For Hicksflicks.com, Oct. 4, 2013

Dick Van Dyke, after his hugely successful eponymous sitcom, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-66), which began when he was 36 and ran for five years, and the monster success of his first movie, "Mary Poppins" (1964), seemed to be on the gold-paved road to movie stardom. But it was not to be.

In fact, Van Dyke made a lot of mediocre choices in the movies that followed "Mary Poppins," and his star fell pretty fast. So he returned to television with the sitcom "The New Dick Van Dyke Show" (1971-74), then the variety show "Van Dyke & Company" (1976), followed by a brief stint on the final season of "The Carol Burnett Show" (1977), and finally, yet another very brief sitcom, "The Van Dyke Show" (1988), but he just couldn't get his mojo back on TV either.

Until 1993, that is, when Van Dyke was 67 and had a hit with, of all things, a medical murder-mystery show, "Diagnosis: Murder," a hit that ran even longer than his first show, eight full seasons, followed by TV movies, through 2002

But if you comb through Van Dyke's many movie flops, there are a few surprises, not the least of which is the cult favorite "The Comic" (1969), written and directed by Van Dyke's longtime pal — and creator of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" — Carl Reiner.

"The Comic" tells the sad story of a down-on-his luck former silent-movie clown, whose ego and abrasive attitude cost him any possibility of a career revival, despite encouragement from his longtime, very patient pal and former sidekick (Mickey Rooney).

The result is an uneven melodrama, but it is arguably the greatest "dramatic" performance of Van Dyke's career. And there are many wonderful black-and-white sequences of faux silent comedies that allow Van Dyke's talent for pantomime to be utilized to its fullest.

"The Comic" makes its DVD debut this week on the Sony Choice Collection manufacture-on-demand label.