Dick Tracy’s G-Men 1939 Serial

DickTracyGMenDick Tracy’s G-Men is the third of four Republic serials starring Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy.  In this serial the notorious international spy Zarnoff, played by Irving Pichel, has been employed by the Three Powers to wreak havoc on America.  Produced in 1939, the Three Powers are obvious references to the Axis Powers leading up to World War II.  Zarnoff is captured in the first chapter and sentenced to death, but he uses a rare drug to survive the gas chamber and feign his death.  He quickly escapes custody and returns to his mission, attacking American defense systems and stealing top-secret military plans.  Similar to previous serials, the criminal mastermind often works through a primary henchman, in this case a man named Robal played by Walter Miller.

In this third serial, the characters of Mike McGurk and Junior have been eliminated although Tracy’s competent assistants Steve Lockwood and Gwen Andrews return, this time played by Tod Pearson and Phyllis Isley who would later act under the screen name Jennifer Jones and win a Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Bernadette Soubirous in the The Song of Bernadette in 1943.

Chapters (click Images to watch the chapter)

The Master SpyInternational spy, Zarnoff has been employed by “The Three Powers” (the Axis of WW2) to wreak havoc on the United States and at the start of the Serial Zarnoff is captured by Dick Tracy but survives a death sentence with a rare drug saves him from the gas chamber. Zarnoff is then rescued and revived by his men and launches a plot to destroy an industrial canal using an explosive laden remote boat. At chapter’s end Tracy finds himself on the boat which soon explodes.

CapturedSpy Zarnoff is foiled in an attempt to destroy an industrial canal with a remote piloted boat by Tracy who leaps to Steve Lockwood’s plane in time to survive the blast. Later, after Zarnoff kills a snitch, Tracy tracks Zarnoff down to his new hideout where he is captured after falling down a trapdoor. Zarnoff ties Tracy to a chair, gags him and rigs a gun to fire out the door when it is opened, so when Steve and the other G-Men arrive they are fired upon and return fire with a Tommy Gun.

The False SignalDick Tracy escapes accidental execution by his own men just in time and he finds a lighthouse man named “Cappy” locked away. Zarnoff’s men disable a lighthouse keeping ships safe from Suicide Reef and then shine a false light from a barge to lure Latin American President Mendoza’s yacht into the deadly rocks. Tracy, Steve and another agent climb on board the barge and get in a gunfight. Tracy climbs a rope for the light on top of the mast but his rope is cut and begins to fall.

The Enemy StrikesTracy saves Latin American President Mendoza by reaching a spotlight on a barge and warning the President’s yacht of dangerous rocks.  Tracy investigates a salvage company that supplied materials to the gang and Zarnoff sets a trap to kill Tracy, with Robal luring him to a bunch of old barges in the harbor. An explosive trap fails to catch the G-Men and during a long chase and fight sequence Robal knocks Dick into the water as two barges move together, threatening to crush him.

Crack-Up!After the conclusion of the battle in the harbor, G-Men Steve Lockwood and Scott take a train guarding $2.5 million in gold-bound for Denver and Robal plans to derail the train and take the gold. Tracy investigates and airfield and takes to the air, chasing another Zarnoff man named Slim where the two dogfight in the sky. Tracy wins as Slim’s plane crashes into the ground and Tracy flies ahead to warn the train by trying to land on the tracks. The landing goes badly and his plane breaks apart on landing.

Sunken PerilAfter preventing Zarnoff from derailing a train loaded with gold, Tracy follows his only lead to a base at the Norton Dam where he and Steve investigate and find a diver coming out of the water. They capture two men and find boxes filled with secret American plans that would be useful in a war. Tracy takes the diver suit down into an underwater bunker to retrieve the remaining plans while Steve waits up top. Steve is ambushed by Robal, who grazes his head with a bullet, knocking him unconscious. They then cut Tracy’s air supply while he is ascending from the water and then escapes with the plans.

Tracking the EnemyTracy survives drowning at the dam but Robal and Zarnoff’s men escape with the secret government plans, hiding them in a wood shipment bound for a ship in the harbor. Tracy figures out the plans were hidden in hollow wood beams and Gwen finds a ship loading in the harbor. He and Steve battle Zarnoff goons as the lumber is loaded to a ship and Tracy is knocked unconscious as a pallet of lumber plummets down towards him.

Chamber of DoomTracy and his G-Men recover stolen government plans in a lumber yard. Spy Zarnoff arranges a new communication method with a fur company in which invisible messages are written on hides to be sent overseas. Investigating recovered aircraft plans, Tracy follows a man named Martin who leaked the plans. While searching the fur company, Dick is knocked unconscious and put into an enclosed room slowly filling with poison gas.

Flames of JeopardySteve and the G-Men manage to save Tracy from a vault filled with poison gas and then take Zarnoff’s man Barossa into custody and interrogate him for information. Zarnoff has Robal kill Barossa by sabotaging an elevator and then try to kill a man named Robinson arriving from overseas on a dirigible. Tracy and his men await Robinsons arrival but the dirigible catches fire and Tracy finds himself under the falling blimp trying to save Robinson who has bailed out. This scene is notable for using footage from the Hindenburg disaster.

Crackling FuryTracy saves spy Robinson from a burning Dirigible. Robinson lost his case with a coded Zarnoff message and the G-Men are ambushed the next day but do recover it from the wreckage. The message leads them to a smelting factory where Zarnoff’s organization is evacuating ahead of the G-Men. Tracy and Steve Lockwood infiltrate and get into a shootout and are lured by Zarnoff and Robal into a room trapped with a smelting dynamo that threatens to burn them alive.

Caverns of PerilTracy and Steve escape the trap in the Smelter Plant and investigate a ghost town in the desert that may be a base for Zarnoff. After meeting a young lad named Sammy Williams, Tracy and his G-Men find a dry well in the town and tunnels with explosives inside. Zarnoff’s men engage in a gunfight and the explosives detonate with Tracy and Steve in the tunnels.

Fight in the SkyEngaged in a gun fight at a Ghost Town, Tracy and Steve survive an underground explosion with the help of local boy Sammy and then drive off Zarnoff and his men who have pinned down two other G-Men. Tracy then lays a trap for Zarnoff, baiting it with a fake formula that can create high-powered explosions. Zarnoff sends in a cat burglar, who climbs the outside of the building and breaks into the safe for the formula. Tracy chases him to the roof, where an auto-gyro is picking him up. Tracy and the burglar fight on the wheel bar of the auto-gyro as the fly across the sky and a man falls to his death.

The Fatal RideWe watch as a cat burglar steals a fake formula during a G-Men sting and Tracy chases him to an autogyro (an early helicopter) where the two battle over the skies before the burglar falls to his death. Tracy then flies back to land and meets with his boss, Chief Anderson and the episode recaps events in the first episodes. Near the end, Anderson, Steve and Tracy take a cab to hear a confession but it’s a trap and they are sealed inside with exhaust gas piped into the sealed cabin.

GetawayTracy, Lockwood and Anderson barely survive a cab filled with exhaust fumes and are captured by Zarnoff who keeps them prisoner. The Baron, an agent for the three powers sends Zarnoff to steal plans to a new aerial torpedo (a rocket) and the G-Men escape the home at the time. Tracy races to stop Zarnoff’s plan and pursues the spy and his right hand, Robal in a high-speed car chase. During the chase, Tracy’s vehicle misses a turn and drives off the road.

The Last StandAfter losing Robal and Zarnoff in a car chase, Tracy radio’s to block all roads, hemming the elusive spy in. Zarnoff makes for a hideout in the hills on foot and G-Men and Police follow. Robal and Zarnoff’s men battle the Federals in a deadly shootout while Tracy stops Zarnoff from escaping in a plane, instead taking off with him prisoner. Zarnoff sabotages the plane and they land in the desert where the spy knocks Tracy out and ties him up before drinking from a spring of water, not seeing the sign that the water was poisoned by Arsenic. Zarnoff soon dies and Steve rescues Tracy, closing the case.

One Response to Dick Tracy’s G-Men 1939 Serial

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

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