DICK TRACY VS. CUEBALL (1946)
Article #1332 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-6-2004
Posting Date: 4-5-2005
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Featuring Morgan Conway, Anne Jeffreys, Lyle Latell
Dick Tracy tries to solve a series of murders that revolve around the theft of some rare diamonds. The killer is a bald ex-convict known as Cueball.
Fantastic aspects: Other than that Cueball strangles people with his hatband (which gives the movie only a slight tinge of horror), there are none. This movie was included in a reference book that had the habit of including all movies from a series in which only a few movies of the series actually had more pronounced fantastic elements.
Before “The Golden Turkey Awards”, the Medveds had put out an earlier book about bad cinema called “The 50 Worst Films of All Time” (this title may be approximate). DICK TRACY VS. CUEBALL was one of the movies singled out for this unfortunate award, and though the movie is no classic, it certainly doesn’t rate that low. The main thrust of their argument for its inclusion was the extreme sadism of Cueball. There is a certain amount of truth to this point; the murder scenes are a bit too nasty for what is essentially supposed to be light-hearted fare. Still, I don’t think it sinks the movie completely; in fact, I found the movie quite entertaining.
I’ve seen two of the Dick Tracy movies so far and three of the serials, and quite frankly, I like the movies better. I think it’s because the movies actually tried to get a bit of the flavor of the comic strip into them; the serials just plugged a comic strip character into standard serial plots. The comic strip sense is strong here; there is a jeweler named Jules Sparkle, there is a tavern called The Dripping Dagger (complete with a great little animated neon sign to go with it), and it is run by a character named Filthy Flora who allows criminals to hide out there. Dick Wessel’s Cueball is not the smartest crook on the block (actually, he’s pretty dumb), but his brutality makes him a bit of a threat. Ian Keith has a field day as the pill-popping and florid Vitamin Flintheart, and any movie that gives us the cadaverous Milton Parsons (even as an antique dealer, he can’t escape association with undertaking; he ends up serving a man intent on furnishing his crypt) and the photogenically ugly Skelton Knaggs (talk about an actor who would have been great as an ugly villain in a Dick Tracy movie) can’t be all bad.