• 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’s Dilemma

TITLE: Dick Tracy’s Dilemma

YEAR: 1947

GENRE: Superhero/Comics and Crime/Film Noir

Even though the original actor who played Dick Tracy in the 1930’s serials was back in the trench coat again RKO Pictures still made some adjustments to the gumshoe franchise that it was banking on to bring the studio back to prominence. Dick Tracy vs. Cueball director Gordon Douglas was replaced with John Rawlins, veteran director of Dead End Kids and Sherlock Holmes films, to helm the franchise. It was a tumultuous time at RKO because the corporation was losing money and not generating hits such as Citizen Kane and King Kong any longer, so the pressure was on for Rawlins to create a quality film that would fill seats and most of all make money. Dick Tracy’s Dilemma, the third entry in the franchise, was a definite step in the right direction as the quality of the franchise improved.

Legendary detective Dick Tracy (played by Ralph Byrd) and assistant Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) are off to investigate a robbery of a good amount of fur coats. The Honesty Insurance Company, the insurer of the robbed Flawless Furs Company, is upset that Flawless just took out an insurance policy on robbery and believes that fraud is in the air. Tracy has suspicions of his own and requests one of his snitches Sightless (Jimmy Conlin) to keep his eye out at the blinking Skull Bar, but when Sightless ends up brutally murdered Tracy knows that this is much more than a simple robbery. With the help of master thespian Vitamin Flintheart (Ian Keith), Tracy learns that a ruthless hook for a hand gangster aptly named The Claw (Jack Lambert) is behind the fur heist and must be stopped before he kills again.

Rawlins did a good job with steering the Dick Tracy franchise and Dick Tracy’s Dilemma displays his expertise. Byrd is a much better Tracy than previous actor Morgan Conway as he is a better actor and has that copyrighted square jaw, and the return of Keith as the eccentric thespian who investigates Tracy’s cases is a welcome addition. The scene where Vitamin chases away a person at Tracy’s door with the line “Mr. Tracy buys his fruit from a reputable dealer” was especially funny. Sightless is also an excellent character that adds a good amount of humor as a “blind man” who spies for Tracy. The Claw was one of the main villain in the Dick Tracy comic strip at the time, and Lambert’s portrayal was genuinely chilling. Also the play on words for names of characters—Sightless as a blind snitch, Peter Premium as an insurance executive, and of course love interest Tess Trueheart—gives the film a more genuine feel for the comic strip. The sign of the Blinking Skull Bar—complete with a cranium that blinks—was a cool touch. Although the series was definitely moving in the right direction, Dick Tracy’s Dilemma still was trying to be more film noir than comic strip when it should have been more of a balance. Plus the film did have a different feel, as the Junior character was gone for good and Tess Trueheart (played by Kay Christopher in her first credited role) was used as little more than window dressing and was not involved in the plot in any substantial way.

RKO still made a few changes after this film was released to the cast as Keith and Christopher did not return: Keith moved on to be a pioneer in early television and played Rameses I in The Ten Commandments, and Christopher like many beauty pageant winners turned actresses of that era disappeared after another younger, prettier face was available although she was a third-tier performer in the Gasoline Alley film series from 1951-2. The best of the series was yet to be released, but Dick Tracy’s Dilemma was a much better entry in the franchise than the first two films and is worth a view for comic fans that have appreciation for the older entries.

* * *

–Mark

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