Dick Locher, editorial and Dick Tracy cartoonist, dies

Dick Locher, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and the third primary artist on the Dick Tracy comic strip, died earlier this month at 88, according to an obituary posted by the Chicago Tribune.

Toward the end of Locher’s run, he also took over the scripting duties while continuing to do editorial cartoons for the Tribune.

Locher was an art assistant to Tracy creator Chester Gould (1900-1985) in the 1950s. He later found success as an editorial cartoonist at the Chicago Tribune, the home newspaper for the Tracy strip.

Gould retired in late 1977. His initial successors were writer Max Allan Collins and artist Rick Fletcher, another Gould art assistant.

Dick Tracy meets Pruneface after the Nazi has been thawed out, 1983. Drawn by Dick Locher.

When Fletcher died in 1983, Locher took over the art duties on Tracy. That same year, one of Locher’s first highlights was a story line where Nazi spy Pruneface (one of the most famous Gould villains for the strip) was revived from suspended animation by Dr. Freezdrei, a former Nazi scientist.

Initially, Tracy believes it’s a hoax. A few years earlier, the Collins-Fletcher team had a story where there is supposedly a Mumbles clone. But it turned out it was the original villain with a face lift.

However, in the 1980s story, it turns out Pruneface really had been in suspended animation. Tracy is not happy upon hearing the news. “Back in those days, we had an electric chair to thaw him out,” Tracy says.

Pruneface attempts to get revenge on Tracy. But a mysterious figure intervenes.

Locher drew the Tracy strip until 2009 and wrote it until 2011, according to the Tribune obituary.

Somewhere, the Spy Commander has a Tracy cartoon drawn by Locher that was the subject of a silent auction to benefit the Society of Professional Journalists.

SPECTRE: Here come the North American reviews

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

After press showings over the past several days, North American film critics are weighing in on SPECTRE.

The 24th James Bond film, as of Tuesday afternoon, has a 65 PERCENT “FRESH” RATING on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Reviews of this side of the Atlantic Ocean are mixed, with some writers lavishing praise and others not being impressed.

What follows are excerpts. We’re keeping out plot points but the usual warning applies: Viewers who are spoiler squeamish should probably avoid until they’ve seen the movie.

RICHARD ROEPER, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: “This is the 24th Bond film and it ranks solidly in the middle of the all-time rankings, which means it’s still a slick, beautifully photographed, action-packed, international thriller with a number of wonderfully, ludicrously entertaining set pieces, a sprinkling of dry wit, myriad gorgeous women and a classic psycho-villain who is clearly out of his mind but seems to like it that way.

“(Daniel) Craig is on point as Bond. He’s maybe the least refined version of 007, seemingly more comfortable when his suit is covered with soot and dried blood, relishing hand-to-hand combat, kissing women with almost violent passion. Even when he’s wearing a white dinner jacket, it’s as if he’s hoping a thug will barge in and grab him by the throat, just to jump start the night.”

BRUCE KIRKLAND, TORONTO SUN: “Spectre is spectacular. If this new James Bond thriller really is the exclamation mark on the Daniel Craig era as 007, he goes out with an adrenaline rush of action, insight, drama, pathos, brutality, humility, humanity and even the occasional whisper of mischievous comedy.

“The beauty of this Bond movie — which instantly leaps into my Top 10 of all time, and will probably make it into the top three when I digest its true impact — is that it does all the Bondian things we expect so extremely well.”

SCOTT MENDELSON, FORBES.COM: “Poorly mixing nostalgia and newfangled “it’s all connected!” franchise world-building, the stitched-together Spectre will bore the living daylights out of you while threatening to render James Bond a culturally irrelevant relic of the past.

Spectre qualifies as a textbook example of “Be careful what you wish for!” For those longtime fans who have wanted to see something of a return to the broader and campier films that defined the Roger Moore era of the 007 franchise or those who wished to see the 007 franchise adapt to the new world of explicitly continuity-driven franchise filmmaking, well, you got what you wanted. ”

STEPHEN WHITTY, NEWARK STAR-LEDGER: “So what’s left for Bond?

“Well, judging by ‘Spectre,’ to get back to a few basics, and indulge in a fun bit of nostalgia. It’s not the best Bond you’ve ever seen, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a solid 008.

“Although it includes fistfights, gun battles and chases by foot, car, plane and helicopter, there’s nothing flagrantly unbelievable here. The jokiness is toned down, and the grown-up elegance – mostly courtesy of a guest appearance by Monica Bellucci – is heightened.”

STEPHANIE ZACHAREK, VILLAGE VOICE: (I)n the end, Spectre is just too much of a good thing. Though each scene is carefully wrought, there’s little grace, majesty, or romance in the way the pieces are connected. The whole is bumpy and inelegant — entertaining for sure, but hard to love. It’s easy to see how all this aggressive splendor could fall flat: Both Mendes and Craig have said in interviews that they were nervous about being able to top the over-the-topness of 2012’s rich, resonant Skyfall.”

MICHAEL PHILLIPS, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “‘Spectre’ cost nearly $300 million to make, and I suppose it was worth it. It’s a good Bond movie, which will be good enough for many millions of fans. It’s also the longest Bond movie in existence, clocking in at just under 2 1/2 decadent, carefree, flamboyantly destructive hours.

“Of the Daniel Craig 007s, director Sam Mendes’ follow-up to ‘Skyfall’ is not quite up to ‘Skyfall’ or my favorite, ‘Casino Royale.’ But it’s a considerably better evil-quelling instruction manual than ‘Quantum of Solace,’ a movie Craig himself admitted went before the cameras in rough shape, racing against time and the most frightening of cinematic adversaries: a writers strike.”

(UPDATE): PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD:Spectre is no Skyfall, but it will have to do. At a cost of about $250 million and at nearly two and a half hours, this outing does feel a little tired. But maybe that really doesn’t matter a whole lot because for Bond fans we just can’t wait for these movies, and this one is definitely stylish and intense enough to deliver all the required action — and then some. I just wish Craig’s Bond had more of the wit of past Bonds and a little more of the sophistication.”

Roger Ebert’s last 007 film review

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic, died on April 4 at the age of 70. Many publications and Web sites published obituaries about his life and his commentaries about movies.

His final review for a 007 film was, naturally, 2012’s Skyfall. You can read the entire piece BY CLICKING HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

In this 50th year of the James Bond series, with the disappointing “Quantum of Solace” (2008) still in our minds, “Skyfall” triumphantly reinvents 007 in one of the best Bonds ever made. This is a full-blooded, joyous, intelligent celebration of a beloved cultural icon, with Daniel Craig taking full possession of a role he earlier played well in “Casino Royale,” not so well in “Quantum”–although it may not have been entirely his fault. I don’t know what I expected in Bond #23, but certainly not an experience this invigorating.

(snip)

M is not quite ready to retire, and “Skyfall” at last provides a role worthy of Judi Dench, one of the best actors of her generation. She is all but the co-star of the film, with a lot of screen time, poignant dialogue, and a character who is far more complex and sympathetic than we expect in this series.

(snip again)

During the early Bonds, did we ever ask ourselves about 007’s origins in life? The movie even produces a moment designed to inspire love in lifetime Bond fans: A reappearance of the Aston Martin DB5 from “Goldfinger,” which remains in good operating condition, if you can guess what I mean.

Ebert had been the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967 and a lover of movies long before that. For years, he and his rival critic, the Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel, had hosted television shows devoted to movies.

Here’s the opening the Siskel-Ebert At the Movies programs in 1983, 30 years ago, devoted to 007:

Siskel died in 1999 and Ebert penned A TRIBUTE to his long-running adversary in 2009. They may not have been exactly friends but nor were they enemies. Their “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” verdicts on films were the dreams of the marketing departments of film studios. You can read the Sun-Times’s obituary of its long-time film critic by CLICKING HERE.

The balcony is now closed. It’s two thumbs down because we’re not likely to see the likes of either critic again.

Chicago Tribune slideshow on James Bond cars

The Nov. 9 Chicago Tribune includes photos of cars (and other transportation) featured in James Bond movies. They’ve been restored and maintained by the Ian Fleming Foundation under one of its vice presidents, Doug Redenius.

Thanks to the Internets, you don’t have to go to Chicago to see them. Just click click HERE.

And you can read about Doug’s 007 collection in the current issue of HMSS by clicking HERE.