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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.
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.
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.
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
*** 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.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When you check the 'Spoiler' box, you assume only those who have seen
it will read the review, right? That way, the ending isn't spoiled for
an unsuspecting reader. Because the crux of the problem with "Coverup"
is the ending. First off, I can't think of another movie in which the
killer and the victim do not appear in the film. And second, the ending
is pretty far-fetched and made me lower my rating from 7 to 6.
Until then, "Coverup" was rolling along pretty well. The story is good - it's a good mystery story. Not a noir, although the DVD case makes it appear like one, but still a taut and engrossing mystery movie. I always liked Dennis O'Keefe, an under-appreciated 'B' actor who never made it to A's. Barbara Britton is lovely and William Bendix adds stature to most pictures he's in. Hard to find a bad acting job in the whole cast. Even the background music is good.
Then comes that ending. Everyone was covering up for a beloved Doctor who thought he was doing everybody a favor? And the beneficiary wanted to pass on the double indemnity to preserve the illusion? And there was a volunteer fall guy for a murder rap? It's enough to make me lower my rating.
Oh, I did that.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** This turned out to be a very strange and baffling case
for Federated Insurance investigator Sam Donovan, Dennis O'Keefe,to
crack. The dead man Mr. Phillips supposedly shot himself with a German
luger but the gun bullets as well as death certificate were nowhere to
be found! In fact even the dead man's body seemed to have disappeared
with the police pathologist and local morgue director having no idea
where he went!
It becomes very obvious to Donovan that not only was Phillips murdered but the entire town from Sheriff Larry Best, William Bendix,on down were covering up his murder and even more shocking who was Mr. Phillips killer! As it soon turns out Phillips was without a doubt the most disliked person in Cleberg and everyone in town had a motive to kill him but the big question in Donovan's mind is who! It's in fact the luger that killed Phillips that soon appears out of the blue in Stu Weatherby's, Art Baker, house that sets off alarm bells to who exactly murdered Phillips! Found by Weatherby's daughter and Mr.Donovan's now girlfriend Anita, Barbara Britton, it makes it look like her father was in fact Phillips killer with Anita trying to hide the evidence to have him arrested and booked for it.
It soon comes out that the luger was in fact in the possession of a Doctor P.L Garrow a good friend of Stu Weatherby who gave it to him as a Christmas present just weeks before Phillips was found shot to death! Dr. Garrow being the most beloved and respected person in Cleberg is the last person anyone could suspect in murdering Phillips,the most hated person in town, but something very strange happens before Donovan could interview him! Dr. Garrow suddenly drops dead of a heart attack which makes his sudden and unexpected death, like that of Phillips suicide, very suspect to say the least!
***SPOILERS*** The end of the film ties all the loose ends together with both killer and victim never being seen as much as a second on screen even though they, at least Mr. Phillips, were the most most talked about persons in the movie. What happened to Phillips and who was in fact responsible for his death was kept from seeing the light of day in that by bringing it out in the open it would end up hurting far more people then it would help. And as for Phillips killer he was in no position to face justice in a court of law since he now was far far beyond it!
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