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DEAD RECKONING

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Humphrey Bogart, Lizabeth Scott, Morris Carnovsky
Director:  John Cromwell
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  Bonus Trailers, Vintage Advertising, Bogart Collection Preview
Length:  105 Minutes
Release Date:  January 14, 2003

“It was nice of you, helping her get even.”

“I ALWAYS get even, Lieutenant.”

Film ***1/2

Talk about your classic Humphrey Bogart moment:  there’s a scene in Dead Reckoning where he’s dancing around Lizabeth Scott, while she’s begging him for information about her lover.  He’s seen him, he tells her.  Where, she asks?  “On a slab at the morgue,” he replies.  “Burnt to a crisp.”  She collapses in his arms while he continues to dance her around.  Absolutely priceless.

Dead Reckoning may not get mentioned in the same breath as other Bogart classics of noir like The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep, but for my money, even though it may lack some of the style and grace of those films, it’s just as entertaining.  It featured the kind of character Bogie had become very comfortable playing over the years, and he was in top form.

He plays Rip Murdock, an army sergeant and paratrooper returning home from the war with his buddy Johnny.  But when Johnny learns he’s to be given the Medal of Honor and that the press are waiting for their train to come into station, he panics and flees.  Turns out, Johnny’s more than just camera shy, and Rip begins to unravel the mystery of Johnny’s true existence.

It leads him to a woman (of course!), the striking Coral Chandler (Scott), a sometime nightclub singer whom Johnny used to talk about.  But Rip’s tailing of Johnny leads to a dead end…literally, as his old friend turns up charcoal.

Was Johnny indeed a fugitive from the law who escaped into the army to avoid being caught for the murder of Coral’s former husband?  Or does the menacing mobster Martinelli (Carnovsky), who seems to be trying to keep Johnny’s last message from reaching Rip, have something to do with it?

This is a well-paced and well-acted mystery…as mentioned, it doesn’t have the same sense of style as other Bogart classics, but you’ll never be bored watching it.  Clues drop quickly and situations change drastically, as Rip’s simple desire to clear his buddy’s name gets him in over his head with Martinelli and over his heart with Chandler.  Lisabath Scott is not quite Lauren Bacall, but I’ll be damned if I could take my eyes off of her.

Dead Reckoning serves as a strong transitional film between the early Bogie of film noir and Casablanca and the excellent work still to come in The African Queen and The Caine Mutiny.  Best of all, it’s just a terrifically charged piece of entertainment.

Video **

The print shows it’s age a bit in this presentation…not necessarily a big strike for a 50 plus year old film, but worth mentioning.  Though the black and white imagery comes across with few difficulties, the specks, spots and scratches call for a bit of clean up.

Audio **

This is a perfectly serviceable mono soundtrack…nothing more or less, and as good as can be reasonably expected for such an old picture.  Noise levels are minimal, and dialogue is always clearly understood.  Musical cues are somewhat few and far between, but a sudden gunshot is always good for adding a little dynamic tension to the mix!

Features *1/2

The disc contains trailers for The Caine Mutiny, Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia plus a short look at Bogie’s Columbia years, and a vintage advertising gallery from the same.

Summary:

Dead Reckoning is vintage Bogart, even if not considered as classic as some of his other pictures.  He delivers a strong, memorable performance in a superbly satisfying mystery with danger, intrigue, and a beautiful femme fatale.  A recommended movie.