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Dick Tracy (1990)
Music Composed by Danny Elfman
Conducted by Shirley Walker
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek, Additional Orchestrations by Shirley Walker and Jack Hayes
Recorded by Dennis Sands, Album Mixed by Shawn Murphy
Album Produced by Danny Elfman, Steve Bartek and Bob Badami

Label (Catalogue): Sire, (CD 26264)
Availability: Out of print
Purchasing options: Available used at

"Mr. Beatty's colorful dreamscape and characters gave me a much desired chance to write something big, old-fashioned romanticism on a grand scale. I tip my hat to Mr. Gershwin on this one." - Danny Elfman, Music For A Darkened Theater, Volume One

(Original review dated 06/07/01) Dick Tracy, to me, has never been a terribly personal or favorite score. Probably due to the film being a snooze, Danny Elfman tries to work overtime to inject some sort of vigor into the lavish Disney film directed and starring Warren Beatty as Tracy.

The score marks and interesting evolution of Danny Elfman's style in that it's precise cues, which are extremely dependent on the film's action, are somewhat new. Danny's previous scores were always detailed in their accompaniment to the action, but Dick Tracy seems to be the point where scores like Batman Returns were born.

After completing the highly successful Batman, Elfman landed this job. A decidedly different tone for both film and music were taken, with the wonderful addition of a throwback to the grand style of scores from the past. Like in "Main Titles", we hear the emergence of a swelling love theme for both the female leads - Tess Trueheart and Breathless Mahoney. The CD version of the "Main Titles" was never used in the film. The result being the love theme was cut. Luckily, we hear it here for all it's splendor. What starts as racing horns and strings, ends in a slow crescendo of drums and piano. The love theme reminds me of the Disney theme it's self.

"After The 'Kid'" gives way to the main action theme that occurs throughout the CD. Again, the music, being closely modeled after the action, dives and swells with each shot. We have a quiet moment, then when Dick Tracy appears, we hear his theme played with bright horns. As Tracy beats the crud out of the baddie, we get a raucous cue that is a lot of fun. Perhaps the greatest oddity is that the next track "Crime Spree" was never used at all in the film. Yet it turns out to be the track with the most fun. Soundly a lot like "Sing, Sing, Sing", "Crime Spree" continues the overall theme of a swing-inspired score.

The order of tracks on the CD constitute that an action cue be followed by a slower one, usually involving one of Tracy's women wooing him. "Breathless' Theme" is identical to "Breathless Comes On". We even get a reprisal near the end of the CD. "Breathless' Theme" reminds me of the love theme from Darkman. "Big Boy/Bad Boys" gets us back into the action. At one minute creeping along quietly, we are hit with a large crescendo, a theme reprisal, then some more creeping. There are some cool solos, but the overall effect is disjointed.

One of the better tracks on Dick Tracy is "Slimy D.A.". Around 1:10 into the track, we get a sorrowful cue that is a nice variation on the otherwise triumphant Tracy theme. "Meet The Blank" consists of lot's of orchestral swelling, mysterious and cool. We get some more action cues - not serious sounding, but always on the edge of a cartoon. Like Danny Elfman is expecting the characters to suddenly morph into drawings colored by huge ink dots. "The Story Unfolds" has some fun horn playing, but as soon as it gets going, it seems to end. "Blank Gets The Goods" has an extremely interesting accordion, and sounds like what would later influence Article 99. It also has one of the creepiest cues Danny has ever written at 1:22 into the track. A strange little piano piece. If you have the CD I am sure you know what I am referring to.

When we have reached "Rooftops" we have yet to hear the Tracy theme in it's fullest glory. However we get it in this track. Loud, brassy and triumphant, followed by a quirky little burping and screeching horns. "The Chase" rounds out the CD well with some full orchestral action. Danny Elfman's trademark over-the-type style takes us up and down, always as if on a roller coaster. "The Chase" is a loud, ride.

To end the CD, we get one more reprisal of the Main Theme. Swelling, and crashing, and coming to a bombastic halt, all after building it's way up from the tender love theme for Tess.

Dick Tracy is hard to review. In fact I am not sure if I've even actually said anything here. There is an intangible quality about it that just makes it a little strange to "get". It's not the ballbuster, it's not the most memorable. But it is enjoyable and interesting. There is some definite music that Elfman fans would enjoy, but I think it may remain something only fans like myself could listen to regularly. The best way I can sum it up, perhaps a little cruelly, is that Dick Tracy seems a little un-exceptional when compared to the towering effort of Batman and Edward Scissorhands. It is fun, wonderfully recorded and presented on CD and certainly more entertaining than the film it's from.

As someone who tries to remain unbiased when reviewing a CD, I'd tend to think that my summation was, as honest as possible. You can put me under the lights on that one...And I won't ever break. - Ryan Keaveney

No real great controversy, but Danny Elfman had to rescore the beginning titles to accomodate extremely last minute changes. The version of the "Main Titles" on the Dick Tracy OST and Music For A Darkened Theater Volume One are the same cues - but the film version is different. According to an interview with The New York Times (by Larry Rohter, 9/12/90), "No sooner had he finished the score for Dick Tracy last spring than Oingo Boingo went on tour to support its new album, "Dark at the End of the Tunnel". But when it was decided after previews of Dick Tracy that some cuts in the movie's main title sequence were necessary, Mr. Elfman was suddenly called upon to make changes in the accompaning music. He could not abandon the group on the road, so he ended up supervising the recording session over the telephone from a Milwaukee hotel room, with the conductor, Shirley Walker, the orchestra and Mr. Beatty at the other end of the line. "It really wasn't as weird as it sounds," Mr. Elfman said, laughing. "All I could hear was the brass and the tempo, so I was basically there just as protection."

Of working with Warren Beatty, Danny Elfman has said "Warren was insane".

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Click for enlarged CD artwork
Click cover to enlarge
01. Main Titles (3:36)
02. After The 'Kid' (1:45)
03. Crime Spree (1:53)
04. Breathless' Theme (2:13)
05. Big Boy/Bad Boys (2:10)
06. Tess' Theme (1:09)
07. Slimy D.A. (1:41)
08. Breathless Comes On (2:54)
09. Meet The Blank (1:43)
10. The Story Unfolds (1:59)
11. Blank Gets The Goods (2:25)
12. Rooftops (2:01)
13. Tess' Theme - Reprise (1:17)
14. The Chase (2:57)
15. Showdown/Re-United (4:07)
16. Finale (1:00)

Total playing time: 34:37

Danny Elfman's music at:

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