Dick Tracy Returns 1938 Serial

After the success of the original Dick Tracy serial, a sequel was inevitable and Ralph Byrd reprised his role the following year as G-Man Dick Tracy in this fifteen episode 1938 serial which saw Tracy trying to capture the Stark Gang led by sinister mastermind Pa Stark played by Charles Middleton. Action starts quick and furious when Stark and his five sons rob an armored car and murder Tracy’s pal Ron Merton (David Sharpe). One by one, the Starks are killed off by Tracy and the good guys until at last only Pa and eldest son Champ (John Merton) are left. Gathering together a massive supply of dynamite and nitroglycerin, the surviving gang members draw up plans to blow Tracy up, but of course the hero prevails.

In Dick Tracy Returns the original characters returned with a different cast portraying them, including Lynn Roberts and Gwen, Jerry Tucker as Junior, Lee Ford as Mike McGurk and Michael Kent as Steve Lockwood.  This well crafted serial would become the source of stock footage for numerous actions that were later recycled in later Tracy serials, such as the runaway freight car at the end of chapter three.  This serial is marred by the presence of two “economy chapters,” that is recap chapters to catch the viewer up on the action so far.  The plot with Pa Stark is actually a rewrite of the familiar real life story of Ma Barker and her gangster family.

Chapters (click Images to watch the chapter)

The Sky WreckersDick Tracy’s new agent, Ron Merton is killed by Pa Stark and his sons during an armed truck robbery but the shooter, Kid Stark is captured by the G-Man.  Mike McGurk and Steve Lockwood fly back from Salt Lake with a witness that can convict Kid and the Starks mislead the plane, trying to crash it into a mountain.  Tracy uses a small plane to divert the incoming flight but he himself crashes the plane into the mountain side.

The Runway of DeathKid Stark goes to court and is sentenced and put to death for the murder of Merton.  Tracy tracks down crime scene evidence to a man named Snub who works for the Starks out of the mid-city garage where they are repainting stolen cars.  Tracy sneaks in and his caught by the Starks who put him unconscious into a vehicle and send him out of control down the ramp where he crashes into the street below.

Handcuffed to DoomKnocked out by gas in a parking garage, Tracy is tied into a car by the Starks and sent crashing down the ramp into the street below.  Surviving of course, his G-Men recover the money the Starks stole from Agent Ron Merton.  Tracy and Steve Lockwood find clues that the Starks plan to steal a remote control tank and sell it to a foreign agent.  A shootout at the train station stops the sale but Steve is handcuffed to an uncontrolled train and when Tracy tries to rescue him the train goes right off the rails!

Four Seconds to LiveLeaping clear of a train disaster, Dick Tracy and Steve Lockwood try to help Doctor Worthing who’s new observatory will be destroyed by the Stark’s unless he pays a large ransom.  Tracy determine that the Stark’s have planted explosives in a tunnel dug beneath the observatory and he, Mike McGurk and Steve are trapped in the tunnels seconds before detonation.

Death in the AirThe Stark boys escape following a botched attempt to destroy an observatory but Tracy tracks down their escape plane to the Carston Airstrip where he determines the test pilot Brand is stealing experimental planes for the Starks while crashing alternate planes.  While in the air with Brand, Tracy is given knock out gas, has his chute cut and is tossed out at 13,500 feet.

Stolen SecretsFixing and deploying his parachute, Tracy survives being tossed from the plane but test pilot Brand is killed when the plane crashes.  The Starks want the final plane engine, and plot with airport owner Carston to lure Tracy and his men into a deadly trap while they steal the final engine.  Trying to save McGurk and Staton, Tracy finds himself under a cliff side collapsing after a dynamite explosion.

Tower of DeathTracy and his team survive the rock slide and track the Stark boys after they escape in one of their cars.  They learn the Starks are going to sell the stolen motors to a foreign agent named Zarchov.  The G-Men raid the Stark hideout, capturing Zarchov and corrupt air man Carston.  When a truck crashes causes a grain silo collapse, Trigger Stark and Dick Tracy face certain death.

Cargo of DestructionTracy athletically escapes the falling grain tower but Trigger Stark is killed.  The remaining Starks vow revenge, but first plan to make some cash, extorting Trendall truck company for money.  Tracy rides along with one of Trendall’s trucks with Junior stowed away in another truck.  Tracy and Junior gain possession of a truck loaded with dynamite but the vehicle has no breaks and is about to explode over a dam.

The Clock of DoomThis episode recaps some of the crimes and investigations of previous chapters as Dick Tracy explains to several civic leaders what he does.  One of the civic leaders, Mr. Reeves is an assassin who leaves a bomb laden briefcase in the conference room.  Junior unknowingly tries to return Reeves the briefcase when he leaves and there is an explosion.

High VoltageThe Duke leaves a briefcase bomb in Dick Tracy’s office but Junior returns it to him in his car just before it detonates, killing the assassin.  Next a new high tech blowtorch is stolen by the Starks from the navy that can melt through any steel.  Tracy figures the blow torch will pull a huge energy load and he and Steve engage Stark men at a Power Plant.

The Missing WitnessSteve rescues Dick Tracy at the Power Plant and G-Men surround the building the Stark’s are robbing.  In a fist fight and shootout, the Starks escape but one of their men is shot and captured.  Pa sends Dude Stark and a couple of men to retrieve their man before he talks and they tear gas the hospital and escape in an ambulance, chased by Steve and Tracy.  Tracy leaps on board the ambulance and Dude is shot while driving and the vehicle flips off the road.


The Runaway TorpedoWith Dude Stark dead and Dick Tracy surviving a car crash, our hero watches a demonstration of the Navy’s new torpedo speed boat.  The boat is stolen by the Starks for a foreign agent named Krueger.  Tracy finds a clue that the Draper Gas Company supplied the gas used in the attack on the speed boat and makes Draper talk, finding the Stark hideout in the harbor where he and Steve battle Stark men.  Steve is knocked out while Tracy is caught in a weighted net and sinks under water.

Passengers to Doom Tracy escapes a weighed net thrown over him in the harbour but he and Steve Lockwood return to headquarters empty-handed as the Starks escaped.  This chapter then Recaps the ordeal of Ron Merton from chapter 1 to FBI officials before foreign agent Krueger has a falling out with the Starks and reveals their location to Tracy.  Tracy and Steve raid the new harbour hideout and Tracy jumps on board the torpedo boat battling Slasher Stark before it smashes into a dock and explodes.


In the Hands of the EnemySlasher Stark is killed in the explosion of the torpedo boat and Pa and Champ Stark want revenge on Dick Tracy.  They send a Mary Watson to lure Tracy into a trap.  Gwen deduces Mary is not who she claims to be and Dick arranges his G-Men around the “trap”.  Pa and Champ Stark escape the raid and take Steve’s car which has Junior in it.  They demand Tracy trade himself for Junior and Dick gives himself up but his G-Men follow, running towards a false hideout rigged with dynamite.

G-Men's DragnetIn the final showdown, Junior escapes the Stark men and warn Tracy’s G-Men from a house rigged to explode and they track the Starks to a new hideout where they hold Dick Tracy.  The G-Men raid the hideout in a long shootout.  Tracy escapes his bonds and wrestles with Champ Stark who is about to throw a grenade.  Champ drops the explosive and is killed in the explosion.  Pa Stark surrenders, but carries a bomb and demands Tracy fly him out of the country.  Tracy agrees but bails out of the plane with a parachute and the plane crashes into the ground, killing Pa.

If you prefer not watch each serial above individually, you can also watch all 15 episodes combined into a single movie below.

2 Responses to Dick Tracy Returns 1938 Serial

  1. Pingback: Talking to the Mirror (Tracy meets Mr. Byrd)


    I have a 1939 DICK TRACY RETURNS LITTLE BOOK for sale. The top of the spine is damaged.

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