Saturday 29 September 2007

Dead Reckoning (1947) John Cromwell

It's early Sunday morning and Bogie is on the run from the police, but he finds a priest who was in the service and tells him (and us) his story. He's very much in private dick mode, and nobody was ever better than Bogie as a private dick, though he's only investigating through circumstance here, not by profession. He's Captain Rip Murdock, a paratrooper whose fellow serviceman runs away because he's about to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Murdock follows him but finds only his
trail and his background.

Sgt Drake was really Johnny Preston, who had signed up early by faking his birth certificate. Mere months before that he'd even involved in a murder case, as the bad guy, and yet those who testified against him seem to be his best friends. These friends also become Murdock's friends in finding out why his colleague quickly ended up burnt to a crisp on a morgue slab, but they start turning up dead themselves.

This is a good film, no mistake about it, with Bogie on top form as investigating Captain Rip, but there are downsides and they're very apparent. Being a film noir, we have a femme fatale, this time called Dusty Chandler and played by Lizabeth Scott. She does exactly what she should but the problem is that she was obviously hired because she's Lauren Bacall with a different nose and an overbite, more like an animated Bacall action figure than a different actress. I wonder how deep and husky her voice really was, because I haven't seen her in much else and don't remember. Morris Carnovsky is fine as the bad guy, Martinelli, but it's hard to watch him without picturing him played by someone like Paul Henreid.

It's Bogart's show though, because at this point in time he could do nothing remotely wrong. Beyond him, it's the story that shines brightest, if that isn't a really bad choice of simile for a film noir. It's clever and told well, but it's laid on a little thick. I don't know the names responsible, though I've seen a number of films they've written. It's amazing just how much great writing went on in Hollywood in the forties while noir was the in style, and just how much everyone seemed to forget how it worked. This one's strong and it's acted well, not just by Bogart and Scott and Carnovsky, but by an excellent supporting cast that includes Charles Cane and Marvin Miller.

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