• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Dick Tracy, Detective

TITLE: Dick Tracy, Detective

YEAR: 1945

GENRE: Superhero/Comics and Crime/Film Noir

AKA: Dick Tracy

Thanks to the CGI revolution there has been a significant amount of superhero themed movies since 2002 to the present, and some film historians have called this era a new golden age in comic-themed films. The truth is that this would not be the first time that a significant amount of genre-themed films ruled the theaters. From the mid-1930’s until 1950 there were a significant amount of comic and pulp novel themed films: numerous serials starring Zorro, The Phantom, Superman, The Green Hornet, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Batman as well as almost a dozen jungle films starring Tarzan flooded the theaters and filled seats with eager teen boys looking for a sense of wonder and adventure. Legendary comic strip gumshoe detective Dick Tracy was a major part of this early comic book to celluloid movement: four memorable multi-chapter serials were created by Republic Pictures, and the rights to make Tracy feature-length films was purchased by RKO Pictures shortly after the release of the last serial Dick Tracy vs. Crime, Inc. Dick Tracy, Detective was the first of the four RKO movies with the detective and was the weakest offering of the four films.

Homicide detective Dick Tracy (played by Morgan Conway) is in the midst of an investigation of three deaths where the victims are only connected by the way they were murdered: slashed with a surgical implement. A note on a female victim demands money and is signed by a mysterious criminal named Splitface (Mike Mazurki), who becomes Tracy’s main suspect. Through the help of some clues, Tracy discovers that twelve more deaths are about to happen as Splitface is murdering the jury and alternate jurors who sent him to prison. Assisted by his sidekick Pat Patton (Lyle Latell), Tracy works to capture Splitface and bring him to justice, but the pursuit becomes personal when his girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Anne Jeffreys) and son Junior (Mickey Kuhn) are kidnapped by Splitface.

The biggest problem with Dick Tracy, Detective was that the director William Berke (director of a lot of B-grade westerns in the 1940’s and 50’s) played Dick Tracy, Detective as straight as humanly possible and attempted to turn Tracy into more of a film noir star. Tracy looks like a classic gumshoe and does not have his trademark trench coat (nor his two-way wrist walkie-talkie, but that did not appear in the comic strip until 1946 and strange enough was not used in the later films either), and the rest of the city does not have that trademark comic feel that was done so well in the Chester Gould strip. The characters also lack the panache of Gould’s creation, especially Splitface who is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill film noir thug that just happens to have a major scar on his face, and the only character really playing with forensic science was Junior who was more interested in solving crimes such as who took food from the family kitchen (it was Tracy). The stunts are especially bad as the fight scenes lack any realism including an obvious mannequin thrown down a flight of steps. There is no intentional humor in any part of the film which was a mistake considering that these films were low budget (well under $100,000 each) and designed for Saturday matinee viewing by rowdy, popcorn munching teenage boys.

Like the 1990’s Batman films, RKO continually hired and fired new staff for the Dick Tracy series, but in this case the changes were improvements and the Dick Tracy films perked up with time. Kuhn was the first to be released; this was a chapter is another tragic child actor’s career that sank when puberty made him not as cute as his appearance in Gone With The Wind and Kuhn was a Hollywood has-been by his 25th birthday. Fans and theater owners were also riled up that the original Tracy (Ralph Byrd) was intentionally replaced by RKO (supposedly because Conway worked cheaper) but Conway was able to survive for one more feature. Dick Tracy, Detective has its place as the beginning of a series that did improve, but it is not a stylistic or faithful effort. Die-hard fans that want to learn more about comic strip history will find Dick Tracy, Detective to be a historical early attempt at comic movie glory, but the rest of the fans will want to stick with the later entries of this series.

* *

–Mark

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