Horror genre star, Boris Karloff earned top billing over leading man Ralph Byrd in RKO’s final Dick Tracy film, released in 1947. Karloff plays the stern-faced “Gruesome”, an escaped convict who masterminds a daring bank robbery using a poison gas designed to freeze individuals in place. Unfortunately for the terrifying villain, Tess Trueheart (Anne Gwynne) is in the bank and able to contact Dick Tracy (Byrd) and the game is afoot.
Starting with few clues, Tracy and Pat Patton investigate the bank heist with little result and so focuses on the gas itself. The disappearance of the scientist Dr. A. Tomic and his associate Dr. I.M. Learned crack the case open leading to a climatic confrontation with Gruesome and his boss.
“Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome” is not a great movie, but it compensates for its lack of logic with plenty of buoyant personality. Karloff is clearly enjoying his screen time, oozing comic malevolence while barking his lines with a toothpick clenched between his jaws. As has been the case his entire career, Byrd is genuinely likeable as Tracy and lovely Anne Gwynne and slovenly Lyle Latell offer jolly support as the perky Tess and the befuddled detective Pat Patton. If you have a bit more than an hour to spare and want to enjoy a delightfully silly flick, take some time to watch here.