• 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 Meets Gruesome

TITLE: Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome

YEAR: 1947

GENRE: Superhero/Comics and Crime/Film Noir

Now the RKO Pictures had the original Dick Tracy actor back in the fold and a director who was actually creating Dick Tracy films rather than run-of-the-mill film noir, it was time for the studio to open the wallet a bit and fill out the cast with well known names. Tracy’s love interest Tess Trueheart was filled with horror scream queen Anne Gwynne, who starred with Bela Lugosi in The Black Cat, John Carradine in House Of Frankenstein, and Buster Crabbe in Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe. In addition, who better to bring in as the main villain fighting Tracy than horror legend Boris Karloff, the original monster in the 1931 classic Frankenstein. These decisions by the RKO executives turned out to be smart, as Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome was the best entry in the four-film series.

Gang leader Gruesome (played by Karloff) and his assistant X-Ray (Shelton Knaggs) discover that a nerve gas created by State U. Physicist Dr. A. Tomic (Milton Parsons) can freeze people literally in their tracks and decide to use the chemical to perform bank robberies. The gas works like a charm, and the unsavory bunch begin to line their pockets with stolen goods. Gumshoe detective Dick Tracy (played by Ralph Byrd) and assistant Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) become interested in the unique robberies and are hot on the trail of the gang. With the help of Dr. Tomic’s assistant I.M. Learned (June Clayworth), Tracy learns of the chemical and prepares for a showdown with the devious duo before they can rob another bank. However, the crimes have now escalated to murder and Tracy must act fast to end the crime spree.

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome continues the ever so slow cycle of giving this series more of a comic strip approach that would appear to its core demographic of teen and pre-teen boys. Karloff is excellent as usual as the creepy, disturbing gangster and looks absolutely menacing at times as he hides in the shadows and tosses evidence and cadavers into a furnace to hide his tracks. Knaggs (who also appeared in Dick Tracy’s Dilemma) is also surprisingly good as Gruesome’s assistant and displays a combination of fear of Gruesome and menace against just about everybody else and is effective in the role. The play on names famous in the comic strip is finally displayed in full force—there is college professor A. Tomic, lab assistant I.M. Learned, and taxidermist V. Stuffum—and the cheese factor is a welcome addition to a series that should have incorporated this from the beginning. The film also has several great comedic scenes that gives the film a more entertaining feel than the straight man approach of the first two films: the scene at one of the bank robberies where Tess Trueheart (Gwynne) pretends to be frozen while snooping around the bank is entertaining, plus the scene in the taxidermy office where Patton is “held hostage” by a stuffed bear is comical. The best one-liner in the series is also uttered when Patton expresses frustration about Gruesome’s elusiveness when he exclaims “I tell you, if I didn’t know better I’d swear we were doing business with Boris Karloff!” Also, Tracy is portrayed as the beyond reproach hero and Patton is presented in a more bumbling approach, which is more faithful to the source material. The results are a more entertaining and fun production that combines the action and excitement with the occasional light humor missing in the first two films.

Despite releasing the best of the four films, many die-hard fans were already turned off from disappointing previous efforts and as a result the series was finally declared dead and buried by RKO. A short-lived ABC-TV series starring Byrd (who unfortunately was now typecast as the famous detective) aired from 1951-52 when a massive heart attack prematurely ended Byrd’s life and therefore the series. Latell was also typecast as the not-so-bright assistant for the rest of his acting career and played mostly uncredited roles in B-films until he passed away in 1967. Gwynne had her best roles behind her by this time although she did star in the memorable ultra low budget Teenage Monster in 1958. Other than a couple Saturday morning efforts and a failed television pilot, Dick Tracy did not appear on celluloid for almost 40 years after the ABC show until 1990 when Warren Beatty made the more famous film entry Dick Tracy. Comic book artist turned director Frank Miller is developing a new Dick Tracy film in more of a Sin City vibe that should see the light of day sometime around 2014. In the meantime, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome is an entertaining entry in the gumshoe’s legacy and should be watched by fans of the strip as well as other comic book geeks who understand that super powers does not necessarily means being able to fly or bend steel girders with the mind. There is a boxed set called The Dick Tracy Collection that contains all four films for those who want to spend an afternoon watching the entire series.

* * * 1/2

–Mark

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