DEAD RECKONING —-great title, not much of a movie. Directed by John Cromwell, its one of fully three dozen crime & passion escapades into the shadowy world of film noir that saturated screens in 1947. Over-written by Steve Fisher and Oliver H.P.Garrett, who kitchen-sink a disconsolate Humphrey Bogart with enough cliche material to stall a Studebaker (that’s a car, for you youngsters). Slim, sparkle-eyed sizzler Lizabeth Scott is the femme fatale decked out in Jean Louis costumes to slink in and abstruse attitudes to unravel.
“I hated every part of her but I couldn’t figure her out yet. I wanted to see her the way Johnny had. I wanted to hear that song of hers with Johnny’s ears. Maybe she was alright. And maybe Christmas comes in July. But I didn’t believe it.”
When his “blonde“-besotted wartime pal Johnny is bumped off in the southern town of ‘Gulf City’ (take your pick, Florida or Alabama), ex-paratrooper ‘Rip Murdock’ (Bogie) finds ‘Coral’ (Scott), the dame the late Johnny was Section 8 over, and she’s tied in with casino owner ‘Martinelli’ (Morris Carnovsky), too damn suave for his own good. On hand to enforce things is sneering psycho thug ‘Krause’ (Marvin Miller).
The hard-boiled retorts and buckets of irony feel forced. They might read well, but as spoken they’re too unreal to accept and care about. It’s one of Bogart’s weakest performances; he rushes things like he doesn’t give a hoot (he didn’t), and the voiceover stuff is laughable. Not the film to start your Bogart education with.
24-year-old Scott’s third film role basically cemented the kind of steely, smoke-voiced lust object she’d play in most of her 22 pictures. She doesn’t have it down yet–the histrionics are less than stellar, though the daft script would tax a vet.
Still, there may some present-day goad value inherent when Rip philosophizes “You know, the trouble with women is they ask too many questions. They should spend all their time just being beautiful.” Not one to ‘play the sap’ he doubles down with “You know, I’ve been thinking: women ought to come capsule-sized, about four inches high. When a man goes out of an evening, he just puts her in his pocket and takes her along with him, and that way he knows exactly where she is. He gets to his favorite restaurant, he puts her on the table and lets her run around among the coffee cups while he swaps a few lies with his pals…” Don’t try this at home.
With Charles Kane (flummoxed flatfoot), Wallace Ford (good as a cheerful safecracker), William Prince (pretty bad as Johnny), George Chandler (bartender with limited life span), Ruby Dandridge (Dorothy Dandridge’s mother, as a maid), Ray Teal (one of his umpteen cops). The gross was $4,700,000, lagging in 74th place for the year. 100 minutes.
* Noir, noir, everywhere a noir: 1947s woe payload spoke to the postwar deflation of spirit. The famous ones: Brute Force, Out Of The Past, A Double Life, Nightmare Alley, Dark Passage (Bogie), Boomerang, Odd Man Out, Lady In The Lake, Crossfire, I Walk Alone (Scott), Kiss Of Death, The Lady From Shanghai, Desert Fury (Scott), Possessed, The Two Mrs. Carrolls (Bogie). Greed for duplicity not sated? Brandish a wisecrack at The Web, The Unfaithful, Born To Kill, Desperate, Framed, High Wall, Fear In The Night, Johnny O’Clock, Ride The Pink Horse, The Flame, The Long Night, Moss Rose, Lured, Nora Prentiss, Railroaded!, T-Men, and last but not least, Bury Me Dead.