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.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Inside the hotel room, after the waiter goes out carrying the folding table, Murdock takes the cigarette from his mouth with his left hand. The next shot shows him holding the cigarette with his right hand. See more »
Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock:
[referring to two war souvenir hand grenades]
If I were you, I'd turn 'em in to Army Ordnance. You start coughin' too hard with one of them in your hand, there'll be nothing left but the gold in your teeth... if it don't melt!
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Despite all the noir ingredients, something's missing
Dead Reckoning appeared too early to have worn out and begun to recycle film noir's conceits and conventions, but already it has a tired, seen-it-all feel to it. Its director, the generally reliable John Cromwell (who three years later was to helm the great-grandmaw of women-behind-bars pix, Caged) works here with a by-the-numbers detachment that keeps the movie as limp and soggy as its "Gulf City" locale.
Returning vet Humphey Bogart, en route to Washington with a war buddy who's about to be awarded some Big Medal, is baffled when said buddy suddenly takes it on the lam. His investigation into what happened and why takes him to a seamy town on America's south coast where, in a morgue, he finds his friend's body, charred beyond recognition. He also meets up with Lizabeth Scott (as Coral Chandler, or "Dusty," or, even, "Mike"), a canary in a local nitery run by heavy Morris Carnovsky. It seems she and the late pal were something of an item, and she teams up with Bogart to get to the truth.
Or does she? The most problematic aspect of the film is that dealing with Scott -- game blonde or femme fatale? It's as if the scriptwriters or studio heads couldn't make up their mind about her, or as if alternative endings were contemplated, or even filmed. This doesn't help the viewer, whose empathy seems always to be out of kilter with what's happening in the plot. And this can't be written off as a teasing ambiguity -- it's a gross failure of filmmaking. So the sentimental, "redemptive" ending in the hospital ward, with high-flown talk of parachute jumps, tries to have it both ways. Well, it can't.
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