Lester Abbott (Trevor Bardette) is strangled aboard the ocean liner the S.S. Palamar and a fortune in diamonds is stolen. Lester was a representative for diamond merchant Jules Sparkle (Harry Cheshire). Dick Tracy (Morgan Conway) and his partner Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) are assigned to the case.
Tracy finds Sparkle waiting at his office with his secretary Mona Clyde (Rita Corday) and his diamond cutter Simon Little (Byron Foulger). Tracy believes that someone that works for Sparkle and knows about the diamonds may be responsible for the theft. Tracy has Pat follow Little while Tracy follows Mona. Mona heads to an antique shop owned by Percival Priceless (Douglas Walton). Tracy now needs to keep tabs on him as well.
Meanwhile the man who killed Abbott, Cueball (Dick Wessel) is looking for a place to hide. He ends up at a dive called the Dripping Dagger that’s owned by Filthy Flora (Esther Howard). Cueball’s IQ is not exactly high in the double digits area. He was hired to steal the diamonds but he begins strangling anyone he thinks may be trying to cheat him before he gets any money from them. When Tracy figures out who Cueball is and that he is behind the murders Tracy puts out an all-points bulletin for the ex-con.
In the meantime, Tracy sets up a sting for Mona and Patton, the remaining gang that instrumented the theft. Tess poses as a rich socialite looking to purchase some unusual diamonds. Unfortunately Cueball learns that Mona and Patton plan on cheating him. Cueball kidnaps Tess hoping to cut out the middlemen, so to speak. Tracy’s sting has backfired.
“Dick Tracy vs Cueball” was released in 1946 and was directed by Gordon Douglas. It is a crime film and is the second of four films done by RKO Radio Pictures that featured the comic strip hero. The movie is based on characters created by Chester Gould. This was the second and last time Morgan Conway played Tracy and Anne Jeffreys played Tess.
There isn’t as much of a noir influence in this film as there was in the first Dick Tracy movie. It’s still a fun and light weight family film. I’m not sure if Tracy really needed to do anything on this case. It appears that Cueball is his own worst enemy as well as the enemy of the diamond thieves. Until Tess got involved he was single handedly disposing of the entire gang.
In the Dick Tracy comics and films the villains have unusual names such as Cueball, Gruesome and Splitface. Some of the regular characters also have unusual monikers as well. Names such as Jules Sparkle, the diamond dealer, Tess Trueheart, Tracy’s girlfriend and Percival Priceless, the antiques dealer. One of Tracy’s undercover guys is called Vitamin Flintheart.
This is Vitamin Flintheart’s first appearance in film. He is played by Ian Keith. Vitamin is an actor who is known for downing lots of vitamins. He is a friend of Tracy’s but has a tendency to get himself into not so good situations. Still he comes through for Tracy when needed. His acting skills come in handy from time to time.