Dead Reckoning (1947) John Cromwell
Columbia DVD – interlibrary loan
Rip Murdock (Humphrey Bogart) stealthily slips and slides through city streets and in desperation, ducks into a church. Once there he corners a priest to tell him his story before the people he’s running away from can catch up to him. It seems that Murdock and his paratrooper buddy Johnny Drake (William Prince) have attracted a lot of attention on their return from WWII. When the train stops and the press want to photograph and interview Drake for his medal-earning bravery during the war, Drake runs away and hops another train headed in the other direction, leaving Murdock alone and confused. Later, Murdock learns that Drake was killed in an auto accident in Drake’s hometown of Gulf City. Suspecting that someone’s hiding something, Murdock goes Gulf City to investigate.
While there, Murdock learns that Drake wasn’t completely honest about his past. For one thing, there were shenanigans in Gulf City involving Drake and another man’s wife, Coral Chandler (Lizabeth Scott). Murdock tries to get the truth out of Chandler, but isn’t sure if she’s worthy of his (or anyone’s) trust.
“Where have we met?” Chandler asks.
“In another guy’s dream,” Murdock responds.
Dead Reckoning is an absolute rock-solid film noir for about half of its running time with Bogart delivering another great performance (and good voice-over narration recounting his story to the priest), but the film’s biggest problem is in its familiarity. Not only do we get lines that are so similar to The Maltese Falcon (“You know, you do awful good,” and “When a guy’s pal is killed, he ought to do something about it”), we also get scenes that are more than a little similar to The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not and other Bogart films. Lizabeth Scott (in only her third film) is good, but not as good as she would be in later performances. Dead Reckoning is good, sometimes very good, but it’s a film we really want to be great. Unfortunately, it’s not quite there.
Photos: Not on Blu-ray