“I’m a man who likes getting his mail.” In Dead Reckoning, Humphrey Bogart plays Rip Murdock, an Army Captain paratrooper getting back from World War II. His buddy, Sergeant Johnny Drake is supposed to get the Medal of Honor from the President. When Drake finds out and realizes there will be pictures and newsreels, he scrams without getting the award. Murdock heads to Florida to find out why Drake is so nervous about getting his picture taken. When Murdock arrives he finds his friend was using an alias and is wanted for the murder of Mrs. Chandler’s (Lizbeth Scott) husband back in 1943. On top of that, he finds that Drake has been murdered almost immediately upon return home. Drake left a letter for Murdock, but someone intercepts the letter. Murdock obviously wants the letter hoping it will clear up everything. Murdock wants Drake to get the Medal of Honor that he deserves and attempts to discover what happened and clear his friend’s name.
Much of the story is told through flashback while Bogart talks to a priest (who was also a paratrooper) so there is a fair amount of voiceover. Voiceover is a very common device with the Film Noir or mystery/thriller genre.
While watching Dead Reckoning, one is reminded of several other Bogart movies. Lizbeth Scott is quite similar to Lauren Bacall: tall, thin, husky voice, some of the same expressions. Some of the plot is similar to The Maltese Falcon, even some of the dialog, especially toward the end. Bogart calls Lizbeth Scott “Mike” as he would in a Howard Hawks movie such as To Have and Have Not or The Big Sleep. However, even with these flashes of similarity, the mystery is different. While not in the first tier of Bogart films (which is quite a long list) Dead Reckoning is well worth a watch.
, directed by John Cromwell, written by Oliver H.P. Garrett and
Steve Fisher from a story by Gerald Adams and Sidney Biddell. Starring Humphrey Bogart
, Lizabeth Scott
, Morris Carnovsky. 100 minutes. 1947.