• 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.

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Dick Tracy vs. Cueball

TITLE: Dick Tracy vs. Cueball

YEAR: 1946

GENRE: Superhero/Comics and Crime/Film Noir

Back in 1945 RKO Pictures was pumping out a slew of low-grade film noir pictures and hemorrhaging red ink. Their Dick Tracy franchise had a faltering first step, and in order to combat this potential disaster the executives at the company handed the keys to the RKO version of the Cadillac to director Gordon Douglas (who later directed the sci-fi classic Them! in 1954) who delivered the recent Z-grade hit Zombies On Broadway starring Bela Lugosi. Douglas used one of the most popular villains at the time to create Dick Tracy vs. Cueball, a better effort than the first film but still lacking most elements of the comic strip.

Cueball (played by Dick Wessel) is a career small-time hood who gets his money the old fashioned way: helps some criminals steal some money, then kill his partners and keep the take for himself. This time the thug hits it big with a $300,000 diamond heist, and he hides out at the Dripping Dagger Saloon courtesy of owner Filthy Flora (Esther Howard). Detective and all-around workaholic Dick Tracy (Morgan Conway) and assistant detective Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) are investigating Cueball, partly because of the diamonds but also because he is a loose cannon who likes to strangle anybody who gets in his way. Tracy’s girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Anne Jeffreys) volunteers to act undercover as a jewelry buyer to bring Cueball out into the open, and Tracy reluctantly agrees to put his love in danger. Regrettably Cueball smells the double-cross and holds Tess hostage, and it is up to Tracy to save the day.

Dick Tracy vs. Cueball is better than its predecessor. The Dripping Dagger Saloon is an entertaining place that would fit the comic strip well, including a horde of drunken criminals and other degenerates and a neon sign complete with a glowing knife saturated with blood. Another plus was the introduction of the flamboyant character Vitamin Flintheart (Ian Keith, who also appeared in The Ten Commandments and It Came From Beneath The Sea) who serves as an undercover spy for Tracy; his scene as an eccentric millionaire shopping for décor for his mausoleum “so I can sleep soundly” is particularly entertaining and steals the show. Wessel plays a quality villain and does a good job looking scary although his acting skills are not displayed well here. Tracy also finally gets his signature trench coat. Despite all this, the story is still played too straight to the vest and is not as fun as expected. In addition, the ending is a bit hokey and was not a good fit to wrap up the story.

After Dick Tracy vs. Cueball RKO took out the broom and Conway, Jeffreys, and lesser used Junior replacement Jimmy Crane were replaced: Conway was delegated to the lowest rung of the RKO productions ladder and only made one more film after his service as the leading detective; Jeffreys had a long lasting career deep into the new millennium although she denied being in the first two Dick Tracy films during an interview and completely forgot that she starred in these; and Crane never had much of a career as a child actor and disappeared from Hollywood within a few years. Theater owner pressures to restore the glories of the 1930’s serials were high, so RKO went back to Ralph Byrd, the Dick Tracy from the serials, to reprise his role as the world famous gumshoe.  The series would move on and create the best films in the series, and although Dick Tracy vs. Cueball is a better effort than the first film it is still not a totally acceptable effort. The potential for the series was starting to show but yet needed time for development.

* * 1/2


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