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Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome

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Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947) starring Boris Karloff, Ralph Byrd, Anne Gwynn
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Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947) starring Boris Karloff, Ralph Byrd, Anne Gwynn

Criminal Gruesome (Boris Karloff) uses toxic gas to pull off a bank heist. Eyewitness to the crime is Tess Truehart (Anne Gwynne), who calls on police Detective Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd) to investigate. When Tracy learns about the mysterious disappearance of a doctor, it may provide the crucial break he needs to solve the crime.

Anne Gwynne, Lyle Latell & Ralph Byrd in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome


  • Boris Karloff (The Ghoul) … Gruesome. The cold-hearted killer without a conscience. Early in the film, he’s exposed to an early version of the gas, and is presumed dead. Then, he wakes up in the hospital morgue. After a blow to the back of Pat’s head, he walks out! That’s the last comedy in the film. He’s a cold-blooded killer.
  • Ralph Byrd (Dick Tracy) … Dick Tracy. The famous detective from the comic strip. He needs to stop the crime wave …. And, he’s facing a 2:00 a.m. deadline before the reporters print the story.
  • Anne Gwynne (Weird Woman) … Tess Trueheart. Tracy’s girlfriend. She’s more than a damsel in distress, though. She’s at the bank for the first robbery, and is unaffected by the gas. At multiple points, she gives crucial aid.
  • Edward Ashley (The Court Jester) … Dr. L. E. Thal. The scientist, who is crucial to Gruesome’s plan. But, he’s not a hardened criminal …. And the death of Irma breaks him.
  • June Clayworth (Beat the Band) … Dr. Irma M. Learned. Thal’s girlfriend, and Dr. Tomic’s chief assistant. A nice lady, but she’s not a willing criminal. She tried to deceive Tracy about the contents of a stolen chemical. She’s about to crack under the pressure. After all, the bank guard had four children …. And so Gruesome kills her, before she can talk.
  • Lyle Latell (Dick Tracy vs Cueball) … Pat Patton. Tracy’s assistant, and comedy relief.
  • Tony Barrett (Impact) … Melody. Gruesome’s old crony. Now a piano player, but easily coerced back into a life of crime.
Karloff, Ralph Byrd, and Skelton Knaggs in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome

Secondary characters

  • Skelton Knaggs (Isle of the Dead) … X-Ray. One of Gruesome’s new cronies.
  • James Nolan (Dirty Harry) … Dan Sterne. The newspaper reporter, who’s imposed the deadline on Tracy. If he doesn’t have the official story by 2:00 a.m., he’s running with what he has.
  • Joseph Crehan (Babes in Arms) … Chief Brandon
  • Milton Parsons (The Hidden Hand) … Dr. A. Tomic. College professor and scientist. He suspects someone has been following him. He’s quite right. Gruesome wants his discovery.


  • Pat, describing Gruesome: “I tell you, if I didn’t know better I’d swear we were doing business with Boris Karloff.” — a joke borrowed from Arsenic and Old Lace.
  • Several of the characters names are blatant puns: Dr. L. E. Thal (Dr. Lethal), Dr. A. Tomic (Dr. Atomic), Dr. I. M. Learned (I’m Learned)
  • In the same vein, when Gruesome’s car crashes into a taxidermist store, the name of the taxidermist is Y. Stuffum. 

Editorial review of  Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome courtesy of

Fearless detective Dick Tracy meets his match when he tangles with Gruesome, the cold-blooded killer with the hideous face. Portrayed by the legendary horror star Boris Karloff, Gruesome gets Tracy’s attention when he begins robbing banks with the aid of a mysterious gas. Ralph Byrd is cast as the square-jawed, two-fisted Tracy, and lovely Anne Gwynn is on hand as the always loyal Tess Truehart. Upon its 1947 release, Variety called this one “…a chiller diller,” and added, “Karloff, per usual, (steals) every scene in which he appears.” Sit back and enjoy this one. Happy crime busting!


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