Sunday, November 22, 2009


Dead Reckoning is another "How did I miss this?" movie. A moody, almost perfect noir, starring Humphrey Bogart that I had never heard of.

We meet Bogart as paratrooper Capt. Rip Murdock, going to Washington with his Sgt. Johnny Drake to get medals of honor. But Drake hops off the train and flees, and Bogart follows him to Gulf City Florida. There, he finds out that Drake was an assumed identity - the man who he had been was accused of killing the rich husband of Lizabeth Scott. When Bogart meets Scott, he finds a beautiful, troubled, threatened and possibly deadly woman.

Bogart's attitude towards woman is summed up in an amazing soliloquy:
"Women ought to come capsule-sized, about four inches high. When a man goes out of an evening, he just puts her in his pocket and takes her along with him, and that way he knows exactly where she is. He gets to his favorite restaurant, he puts her on the table and lets her run around among the coffee cups while he swaps a few lies with his pals...

And when it comes that time of the evening when he wants her full-sized and beautiful, he just waves his hand and there she is, full-sized."
Someone (Campaspe?) quoted this, which is why I queued this movie up. I thought it gave the movie a Nicholas Ray feeling, although he wasn't involved. John Cromwell directed - we know him best as director of Prisoner of Zenda - the one with Ronald Coleman. Who knew he could handle noir?

How does Lizabeth Scott handle her femme-fatale role? She looks luminous - I was reminded of Veronica Lake. However, she was clearly being cast as a Bacall substitute: She even exchanges nicknames with Bogart ala "Steve" and "Slim" in To Have and Have Not. I think she could have stood on her own, but someone thought she was just a stand-in. See what you think.

I found this to be a teasing, twisty, complex film noir. Mrs. Beveridge found it to be misogynist hackwork. One thing we agreed on was the strange batch of mixed metaphors around Bogart and his buddy's paratroop background. Their frequent invocations of "Geronimo" makes sense, but "dead reckoning"?

Also, we both liked gangboss Morris Carnovsky and his thug Marvin Miller. See what you think.


mr. schprock said...

Due mainly to this blog I've joined Netflix, and I will add "Dead Reckoning" to my queue. From that quote, I think I can understand Mrs. Beveridge's opinion. Of course, these days men can put women in their pockets and carry them around, only when they arrive home, instead of waving their hands they inflate them full-sized and beautiful.

mr. schprock said...

I've watched about half so far, and I agree with you saying Lizabeth Scott was cast as a Bacall substitute. She was beautiful though, wasn't she? But I'm writing right now so I can make this prediction: the fried corpse wasn't Johnny.

Also: I think it's a very entertaining movie.

mr. schprock said...

Whoops. Guess the corpse really was Johnny.

Now when I think of it, Lizabeth Scott kind of reminds me of Patricia Neal.