The Friday night double bill at the Noir City Film Festival consisted of a pair of films from 1947. DEAD RECKONING (1947), an "A" film starring Humphrey Bogart, was paired with the programmer KEY WITNESS (1947).
Somehow I had never before caught up with DEAD RECKONING, and it was especially fun to see it for the first time with an appreciative audience which applauded the first appearance of noir icon Lizabeth Scott.
Bogart plays Captain Rip Murdock. Rip is traveling with his best pal, Sgt. Johnny Drake (William Prince), to attend a ceremony at which Johnny will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. However, when Johnny learns of the impending honor, he disappears and later turns up dead.
The grieving Rip investigates and learns that before the war, Johnny had been involved in a messy love triangle; after the husband of Coral (Scott) turned up dead, Johnny fled and enlisted under a false name.
As Rip investigates the death of Coral's husband, he begins to fall for her himself...
DEAD RECKONING is an engrossing 100 minutes with plenty of great noir moments. The plot, which also involves a mobster type (Morris Carnovsky) and his creepy goon (Marvin Miller), is fairly involved and twisty but easy to follow.
The movie kept me guessing to the end as to whether Coral was a heroine or femme fatale, although with Scott's noir track record perhaps I should have guessed sooner.
A highlight was the appearance of Wallace Ford as a safecracker and explosives expert; Ford was also seen during the festival in FLESH AND FURY (1952). This leads to a rather unique climactic confrontation with Bogart throwing hand grenades at the mobsters!
Bogart, of course, is perfect, and he's well matched by Scott. I find there's always a certain weirdness to Scott's performances, yet that usually works for her characters. Despite those who assert that the sultry Scott was emulating Lauren Bacall in this, I find Scott is a one-of-a-kind screen presence. (P.S. That woman had amazing hair!)
Scott's song in a nightclub was dubbed by Trudy Stevens, who also dubbed the actress in I WALK ALONE (1948) and DARK CITY (1950).
The cast also included Charles Kincaid, James Bell, George Chandler, and William Forrest, plus Ray Teal in a small role. Busy dress extra Bess Flowers is a nightclub patron in this. It seems like she must have shown up in at least half of the films shown in the festival!
DEAD RECKONING was directed by John Cromwell. It was filmed in black and white by Leo Tover.
DEAD RECKONING is available on DVD. It also had a release on VHS in the Columbia Classics line.