[box cover]

Dead Reckoning

A badly beaten Capt. Warren 'Rip' Murdock (Humphrey Bogart) wanders into a Catholic church, looking to tell his story to somebody. Fortunately, the former WWII paratrooper finds Father Logan (James Bell), another former jumper, and it's to the padre that he begins to weave his extraordinary tale. This opening scene of Dead Reckoning (1947) then leads to a pulpy bit of postwar Hollywood noir that is far from the best of the genre, but still an enjoyable spin on a rainy afternoon. After the war, Rip and his best buddy, Sgt. Johnny Drake (William Prince) are returned to America, and they are to immediately head for Washington, D.C., where Johnny is to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. However, Johnny doesn't want the medal, and he unexpectedly jumps the train. It doesn't make sense to Rip, who then realizes that Johnny has something to hide. After some digging, he learns Johnny changed his name in 1943, and that he was accused of murder in the southern town of Gulf City, where he was caught up with local casino owner Martinelli (Morris Carnovsky) and sultry nightclub singer Coral Chandler (Lizabeth Scott). Arriving in Gulf City, Rip thinks he has a bead on his friend, only to find Johnny the next day in the city morgue, charred to a crisp from a dubious auto crash. It's only a matter of time before Rip confronts both Martinelli and Coral, trying to determine if Johnny was guilty of murder, and why somebody wanted him dead.

Often categorized as a film noir, Dead Reckoning actually is more a B-film with noir stylings, if not totally irredeemable characters. Certainly, the slick city streets and nighttime settings lend to the thick atmosphere, as well as the shady characters Rip encounters. But Rip is not a hollow antihero, and the story plays out as gumshoe yarn much like The Maltese Falcon (1941). Bogart relays much of the story in voice-over, which allows for some great lines (Martinelli's large house "was built on hot priorities and cold dice"). He takes a beating from Martinelli's goon Krause (Marvin Miller), who turns on the radio and says "The rest is done to dance time, friend." (Think Q. Tarantino saw this one at some point?) And while Lizabeth Scott is no Lauren Bacall, she still manages to be an effective, husky-throated femme fatale. At one point Bogie delivers a great monologue, feeling burnt and betrayed, insisting "When a man's friend dies, he's supposed to do something about it" — a line shoplifted from Falcon, of course. But when it comes to genre potboilers, second-rate Bogart is as good as first-rate anything else. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Dead Reckoning features a solid transfer from a black-and-white source-print that shows some age, but is still very watchable, with clear audio in monaural DD 2.0. Three advertising stills, trailer gallery. Keep-case.
—Robert Wederquist

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