Title: Dead Reckoning
Release Date: 1947
Length: 100 minutes
Director: John Cromwell
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lizabeth Scott, Morris Carnovsky
Humphrey Bogart doesn’t always play a “tough guy”, but his characters are almost always pretty tough. In Dead Reckoning he’s cabbie “Rip” Murdock returning from Europe at the end of the Second World War where he served with distinction as a paratrooper. (Plenty tough.) Bogart (an officer), and one of his NCOs, Sgt. Drake, discover in the first scene why they’re coming home a little bit ahead of the rest of their unit. Bogie isn’t above snooping through the papers of the Lt. Col. escorting them and finds in them that Drake is getting the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor and Bogart is up for a slightly lesser award.
The trouble starts when the train stops in Philadelphia on the way. The press has heard of what’s going on and shows up to get photos of the big hero. Drake, rather than get his picture in the paper, jumps off the train, sneaks aboard another and disappears. By the time Bogart tracks him down, going AWOL himself (officially, though he warns his commanding officer he’s going to do it), it’s too late. The past has caught up to Drake, or maybe vice versa.
Add some cops, a sad nightclub singer played by Lizabeth Scott, a scheming, mobbed up nightclub owner, and the sadistic heavy acting as the owner’s muscle, and we’re off to the races. Bogart goes about working out what happened to his friend and then digging up why. It’s a fun ride, though not top-notch. Scott is a husky-voiced knockout, but the second you know it was supposed to be Bacall, you realize she would probably have been better. Wallace Ford is excellent in a bit part as a retired safecracker.
While it’s not going to make anyone’s list of top 5 Bogart movies, it’s not his worst role nor his worst film. It’s interesting to see him play more of a straight hero, even if he does bend the rules a bit here and there. Scott isn’t quite up to his level, nor is the rest of the cast. The patriotism is still wartime thick, which in and of itself is fine, but makes the movie a little less artful. Still, even downmarket Bogie is Bogie, and he was enough of a star to carry this thing pretty much by himself.