“Penis Tracy” was disappointing relative to expectations in 1990, but that just implies we can now declare it an underrated cult classic. This ambitious adjustment of the 1930s-era hard-boiled investigator cartoon had a budget plan of nearly $50 million and was loaded with huge film stars like Warren Beatty, Madonna, and Al Pacino– all to give the surreal world of the titular yellow duster-clad flatfoot to life.
James Caan has a rather minor role in this enormous ensemble filled with legends in cartoonish prosthetics. He plays Spaldoni, among the many warring gangsters occupying the hyper-colored art-deco underworld. Tracy wishes to bust Pacino’s organized crime head honcho, Big Kid, and to do that he gets knotted with Madonna’s trendy take on a femme fatale.
In retrospection, the great thing about “Penis Tracy” is that its strong visual now seems like a template for contemporary graphic novel adaptations like “Sin City” and even “The Watchmen.” Alongside Tim Burton’s fanciful “Batman” in 1989, these were the first 2 films to choose that excessive comics noir aesthetic. All the “Penis Tracy” sets are useful, and the whole motion picture is awash in only 4 colors borrowed from Chester Gould’s cartoon that was initially printed exclusively in red, green, purple, and yellow, to conserve money at journalisms.