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  Dick Tracy's Dilemma Off The Hook
Year: 1947
Director: John Rawlins
Stars: Ralph Byrd, Lyle Latell, Kay Christopher, Jack Lambert, Ian Keith, Bernadene Hayes, Jimmy Conlin, William B. Davidson, Tony Barrett, Tom Keene
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's late in the evening and outside a fur warehouse there is a mysterious figure skulking about; he is known as The Claw (Jack Lambert) and he is part of a gang with plans for the merchandise. The Claw knocks out the nightwatchman and kills the lights, then opens the trade entrance to allow a truck to park inside. His two accomplices get out and set about cracking the lock on the door to the furs, but they don't notice the nightwatchman has revived himself and is approaching, pistol drawn. Not that it does him much good and soon the gang have made their getaway so Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd) has another murder case to solve...

For RKO's third Dick Tracy B-movie they brought back the actor most associated with the role, Ralph Byrd, although otherwise this was pretty much business as usual. As with the previous instalment, the detective isn't dealing with a criminal mastermind but a thug, and The Claw is distinguished by his limping gait and the hook that has replaced his hand, the same appendage that did for the nightwatchman. His accomplices are more stock characters, and there little sense of Tracy matching wits against a worthy adversary although at least this time it doesn't appear as if he is being led around by the nose by the clues.

No, there's a big slice of detective work here, which starts when the nightwatchman's body is found and his handkerchief has a message scrawled on it. Taking it to the lab, it takes some decyphering, but enough to give Tracy a lead, and soon the police have an idea that the criminals can be traced to a seedy bar called The Blinking Skull (complete with neon sign outside of an, er, blinking skull). The reason they know this is down to the sacrifice of Sightless (Jimmy Conlin), a peddler who was an informer in the pay of Tracy. He spies on The Claw and company and realises that this is who the detective is on the lookout for, but he is noticed and chased, getting the information to the right man before The Claw does him in.

The right man being Vitamin Flintheart (Ian Keith), the florid thespian who dismisses Sightless as unimportant and is racked with guilt when the little man turns up dead. Nevertheless, Tracy knows what to do and employs Vitamin (Keith is one of the most amusing aspects of this series) to go undercover to assist him. The mystery's solution is predictable - when the insurance company get involved you know something shady is going on - and the spirit of Chester Gould's original comic strips, of which, as usual we see characters from in the opening credits, isn't really here except in the odd personality. It's more of a routine B-movie than anything else, but entertaining enough while it's on with some nice noir-ish photography to accentuate the shadows of those mean streets.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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