Dick Tracy Returns

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Dick Tracy Returns
Directed by William Witney
John English
Produced by Robert M Beche
Written by Franklin Adreon
Ronald Davidson
Barry Shipman
Sol Shor
Rex taylor
Chester Gould (comic strip)
Starring Ralph Byrd
Lynne Roberts
Charles Middleton
Jerry Tucker
David Sharpe
Lee Ford
Cinematography William Nobles
Distributed by Republic Pictures
Release date
  • 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]
Country United States
Language English
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 the play him in a subsequent television series.

This serial charts Tracy's efforts to capture the Stark Gang of Pa Stark (Charles Middleton).


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...



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]

As with the other three serials in the Republic series, Tracy is depicted as a West Coast FBI agent rather than as the local police detective for a large Midwestern city he is in the original comic strip.

This serial, like all the sequels to the original 1937 Dick Tracy serial, was 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[edit]

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]

Critical reception[edit]

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[edit]

  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[edit]