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Saturday, June 11, 2011

DEAD RECKONING (1947)

Humphrey Bogart segued from his home base @ Warners to Columbia for this largely unnecessary noir, a surprising stinker. He’s a WWII vet, back in the States and on his way to D.C. to pick up some medals with his war bud (William Prince) when the guy suddenly takes a powder. Bogie gives chase, landing in his pal’s hometown where he finds plenty of dirt on all the usual suspects. Before he’s smoked a pack of Luckys, he’s implicated in a murder or two; started to romance his pal’s wife (Lizabeth Scott), a no-good damsel-in-distress type; won a pile of dough at a fancy, but crooked gambling club; hid from some corruptible cops; been knocked out (twice!), gotten shot at; found a priest to tell his troubles to; and God knows what else. All your classic noir ingredients, if only someone knew what to do with them. But helmer John Cromwell and a posse of writers show little feel for the form. Is it supposed to play as a near parody? The fruity dialogue (‘Maybe she was alright, and maybe Christmas comes in July’); the illogical plot; the all-too-convenient clues (Bogie’s hotel room alarm clock is a police band radio). On the plus side, Lizabeth Scott looks less beat up than usual; On the minus, Bogie more. (Maybe new wife Lauren Bacall was keeping him up nights.)

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Great noirs don’t have to make a lot of sense. Columbia did just fine with GILDA in ‘46. And in the same year, Bogie, Bacall & Howard Hawks triumphed over the famously confusing plot of THE BIG SLEEP.

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