Dead Reckoning

Premiered Jan. 2, 1947: DEAD RECKONING, starring Humphrey Bogart, Lizabeth Scott, and Morris Carnovsky. Directed by John Cromwell (Algiers, Caged, The Racket). Bogart and his Army buddy (William Prince) are bound for Washington DC to receive the Distinguished Service Cross and Congressional Medal of Honor, respectively. DeadReckoningWhen the press wants to take some photos of the two war heroes at a train stop, Prince suddenly runs out and disappears. Determined to find out what happened to his buddy, Bogart follows a trail of clues that lead to Prince’s pre-war address in Gulf City, where he uncovers a tangled tale of murder and deceit involving a nightclub and casino owner (Morris Carnovsky), his psychotic henchman (Marvin Miller), and a beautiful woman (Lizabeth Scott) with whom Prince was madly in love.  This is a formulaic meat and potatoes noir that ticks all the boxes on the noir checklist: it has a tough-talking, war veteran hero, a story told in flashbacks and voice-over, a beautiful but deceitful femme fatale, a classy refined villain, a menacingly violent thug, an ever-present homicide detective (Charles Cane), multiple murders, betrayal, paranoia, and a not-so happy ending. This is nothing that hasn’t been seen before, and quite frankly, executed more elegantly in other films. But it does have Bogart, and that counts for a lot. His inimitable presence infuses the film with a visceral credibility that makes it all worthwhile, even if his cookie-cutter one-liners sometimes seem like they could’ve been rejects from similar films of superior quality, namely The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Scott, one of the female icons of film noir, makes her third film appearance in Dead Reckoning. We’re big fans of Lizabeth Scott, but it seems like she never quite finds her footing in this film. Perhaps it’s because the filmmakers so obviously tried to mold her into a replica of Lauren Bacall for this role, right down to her hairstyle, husky voice, and sultry attitude. In one early scene, Prince even calls attention to her low voice (a notable trademark of Bacall’s) when describing Scott to Bogart! Although there’s nothing particularly original or remarkable about this film, it nevertheless is a solid little noir, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s the movie equivalent of comfort food, ideally suited for a rainy Sunday afternoon, for that familiar sense of cinematic satisfaction that only a classic black and white film can provide. If you set your expectations at that level, you should be quite happy with this serviceable noir thriller. We give Dead Reckoning 3 out of 5 fedoras.

3 Fedoras

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