Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Dead Reckoning (1947)
"Let's just say I remember Johnny. Laughing, tough and lonesome."- Murdock (Humphrey Bogart)
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Lizbeth Scott
Other Stars: Morris Carnovsky, Charles Cane, William Prince, Marvin Miller, Wallace Ford, James Bell
Director: John Cromwell
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 01h:40m:24s
Release Date: 2003-01-14
Genre: film noir
DVD ReviewNot even as iconic an actor as Humphrey Bogart can knock it out of the park every time, and Dead Reckoning is one of his lesser known efforts for good reason. Having said that, it's still got a whole lot of noir style, a creditable performance from its leading man, and a lead actress with a voice so deep that she makes Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep sound like a soprano.
Bogart plays Warren Murdock, an Army captain at the end of World War II, flown back from the European theater for reasons disclosed neither to him, nor to his best pal, Sergeant Johnny Drake (William Prince). They discover what's what on the train ride from New York to Washington: Johnny is slated to get the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his deeds of bravery in France in the service of his country. Murdock is due to be honored, too. But Johnny doesn't want the attention, and immediately goes AWOL, jumping off the train when it stops in Philadelphia. Murdock is dumbfounded—why wouldn't Johnny want to get the recognition he's earned?
Murdock gets permission from the authorities to go after his pal, and hightails it to Johnny's home town of Gulf City. That's where he finds out the score: Drake enlisted in the service under a false name, for he was the subject in a local scandal, when he and a dangerous dame were in a struggle with her husband. Of course the gun went off, and Johnny was fingered as the husband's killer. Now it's up to Murdock to set the record straight.
Bogart is a detective in all but name—there are decided shades of Philip Marlowe here, even though Murdock by profession owns a fleet of taxicabs back in St. Louis. Lizabeth Scott plays the woman in question, Mrs. Chandler, a husky-voiced nightclub singer for whom Johnny carried a torch. She seems very much in the mode of Bacall, though there isn't the same electricity between her and Bogie—she also flares her nostrils a whole lot when she's emotional, not the most attractive habit.
A lot of the story is sloppily told, with too much voice-over from Bogart—the device is that he's confiding in a priest who served in the military not as a chaplain, but as a parachute jumper. (If you're expecting to see men of the cloth jumping out of planes, though, you'll be disappointed.) Much of this is overwritten and overwrought, but I admit to having a weakness for this kind of arch, stylized period dialogue—for instance, here's Murdock making his confession about Johnny's woman: "And I didn't like the feeling I had about her. The way I wanted to put my hand on her arm. The way I kept smelling that jasmine in her hair. The way I kept hearing that song she sung." Put something like this in movies today, and it's nothing but flat-out parody; but Bogart can sell it with an earnestness and intensity characteristic of the time. Similarly: "Okay, pal, you're a pal. I'll be seeing you when I get aces back to back."
On some level, this is a parable about soldiers readjusting to life on the home front after the war, and has something of a kinship with non-noir movies like The Best Years of Our Lives—Joe's flight bears the marks of post-traumatic stress disorder, before it was given a name. The film is also clearly of its time, as the occasional racial epithet is uttered, and unremarked upon by the others—one vet waves around a sword and explains, "Joe took this off a Nip colonel." That may well be the truth of how these guys spoke, but it's certainly bound to make 21st-century audiences uncomfortable.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The black-and-white photography doesn't look too luminous in this transfer, unfortunately—what probably read as shadows in the original release print are frequently now indistinguishable from the background. Also, a fair amount of decay is evident, with scratches on the print, and the corrosive effects of bacteria. The stylized photography isn't shown off to its best advantage here.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The stereo track shows its age with some hissing and popping, but the balance is surprisingly good, as most noir pictures of the period come only in monaural on DVD. There's an emphasis on the bass, which gives it a dark and moody sense, and points up that the leading lady's voice is almost deeper than Bogart's.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Caine Mutiny, Lawrence of Arabia
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
- vintage advertising
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsBogart shines in this fairly run-of-the-mill noir—it's always a treat to discover a great actor in a relatively unknown film, but of course this one can't hold a candle to the likes of The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, the kinds of pictures it clearly hopes to evoke.
Jon Danziger 2003-02-12