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DEAD RECKONING (director: John Cromwell; screenwriters: Oliver H.P. Garrett/Alan Rivkin/Steve Fisher/story by Gerald Drayson Adams and Sidney Biddell; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editor: Gene Havlick; music: Marlin Skiles; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Rip Murdock), Lizabeth Scott (Coral Chandler), Morris Carnovsky (Martinelli), William Prince (Johnny Drake), Charles Cane (Lt. Kincaid), George Chandler (Louis Ord), Ruby Dandridge (Hyacinth), Wallace Ford (McGee), William Forrest (Lt. Col. Simpson), James Bell (Father Logan), Marvin Miller (Krause); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sidney Biddell; Columbia Pictures; 1947)
“A bleak crime melodrama that is too complexly plotted for it own good.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This second-rate Bogart vehicle has the star depart from his usual tough-guy role, though he manages to get into plenty of the action. It plays as a bleak crime melodrama that is too complexly plotted for it own good. A perplexed Bogart informally confesses to a priest why he’s on-the-run from both the police and a couple of hoods. The story is told from that point on in flashback. There’s some fun in watching the Bogart character romance the husky-voiced femme fatale character played by Lizbeth Scott, but not enough fun to overcome how unconvincing is the sinister plot. It’s based on an unpublished story by Gerald Drayson Adams and Sidney Biddell. Director John Cromwell (“Algiers”/”The Racket”) keeps the dialogue hard-boiled and the leading characters shady, as he paints the noir film with a postwar sensibility.

Rip Murdock and Johnny Drake are ex-paratroopers en route to Washington where Johnny, a hero sergeant, is to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor and Rip, his captain, a Distinguished Service Medal. Johnny’s upset that the award will call attention to him and disappears from the train. Rip goes back to Johnny’s Southern hometown of Gulf City and learns from newspaper stories in 1943 that Johnny obviously used an alias to enlist and is wanted as Johnny Preston for murdering a rich old man named Chandler, whose wife Coral Chandler he’s in love with.

Rip discovers his friend in the morgue, killed in what’s labeled a traffic accident. He stays in town to investigate if his friend really is a murderer, something he can’t believe. Rip says “When a guy’s pal is killed, he ought to do something about it.” Suspecting Coral is the real murderer of the crime Johnny is accused of, Rip questions her and winds up romantically involved with the upstart lounge singer. A series of clues lead Johnny to investigate the gangster owner of a casino/nightclub, Martinelli, as he finds there’s a link between Coral and the gangster involving blackmail and romance.

The thriller will return from the point of the flashback to clear up all the plot twists, as the Bogart character is not viewed as a hero but someone who is compelled out of guilt to tell the story of his doomed noir romance. Adding color to the script, Bogart’s paratrooper jump call of ‘Geronimo’ is exercised each time he jumps into a web of circumstances he can’t comprehend. Bogart’s sleuthing, where he’s both the hunter and the hunted, leads not only to an inconceivable romance with Scott but a typical Hollywood way of taking care of the baddies.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”