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Dick Tracy - The Noir Edit

Wakeupkeo

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foxrLlU.jpg


Fell down another rabbit hole after a recent youtube essay about the storied production of Dick Tracy (1990), a movie that I have never felt a ton of love for due to the outrageous color scheme. (The makeup fx were always downright nuts to me as well).

I wanted to try a little experiment - how would a black and white version feel? Like the old original Dick Tracy movies, not the comic strip? So of course I snagged the Blu Ray.

Compare this original scene:

to this slightly trimmed B&W version with a little film grain?

Completely different feel, kinda Hard-boiled vibe, kinda Sin City IMO

This was interesting enough to keep going down the rabbit hole. But... wow. I had not watched this movie in SOOO long. Its amazing that this came out the year after the first Keaton Batman - in that respect is a complete ripoff, blasphemous in retrospect really. I can't believe I didn't notice back then it was THIS similar to the Batman.

But its amazing how I could actually appreciate everything in this movie without all the color - even the makeup isn't quite so bad. It seems like THE PERFECT movie that a Young Bruce Wayne would have watched. So many similarities to Batman, besides the soundtrack that due to Elfman sounds like it uses the same exact score as Batman, Big Boy seems like Joker and Penguin merged, and Dick Tracy seems like Batman if he were a cop. Elliot Ness similarities, sure, but this is a superhero before there were superheroes. Kid is basically Robin, its so weird how much this copies and tries to be a prequel. I don't think I noticed before with all the color and ridiculous makeup. But it also hit some pretty iconic "noir" beats too.

So as a break from some of the (hopeless) fanmixes I am struggling with, I worked on a quick little experiment. And my growing buzz while working on it may have affected this edit LOL. I started with the intent to remove excess shots of bad makeup, and the corny lines I remember. Big Boy should be darker and more menacing, less of a parody.

And that worked well for a while. Lots of dumb lines removed or edited for pacing. Songs trimmed when the narrative allows. But then, there were some actually funny moments. I think the Kid eating montage I think was the first one that caught me off guard. Then, while I was able to cut some of the initial corniness from Big Boy, he had a few jokes that landed that I couldn't remove. So Big Boy starts off more menacing, but leans into satire as the movie progresses. His "quotes" are still removed, but I let Pacino off the leash after a while.

Otherwise, I try to lean into the noir element, with Dick being edited to have a bit more confidence, less doubt, except when it comes to women. I initially tried to make this an adult movie, and remove the corny kids stuff. I go back and forth removing the part about the "Kid" getting a certificate and changing his name to Dick Tracy, but Dick Tracy seemed to need any character depth I could find. Not cutting quite as much as the "Trueheart Edition" by @revstevens (which I am sure is amazing in its own artistic POV! RESPECT.)

Anyways - I think there is a more timeless version in this old over-saturated turd (a turd that won Oscars, that is - With three Oscars, Dick Tracy is currently tied with Black Panther for having the most wins for a comic book movie.)

Previews available, requesting feedback!

Am I way off even attempting this?

Here is another sample of the new vibe.
New clip:

And the original:
 
Last edited:

revel911

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Would love if you added transition cards in between scenes.

Second, I would lessen the film noise effects, it is more distracting than additive.
 

revstevens

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I happen to love the original production design. But there's value to the black and white, as well. I think you could do away with the film noise and artifacting. Changing the tone on Big Boy is a good idea with what it sounds like you're attempting.

Run with it.
 

Wakeupkeo

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Would love if you added transition cards in between scenes.

Second, I would lessen the film noise effects, it is more distracting than additive.
Hey Revel911!

Ha ha ok my initial reaction to transition cards between scenes is that it sounds like it would ruin pacing, but I am sure I do not have your POV LOL
I am sure you don't mean EVERY scene so if you have actual scene suggestions and appropriate scene title, I could entertain the idea. I still worry about pacing, but if the frames allow, I can try, or overlays might work. But currently I do not see the need. Remember, this is a mild edit to remove the distractions of the wild color for those of us who are distracted by it, not to reinvent the wheel.

FYI I watched this old Dick Tracy movie for inspiration, no scene cards there:

As for the old film overlay, I was able to find a 4k overlay that I shrunk to 1080 - this should still have the effect I want but the actual artifacts are much smaller and less noticable. Take a look at the new v1.03 samples to see if that suits you better - I don't think I can lessen it anymore, but I do prefer the vibe it brings.

I happen to love the original production design. But there's value to the black and white, as well. I think you could do away with the film noise and artifacting. Changing the tone on Big Boy is a good idea with what it sounds like you're attempting.

Run with it.

Sweet, awesome to have your thoughts! Similar to Revel911's comments about the old film overlay, I was able to find a 4k overlay that I shrunk to 1080 - this should still have the effect I want but the actual artifacts are much smaller and less noticeable. Take a look at the new v1.03 samples to see if that suits you better - I don't think I can lessen it anymore, but I do prefer the vibe it brings.
 

revel911

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There are no need for the Transition Cards, I just felt it may give it a proper pulpiness. If anything, I would almost split the movie in chapters, and put them there.
 

Wakeupkeo

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Just found these Press Kit Photos from the movie, thought they were cool:

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msWHIvWRctfOLCd8o78_oByvq9e4HGzHlra1Q-Yt5HPeb3DWBvyb-ZYCP1JoBNmUn_wVd4TDMEQfKCKJOUKWsCBauOH5Wl3LYAd_k6K6r43Edn5fH45zlnfRnQMkr3WAeA

GVQOnAh1LPaQOD3psn6rv3zzZIawqNjt4bU3QUHdfaBj2t9IoSpopX5SboURYduOeFIwOYDsBVKtTKPHTtT5scSgmbzyhpJhZ-45G1CMhGHS30XW9c85d9J9TBkLz6QZJw

-0y4vAhQKse3_jkIYwVvgsHpdzxppyWAGEskDrZSQ1Zf2HaQNwc0VRRTdls2hYbA-7hpcVyVX9c2ct6hndhVueh10fbEUrMaGDhnSxjuX08ChehkhMPIZpuubSPnS_Yvlg

30ibJYhS4PYHD6Clumgl8hxofeRVUl8VCsW0pzwLz_XHSX2lQUk2lWBCTAkBXAP8f60UD-RHhoxmES9NBO-eKE4ejrPfqlNiRb-ovwLTJv3P89CPZ3NQ9RkOBXpgZ1zXmw

gdrIP0gOPEcr_QG6JnFqtOpipf4ufGCVu7BeDiv-JqlzEz5-lgPfJjZ2-V3YRlpFPodw1rQfm99gi6OXpqfTM5IVvvgAqDs0lAeUbPq8Z4byLHqe9zeQKAnCTocthJm_ng
 

Workshed

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I think these promo slides would give a great look guide for the rest of the film. Some sequences will likely need shot for shot color-timing. I find this interesting!
 

Wakeupkeo

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I think these promo slides would give a great look guide for the rest of the film. Some sequences will likely need shot for shot color-timing. I find this interesting!
Awesome!

Right now in Premiere I'm using Monochrome Punch Lumetri preset, which seems to handle the crazy colors best overall. I can fine-tune the "Noir-ish" black level intensity if needed, but I have liked the current edit with the same equal intensity. I don't consider myself a great evaluator of color or the genre, so I would LOVE a previewer (like... you maybe?) to evaluate and identify any areas that could be improved!

After a bunch more watches, I have tightened the edit up here and there a bit more. Currently working on possible chapter cards.
 

Workshed

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I'm a fairly new father, so my ability to devote too much time to previewing is less than it used to be, lol.

I really liked the almost brilliant white bloom around Tracy in the promo shots and think that would carry over well.
 

Wakeupkeo

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I'm a fairly new father, so my ability to devote too much time to previewing is less than it used to be, lol.

I really liked the almost brilliant white bloom around Tracy in the promo shots and think that would carry over well.

Congratulations New Father!! Better you than me LOL

Well, hopefully you'll like my results - I think the bloom you mention is on the shots with more contrast, and my current version leans a little more into the heavy contrast, for more of that noir vibe. I tried a lighter pass but what was gained in details was lost in mood, IMO.

Thanks for the interest!!
 

Last Impressions

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I don't think i have ever seen this - or maybe i did 30 years ago but it didn't leave an impression on me and thus forgot. Of course the relationship between Madge & Beatty was all over the news at the time. Funny enough i picked this up for 30p at a car boot sale this week...any thoughts of adding some monster action :)

ss3sNHx.jpg
 

Scar

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The Big Boy Meeting scene looks fantastic in B&W and really helps sell how well this will look when all is said and done. The monotone makes the exaggerated villains' prosthetics blend nicely.
 

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Looks very promising! I'd love see more norish and less cheesy version of this film. Are you going for any music changes? Something more in line with "Chinatown" soundtrack, perhaps?
 

Wakeupkeo

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I don't think i have ever seen this - or maybe i did 30 years ago but it didn't leave an impression on me and thus forgot. Of course the relationship between Madge & Beatty was all over the news at the time. Funny enough i picked this up for 30p at a car boot sale this week...any thoughts of adding some monster action :)

ss3sNHx.jpg

Looks very promising! I'd love see more noirish and less cheesy version of this film. Are you going for any music changes? Something more in line with "Chinatown" soundtrack, perhaps?


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Thanks for the interest!!!

My first instinct is that these types of changes would be hard to do (especially considering how much Danny Elfman and Stephen Sondheim are ingrained into the source material), but dammit it - now I have to watch both of these to see if what opportunities are available!!! Thank you both! I can't promise anything, but I will consider it!

I love this feedback!
 

revel911

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Rewatching your videos above, your dark levels are fine, but you could up the white levels just a tad. There is a lot of grey in these shots and some scenes don't have any highlights to focus on.
 

MusicEd921

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The Ralph Byrd and Morgan Conway Tracy films/serials are pretty darn good and maybe grabbing a shot here and there of some of those villains or any establishing shots you want to grab to add to that timey whimey feel to it might help.

Here are 2 movies if you want to check them out before purchasing them.


 

Zagadka

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My first instinct is that these types of changes would be hard to do (especially considering how much Danny Elfman and Stephen Sondheim are ingrained into the source material), but dammit it - now I have to watch both of these to see if what opportunities are available!!! Thank you both! I can't promise anything, but I will consider it!

I simpy adore jazz and I've thought that more jazzy soundtrack (from "Chinatown", L.A. Confidential and other similar films) could improve the experience. Or use music by established jazz stars. Just listen to this track: L'assassinat de carala by Miles Davis - it's very norish and atmospheric:

 

Wakeupkeo

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Rewatching your videos above, your dark levels are fine, but you could up the white levels just a tad. There is a lot of grey in these shots and some scenes don't have any highlights to focus on.

I completely agree - and a lot of that has to do with the terrible color decisions of the source material šŸ˜¬ I'll do my best! My current version leans a little more into the heavy contrast, for more of that noir vibe. I tried a lighter pass but what was gained in details was lost in mood, IMO.
 

Wakeupkeo

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Thank you @MusicEd921 !! This is great for research before investing LOL

Thank you @Zagadka for that great inspiration! Loving all the interest and ideas!
 
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