock of Doom (16min 4s) - a re-cap chapter
  10. High Voltage (16min 15s)
  11. The Kidnapped Witness/The Missing Witness (15min 45s)[4]
  12. The Runaway Torpedo (15min 33s)
  13. Passengers to Doom (16min 19s) - a re-cap chapter
  14. In the Hands of the Enemy (16min 30s)
  15. G-Men's Drag-Net (16min 24s)


Note: This was one of two 15-chapter Republic serials of 1938 (with The Lone Ranger). The other two were only 12 chapters long.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mathis, Jack (1995). Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement. Jack Mathis Advertising. pp. 3, 10, 32–33. ISBN 0-9632878-1-8.
  2. ^ a b Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 20–21. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  3. ^ Dick Tracy article at Images Journal, last checked 19/03/07
  4. ^ The Kidnapped Witness is recorded as the title of the eleventh chapter in William C. Cline's In the Nick of Time while "The Missing Witness" is recorded as the title in Jack Mathis' Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement.
  5. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 222. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 August 2022, at 21:31
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