A paratrooper attempts to solve the disappearance of his friend.
The film opens with Humphrey Bogart’s character Rip Murdock recounting recent events to an old army buddy who is now a priest. He begins to recount his recent issues with the law.
He was flown stateside with friend and fellow paratrooper Sergeant Johnny Drake. Both are scheduled to receive military honors in DC. The president himself is planning to meet them personally.
Things are complicated when Johnny disappears right off the train they are riding. Murdock finds out that his friend had a dark past before joining the army under an assumed name. Murdock figures he bailed to avoid the press seeing him. He follows Johnny’s trail to the southern town of Gulf City. There he learns that his friends charred body was recovered from a crashed car. It turns out he was involved with beautiful, blond, nightclub singer, Coral Chandler (Lizabeth Scott) and was implicated in the nasty murder of her wealthy husband. Murdock now has to figure out what happened to his friend and whether she was involved in Johnny’s death; while also fighting his growing attraction to her.
Further complicating things are her ties to the underworld, specifically nightclub boss Martinelli.
Martinelli played by veteran stage and screen actor Morris Carnovsky
Dead Reckoning is considered a classic in the film noir genre. The classic story of a man investigating the death of his friend and being pulled into an elaborate web of lies and intrigue.
Lizabeth Scott’s character shows the kind of sophisticated roles that film noir offered to actresses. Her character is beautiful, dangerous and manipulative, but also vulnerable and tragic. A much more nuanced and complicated character usually not possible in other genres at the time.
Bogart performs well as usual, a cool and wisecracking tough guy.
Lizabeth Scott is memorable as the tragic and manipulative Coral Chandler. In this film you can really see her influence on future stars such as Kathleen Turner.
Visually, the film looks good, rich contrasts in light and dark and effective camera work. Continuity issues and plot holes do drag the film down somewhat.
Verdict: 3 gavels out of 5
Stylish and visually appealing Bogie vehicle. Slower moving than some of his other films and has a few continuity problems. But still well worth it for classic film and film noir fans.