Steve Jones, USA TODAY
Dick Tracy, that lantern-jawed law enforcement sentinel of comic strip fame, was created more than 80 years ago by Chester Gould, and for decades he has put the kibosh on all manner of quirky criminals. In addition to newspapers, his exploits have found their way into comic books, radio, TV, cartoons and movies.
Warren Beatty gave him his splashiest depiction in the live action Dick Tracy, in which he starred, directed and produced. With its vivid colors and star-studded rogue's gallery of classic villains, it made it seem as if the story sprang right off the Sunday funny pages.
The digitally restored Dick Tracy (1990, Touchstone Home Video, PG; Blu-ray, $27) is out this week for the first time on Blu-ray. That high-definition treatment makes the film that won Academy Awards for best art direction-set decoration and best make-up even more eye-popping. The film, which also won for best original song - Stephen Sondheim's Academy Award-winning Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man) - was nominated for a total of seven Oscars.
Beatty donned a yellow trench coat and a fedora as Tracy, who was trying to bring down crime lord Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice, who is muscling in on and rubbing out the city's smaller criminal organizations. The boss man was played by Al Pacino, who like many of the ensemble's villains was hard to recognize under the heavy prosthetics used to turn him into his peculiar-looking character. The crooks included Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman), Flattop (William Forsythe), Itchy (Ed O'Ross), Pruneface (R.G. Armstrong), Influence (Henry Silva), Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino), 88 Keys (Mandy Patinkin) and Spuds Spaldoni (James Caan).
There's also Caprice's moll Breathless Mahoney (Madonna), corrupt District Attorney John Fletcher (Dick Van Dyke), Tracy's girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) and The Kid (Charlie Korsmo), a street urchin that Tracy and Trueheart befriend.
Beatty first expressed interest in doing Dick Tracy in 1975, but didn't obtain the rights until 10 years later. In the interim, a variety of deals involving several studios, directors and script writers came and went, and Beatty was one of several actors considered for the lead role. Beatty, a long-time fan of the comic strip, considered hiring someone else to direct once he was in position to make it, but ultimately decided to do it himself.
The film received mixed critical response when it came out in 1990, with many reviewers citing similarities (pulp origins, gaudy sets, gruesome villains) to 1989's Batman directed by Tim Burton. It was a moderate box office success, grossing $103 million domestically compared to the $251 million by Batman.
Beatty has raised the possibility that he would make a sequel as recently as last year, but offered no details.