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Another nice discovery for me: a pretty good thriller which, though not exactly a film noir, features two staples of the genre Dennis O'Keefe and William Bendix in top form. Their rapport throughout is quite delightful and this, along with the equally refreshing charms of leading lady Barbara Britton and the distinct Christmas flavor of its small-town setting, creates an overall mood of warmth not easily found in murder mysteries! The plot (whose insurance-investigation angle clearly derives from Billy Wilder's DOUBLE INDENMITY ) provides a good amount of tension and red herrings along the way, while the final revelation (bearing an unexpected moral emphasis) concludes the film on a satisfying note.
Before his company will pay out, an insurance investigator (Dennis
O'Keefe) arrives in a small town to look into an apparent suicide. But
he immediately begins to suspect something's not quite right. No gun,
no powder marks, no bullet, no coroner's report, and no sheriff's
report seem to lead to no suicide. Was it suicide or was it something
even more sinister?
It may not be the noir I was expecting, but Cover-Up is a nice little 40s style mystery. The plot kept me going up to the end. It's full of red herrings and I could have never guessed the outcome. Other than the It's a Wonderful Life style ending, I've got nothing to complain about. The cast is more than capable with Dennis O'Keefe, William Bendix, and Barbara Britton giving nice performances. I'm not all that familiar with Britton, but it's easy to see why she was a Revlon Girl for more than a decade. The cast also features Doro Merande who steals every scene in which she appears.
I picked up the DVD on the budget Geneon label. If you don't mind a lack of extras (and that includes the absence of a menu), it's not a bad deal for the money. The cover art is misleading. I have no idea what movie it was taken from, but it most certainly wasn't Cover-Up.
In my book, this little non-studio production exceeds
bottom-of-the-bill expectations. It's a good cast, a tight script, and
an intriguing non-noir mystery. So why aren't small town locals
cooperating with insurance investigator O'Keefe as he looks into a
suicide or maybe murder. Surprisingly, the sheriff (Bendix) seems
especially indifferent. Good thing the Weatherby's elder daughter
(Britton) is there to brighten up his stay.
The production does an excellent job blending the mystery ingredient with lighter moments and the romantic angle. I especially like the sparkling Britton and bubbly teenager Todd who combine with the others to make the Weatherby's a charmingly suspicious family. Bendix too excels as the laconic sheriffjust what is his pipe smoking angle. Then too, his verbal fencing with the persistent O'Keefe is unusually well scripted and performed. At the same time, I kept expecting one or the two to finally drop the fencing and take a poke. The ending, in particular, is rather surprising and unconventional for the time.
Too bad the delightful Britton never rose to the top rank she merits. The screen lights up every time she appears. Nonetheless, this obscure little feature is the kind of sleeper that old movie fans, like me, take special delight in catching up with.
A good, economical little b movie, with a wonderful female lead , Britton, who is stunning and a straight faced male lead, O Keefe. Enough red herrings to keep one amused, as long as you are not looking for a classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
O'Keefe and Bendix play off each other well. Pity they only made two films
This whodunit had one of the standard B conclusions -- the murderer was left handed. There are a lot of perfect crimes in the B's that would have gone unsolved except that the guilty party was unwise enough to be born a South Paw.
Isurance investigator Sam Donovan (Dennis O'Keefe) arrives in a small
town to look into an apparent suicide. Almost immediately he begins to
suspect something's not quite right here, getting no hope from the
police, the absence of the gun, and no coroner's report, the evidence
points to foul play, but can Sam get to the bottom of it?
Neither bad nor especially good, Cover Up is the sort of Saturday afternoon picture that TV schedulers put on as a precursor to the main event. Very nice and intriguing mystery (backed up by a cool denouement) and characters nicely played by a capable bunch of pros. O'Keefe is fine and plays out nicely as a sort of Insurance Mackintosh Sam Spade, William Bendix is underused but adds a touch of credibility to proceedings, while Barbara Britton is the shining light of the film with a very watchable performance. Clocking in at just 82 minutes, Cover Up does just enough to have made it worth your relatively short viewing time. And it's set at Christmas as well! 5/10
An insurance investigator (Dennis O'Keefe) arrives in a small town right at Christmas time to find out about an apparent suicide that his company may have to pay out for. He's met an attractive inhabitant (Barbara Britton) on the train ride into town. The person who O'Keefe's character is supposed to believe killed himself turns out to have been very unpopular. The evidence of his death points not to suicide but to murder, though everyone in the town from the bus driver to the sheriff (William Bendix) seem totally unfazed about what has happened. This could have been a lot more exciting if the townspeople had gone farther in trying to stop the investigation. They are all so nice and yet this guy is dead, and not by his own hand. So, ergo, it would seem that they are, in fact, not so nice after all, and that this town is covering up murder, though the film seems to be telling us that that is OK, that the dead guy somehow had it coming and that the spirit of Christmas overrides the evil of his murder. Nonetheless, a few parts stand out for being bizarre, most especially the one played by Doro Merande as Hilda, the housekeeper for Barbara Britton and her family, who in one scene is outside setting fire to the dad's fur coat and later tells everyone that it was an accident. All in all, though this is a strange movie, which is a good point, it seems shackled and prohibited from reaching its true realization.
I am no insurance expert, but I thought that in cases where someone
killed themselves that their beneficiaries did not receive anything. So
why would an insurance investigator, Sam Donovan (Dennis O'Keefe),
investigate this in the first place? And, why would he try to prove it
was a murder? I think this is a HUGE problem with the plot of "Cover
Up"...unless I am mistaken.
The story begins with Donovan arriving in town to do his investigation. Surprisingly, most everyone in town either avoids him or lies--and Sam is very tired of it. To make things worse, the Sheriff seems ambivalent when Sam's investigation shows that the man was murdered.
If you can ignore the inconsistency of an insurance investigator trying to make his company pay out the biggest claim instead of the smallest, it is an interesting film. Not a great film but interesting and worth seeing despite its flaws.
By the way, I wish the film had used a ballistics expert to consult, as the film made a couple mistakes I noticed. First, Sam fires a gun (to get a ballistics comparison of the bullet) and IMMEDIATELY picks up the slug with his bare hands. It would be super-hot--and you'd either want to wait a moment or use gloves. Second, one piece of evidence that Sam has that convinces him the dead guy was murdered was that the killer was left-handed. Well, I am a right hander in everything...but I shoot left. This is not too uncommon, actually, as you often shoot based on your dominant eye not your dominant hand.
Despite the title and Dennis O'Keefe as the star, this B film is not a film noir. It is about a small town in Middle America where everyone in the town seems to be trying to conspire to cover up a murder. Dennis O'Keefe arrives in town as an insurance investigator. He is there as a matter of routine because the company for which he works has provided life insurance for the deceased. The sum insured is mentioned as $20,000, and everyone speaks of it breathlessly, and it is hard to realize that in those days $20,000 really was a substantial amount of money. That says a lot about inflation over time. The man is said to have committed suicide. However, O'Keefe is very smart and he soon realizes that the man was murdered. His efforts to bring this to the attention of the local sheriff, played by William Bendix, meet with a stone wall. There is a double indemnity clause in the insurance policy which says that if the person is murdered the payout will be double. But when O'Keefe offers to pay the extra $20,000 to the niece of the murdered man, she refuses it, insisting that her uncle committed suicide. O'Keefe is baffled by this refusal of so much extra money. The murdered man turns out to have been 'a poison in his community', who was hated by everyone in town. In fact, everyone in town had a motive to murder him. It is a very good yarn in theory, but mystery and tension are sacrificed to other aims, namely to concentrate on the dilemma of O'Keefe's budding romance with a girl called Anita, played by Barbara Britton. The murdered man was killed with a 9 mm German Lugar. Both the sheriff and Anita's father have such Lugars. Things are looking very bad indeed, as one of them seems to be the killer. The other main aim of the film is to concentrate on the cozy, though currently unsettled, life of the small town. It is snowing and it is nearly Christmas. People are lighting up their trees and getting the turkeys ready for roasting, tying up their presents, and O'Keefe (who has no family of his own) gets involved in the festivities while he is at the same time carrying out an investigation which threatens many of those with whom he is associating. If the intention had been to make a film noir, a great deal more mystery and suspicion and conflict would have been created, and the film would be dark and moody. Instead, the film attempts to retain a cheerful air, which belies the tensions underneath. Barbara Britton smiles charmingly, O'Keefe is falling for her like a schoolboy, her father is genteel and reassuring, and only the sheriff appears truly suspicious, though even he has a twinkle in his eye and casts mischievous little smiles aside from time to time, which suggest that he is not a bad guy after all. No attempt is made by the director to suggest any real sense of threat or menace. Everybody is simply too goody-goody, and there are no obvious villains. Well, the ending has something to do with the season of the year, and it is by no means obvious, but I won't spoil things by discussing that. The catchline for the film is: 'a small town with big secrets'. That is certainly true, but don't expect a nail-biter. The suspense is so diluted in this film that it should rather be described as diverting than absorbing. As a result, Dennis O'Keefe is not as effective as usual, because he was best in films where things get really tough, and here he has to be Mr. Nice Guy who in between wooing his gal dabbles in proving and explaining a murder, and worrying whether his gal and her father are involved in it. In other words, the focus is on the romantic conflict rather than on whodunit. You could call this a 'soft noir', or perhaps a 'black marshmallow', since it aims to be tasty, chewy and sweet with a dusting of crime sprinkled over it for appearance's sake.
Dennis O'Keefe, Barbara Britton and William Bendix star in this mystery about an insurance investigator who arrives in a small town to investigate the death of a policy holder.O'Keefe portrays Sam Donovan who is trying to learn the reason for a clients sudden death . The indifferent sheriff played by Bendix and the rest of the people in the small town who knew the man insist the cause of death was suicide and are openly hostile to Donovan's investigation.Donovan quickly ascertains that the cause of death was really murder, but no one seems to care. Even the niece of the dead man, when she is told by Donovan that there is a double indemnity clause for murder in his policy says that she does not want it. Lovely Barbara Britton plays Anita Weatherby the oldest daughter of the town's banker. She arrives on a bus in to and gets acquainted with Donovan,not knowing who he is or why he has come. She is very attracted to him but when she learns his assignment she becomes apprehensive that the town, her family, and feelings for Donovan will be negatively affected . Cover Up is relatively non violent. You never see the victim and the murder is really only speculation. It even has a hard to swallow morality ending. Nobody gets beat up,or threatened, and the pleas for Sam to just let the investigation go are more passive aggressive then raw anger. Britton is really good as Anita Weatherby in this film and there is a nice turn by Doro Merande as Hilda, the Weatherby's housekeeper, cook, and watch dog. Cover Upis a watchable film. with some dependable actors who give solid performances . A worthwhile way to pass an hour and 15 minutes
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