From RKO Radio Pictures in 1946, now on Amazon Prime Video, comes this. It’s Dick Tracy vs. Cueball. Details are from Wikipedia, source of this cast of characters.
- Morgan Conway as Dick Tracy – The unstoppable detective in search of Cueball.
- Dick Wessel as Harry “Cueball” Lake – A murderous diamond thief. Gets his name after his big, round head. He strangles his victims with a braided leather hatband.
- Anne Jeffreys as Tess Trueheart – Dick Tracy’s lovely girlfriend.
- Lyle Latell as Pat Patton – Tracy’s bumbling partner.
- Esther Howard as Filthy Flora, madam of the Dripping Dagger.
- Ian Keith as Vitamin Flintheart – An aged thespian and friend of Tracy.
- Max Wagner as Max – Dripping Dagger bartender.
To appreciate this you need to know the history of cartoonist Chester Gould and his character, master detective Dick Tracy. The strip debuted in 1931, and Gould wrote and drew it until 1972. Others continue the series.
A feature of Gould’s rendition was his litany of iconic characters, especially the villains. A few I recall are:
- Flattop, so named because his little head was actually flat on top
- Pruneface, so named because his face was a mass of wrinkles
- Mumbles, you could never understand what he was saying
I was amazed when I checked that so many Dick Tracy movies are out there. This is not Amazon’s sole offering. Stand by for more.
The title sequence introduces the Chester Gould character and his signature square jaw. For decades Dick Tracy was synonymous with sleuthing. I recall when I was serving aboard an aircraft carrier if you made an obvious remark the response was, “No shit, Dick Tracy. You leave your squad car parked on the pier?”
Anyhow, this is a straight plot, and I will not recap it. Ogle the screen shots and view the movie if you are interested.
Yeah, we meet Cueball. I’m guessing the nickname comes from his closely cropped head.
The title shot dissolves into the scowling face of Cueball, himself, fresh out of prison and about to resume committing dastardly deeds.
He confronts a diamond dealer, freshly arriving on a ship with a packet of gems. The man resists, and Cueball murders him. Strangles him with a leather strap of some sort.
It’s almost party time for detective Dick Tracy, but the phone call reaches him. He goes to investigate the murder.
He and his partner Pat pay a visit on the dead man’s employer, a gem dealer. In the comics Tracy’s partner was Sam Catchem. Pat’s a good stand-in. Brave, resourceful, but not bright enough to shade Tracy. Hint, the cute blond is in on the jewel heist.
And we meet two other accomplices, including the gnomish diamond cutter and the greedy employee.
The employee stalls when Cueball demands the $10,000 that was promised. Think about this. Cueball stole $300,000 in diamonds, and now he wants $10,000 or else he will not hand them over.
Tracy bears down on the suspects.
Cueball needs a place to lay low. He goes to Filthy Flora, proprietor of the Dripping Dagger saloon. Flora knows about the stolen gems, and she demands $500 a night to hide Cueball. We soon learn it’s a bad idea to try to shake down Cueball. As the plot progresses he murders people right and left.
While Cueball is away, Flora ransacks his hiding place, finding the jewels. Cueball comes along in time to notice what Flora is doing. He demands the jewels and finishes up strangling Flora. This is funny. Flora runs a saloon. Here she offers Cueball a drink on the house. But it’s Cueball’s bottle. A lot of this does not make sense.
There are some kids over at Tracy’s house, and one of them has a hatband much like the tool used to strangle those several people. A quick check. The address is the state pen. The trail leads to Cueball.
The hunt goes out for Cueball, and Tracy chases him to the railroad switching yard, where the two exchange shots. Cueball gets his foot trapped between two rails, and he has to watch as a locomotive bears down on him. It’s the end of Cueball.
And it’s the end of the movie.
Fairly decent performances, especially Dick Wessel as Cueball. From Wikipedia:
The movie is also on YouTube. Here’s a link.