Rip Murdock and Johnny Darke are en route to Washington when Johnny disappears and then turns up dead. Rip learns that Johnny had been accused of murder and sets out to find out what he can. He falls in love with Coral whose husband Johnny is supposed to have killed.
Humphrey Bogart ... Capt. \'Rip\' Murdock
Lizabeth Scott ... \'Dusty\' Chandler
Morris Carnovsky ... Martinelli
Charles Cane ... Lt. Kincaid
William Prince ... Sgt. Johnny Drake
Marvin Miller ... Krause
Wallace Ford ... McGee
James Bell ... Father Logan
George Chandler ... Louis Ord
John Cromwell was a director that aimed to please, as demonstrated by the films he left behind.
\"Dead Reckoning\" is a film that is satisfying while one is watching it, but later on, in retrospect, we question a lot of what we have seen as the plot doesn\'t make sense in many ways. All the elements of the Film Noir genre can be found in it. We have a war hero Rip, who is investigating the disappearance of his buddy, who he watches running away from a train in order not to testify with him in Washington. The action takes us to a Southern coastal town, where supposedly, the escapee has gone to. Little prepares Rip to find his friend burned to death in the morgue.
Thus begins a tale of deception that has lots of interesting twists. The film benefits from its two stars, who play a game that on the surface seems to be one thing, and with a surprising twist at the end, turns out to be something else.
Humphrey Bogart excelled in movies like this. He is tough, but he has time to have a great rapport with Dusty, the former singer at the local night club. Lisabeth Scott plays the siren with an air of mystery. It comes as a big surprise what happens at the end.
Morris Carnovsky, a great theater actor of the time, is Martinelli, the crooked owner of the night club. Also a young William Prince plays the man who ran away to find a tragic fate by doing so.
Humphrey Bogart and William Prince should be psyching themselves up for the big moment of their lives in Dead Reckoning. Bogey\'s put Prince up for the Congressional Medal of Honor. But Prince doesn\'t react to that quite the way one would expect. He jumps the train in Philadelphia on the way to Washington, DC and disappears and Bogey starts his own hunt for him and an explanation.
The trail leads to Prince\'s hometown and Bogey learns that Prince was fleeing a murder rap when he joined the service. There\'s a girl involved to, Lizabeth Scott who Columbia was trying to build up into their version of Lauren Bacall. Of course the best way to do that was team her with Humphrey Bogart. Prince also winds up dead and Bogey\'s really on a mission now.
Dead Reckoning borrows very heavily from The Maltese Falcon in terms of Bogart\'s character motivation. He was avenging a partner, admittedly one he wasn\'t crazy about, in The Maltese Falcon. Here he\'s looking for answers and vengeance on whoever might have murdered his war time buddy. That was a common theme in a lot of post World War II films. The audience, heavily populated with veterans, could understand Bogart\'s motivation back then easily.
And because Humphrey Bogart is such a skilled player, today\'s audience can appreciate it. Dead Reckoning is not the best of Humphrey Bogart\'s films, but it\'s still entertaining.
By the way, the ending confrontation is also out of The Maltese Falcon, though a bit more violent.
While it may not be one of the all-time greats, \"Dead Reckoning\" is neglected even in the Noir category. Most viewers see it because of Bogart. There is good reason: any doubts about his acting ability are erased by this performance. He really had a gift for delivering the archetypal Noir dialogue with which this film is loaded.
Other cast members--Prince, Scott, Carnovsky--are very good. And a particular brand of Noir brutality plays a noteworthy role in this tale. But the main recommendation here is for the LOOK of the film. This is a prime example of Film Noir atmosphere at its most evocative. The opening shot of \"Gulf City\" at night is so beautiful, you want it to last much longer; Bogart\'s \"confession\" to the priest that frames the story in flashback is heavily shrouded in darkness; and the numerous nocturnal hotel scenes are threatening and darkly suggestive.
Worth seeing for a not too-convoluted plot, Bogart, and the atmosphere.
One can\'t help wondering, while watching this movie, whether one has seen it before. Not for the first time is Bogart out to avenge a friend\'s death. He\'s gone after polished, Continental Mr. Big types before, too; and Lizabeth Scott looks an awful lot like Lauren Bacall. Some of the dialogue seems to have been lifted in toto from earlier Bogart films. Yet for all this, Dead Reckoning is still entertaining. Its cliches are at least agreeably packaged, and the setting, the Gulf Coast South, is unusual. Bogart brings sublime integrity to his world-weary and life-battered persona, and however artificial and predictable the story might be, the star\'s authenticity is absolute. One believes what\'s going on because one believes Bogart.
This kind of thriller, which now falls under the general rubric of film noir, was losing a little steam by this time. For one thing, Morris Carnovksy\'s character of Martinelli had been done to death in the previous five years by everyone from Sydney Greenstreet to Otto Kruger. Marvin Miller\'s hulking, seemingly emotionally disturbed thug had become a commonplace fixture in such films; and while Miller is unique in his heavy-set, Orson Wellesian appearance, there\'s little that\'s new here, either. One can imagine script conferences of the day, with young screenwriters falling over one another trying to come up with a new psychological \"complex\" for the bad guy to be suffering from. Fortunately for the viewer, cliched though this movie is, it was made with extreme professionalism. Leo Tover\'s cinematography is understated, and nicely suggests the equatorial. John Cromwell was an old stage and movie pro by this time, though his usual magical touch with actors failed him with Miss Scott, he handles the tough guy stuff with suave authority.
# The role of Coral Chandler was originally intended for Rita Hayworth, but she had already been cast by her estranged husband, Orson Welles for the role of Elsa in The Lady from Shanghai (1947).
# In the train scene, after they discover that Drake is to receive the Medal of Honor, Murdock quips that maybe the president will let Drake \"sit on top of his piano\". This is a reference to a then-scandalous photo of Harry Truman playing piano with a leggy blonde on top that was taken at the National Press Club in 1945. The blonde was Lauren Bacall.