Gruesome (Boris Karloff) has just been released from jail. He visits a dive called the Hangman’s Knot. The piano player, Melody (Tony Barrett), is an old friend. Melody takes Gruesome to a building that houses a plastics manufacturer. Gruesome sends Melody back to the bar while Gruesome waits to talk to someone called the Doctor.
Snooping around, Gruesome finds a test tube. He opens the tube and inhales a chemical that affects him. He stumbles back to the Hangman’s Noose to find Melody but falls unconscious. The local patrolman believes he is drunk. Just then Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) happens by. He offers to take the unconscious man to the hospital. When he gets there Gruesome is frozen stiff and appears to be dead. Pat tells his partner, Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd). By the time Tracy gets to the morgue Gruesome has regained consciousness and sneaks out of the morgue.
The next day Tracy’s girlfriend, Tess Trueheart (Anne Gwynne) is at the bank. She slips into a phone booth to make a call. Suddenly a canister placed in the garbage can bursts open and the gas contained in it renders everyone in the bank frozen in place. Everyone except Tess who is enclosed in the phone booth. Gruesome and Melody enter the bank and rob it. Tess calls Tracy to tell him the bank is being robbed.
When Tracy and Patton get there, everyone is still frozen. They watch as one by one the people in the bank unfreeze as if nothing happened. A reporter named Dan Sterne (James Nolan) has gotten the scoop on the bank robbery and plans on putting in the paper the fact that everyone was frozen by a gas bomb. He gives Tracy ten hours to find out who robbed the bank and how before the story is printed and scared patrons start a run on the banks.
“Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome” AKA “Dick Tracy Meets Karloff” AKA “Dick Tracy’s Amazing Adventure” was released in 1947 and was directed by John Rawlins. It is an American crime movie and is the fourth and final Dick Tracy film made by RKO Radio Pictures. It is also the second film to star Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy. The role of Tess Trueheart is played by Anne Gwynne.
The best part of the movie is, of course, Boris Karloff. His performance was as sinister as ever. The premise of the movie is a little ridiculous. People don’t freeze mid stride and then come out of it like nothing happened but that is part of the fun of the film. Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy is also a little more energetic and a little reminiscent of the serials. Toss in some descriptive character names and the movie ends up being slightly campy and a lot of fun.
I got a kick out of some of the names in all the Tracy films. In “Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome” are some examples of silliness. X-Ray (Skelton Knaggs) is a scientist that wears coke bottle glasses, Dr. A. Tomic (Milton Parsons) is a scientist, and a car drives into a store called Y. Stuffum Taxidermist. Edward Ashley plays Dr. L. E. Thal (Dr. Lethal) and Dr. Tomic’s assistant, Dr. I. M. Learned (I Am Learned) is played by June Clayworth.
Included in the cast are Robert Clarke as Fred the police analyst and Lex Barker as an ambulance driver. There are also some character actors that appeared in the Dick Tracy movies. Skelton Knaggs, X-Ray, was in two of them, Milton Parsons, Dr. A. Tomic, was in three of them, Joseph Crehan as Chief Brandon, appears in three of them, Tony Barrett, Melody, is in two of them, Tom Keene, Dr. Frankey, is in two of them and Ian Keith, Vitamin Flintheart, appears in two of them.