Film Review: Dead Reckoning (1947)

Also known as: John Cromwell’s Dead Reckoning (complete title)
Release Date: January 18th, 1947 (San Francisco premiere)
Directed by: John Cromwell
Written by: Steve Fisher, Oliver H.P. Garrett, Gerald Drayson Adams, Sidney Biddell
Music by: Marlin Skiles
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lizabeth Scott

Columbia Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“I hated every part of her but I couldn’t figure her out yet. I wanted to see her the way Johnny had. I wanted to hear that song of hers with Johnny’s ears. Maybe she was alright. And maybe Christmas comes in July. But I didn’t believe it.” – Captain Warren ‘Rip’ Murdock

I’ve wanted to see this motion picture for quite some time. It stars my favorite leading man, my favorite leading lady and it’s considered a film-noir classic.

Dead Reckoning was also directed by John Cromwell, who only did a handful of noir pictures but still had quite a lengthy career behind the camera.

I enjoyed this film quite a bit but if I’m being completely honest, it was a bit underwhelming. Sure, Bogart and Scott were both absolutely dynamite and had a great, dynamic chemistry but the film was just lacking in energy.

It’s not boring, it’s just a bit slow and it takes awhile to get moving. It features a decent scheme but nothing quite as remarkable as some of the top tier film-noirs of the day.

Had this film starred some other actors, it would be pretty forgettable. It’s kept afloat because of the charisma of its two leads.

There’s nothing special about the cinematography, the lighting, the set design or the camera work. Everything looks and feels pretty standard for the day. As I said, noir wasn’t a big chunk of the director’s lengthy filmography and everything here just felt like a clean, crisp, major studio production. I love RKO Radio Pictures because they were a master of the style, where Columbia, the studio that made this film, spent more time making larger, more publicly accessible spectacles for general audiences.

Bogart was a Warner Bros. guy and that was a studio that had a better grasp on the film-noir style, which is why his other noir pictures are much better, in my opinion. Scott was actually borrowed from Paramount for this film, where she was in some solid noir movies. Columbia originally intended for their biggest star, Rita Heyworth, to be in this but she was tied up working on The Lady From Shanghai with husband Orson Welles. Good thing for Columbia, that noir film was a true classic.

I really don’t want to sound like I’m bashing this film or Columbia, it just noticeably lacks when compared to the other films featuring its stars.

Dead Reckoning is still worth watching if you are a fan of Bogart, Scott, Cromwell or film-noir in general. It’s certainly a better than the average film in the style, even if it doesn’t live up to the hype I built up in my mind.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other film-noir pictures starring Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott.

Film Review: Caged (1950)

Also known as: Femmes en cage (France), Locked In (working title)
Release Date: May 19th, 1950 (New York premiere)
Directed by: John Cromwell
Written by: Bernard C. Schoenfeld, Virginia Kellogg
Based on:  Women Without Men by Kellogg and Schoenfeld
Music by: Max Steiner
Cast: Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, Ellen Corby, Hope Emerson

Warner Bros., 96 Minutes

Review:

“Come on you tramps – line up for Christmas.” – Evelyn Harper

I discovered this film when it was featured on TCM’s Noir Alley. While I guess it fits the loose rules of what a noir can be, it is more of a “women in prison” movie but twenty years before those sort of pictures were made primarily for sexploitation.

I didn’t know what to expect but this was very dramatic and a better film than what I was anticipating.

The main character, Marie Allen, is sent to prison for a crime she was a part of because she was in love with a shady guy. That guy was killed and Marie was punished for the crime, being institutionalized while being pregnant. The film sees the timid and shy Marie have to adjust to a hard prison life. She plays things by the book and hopes to be paroled early. However, she is denied parole, her mother also rejects the responsibility of having to raise Marie’s baby until she gets out and everything in Marie’s life falls apart because she is trapped behind bars, completely and utterly powerless.

It is the way that the story unfolds, though, that makes everything work so well. You really feel for Marie and your heart breaks in certain scenes but like Marie, you develop a harder demeanor and are right along with her when you want to see her push back against a corrupt system that is failing at its job of rehabilitating those it locks away.

Caged is a fine film with a lot of layers. It’s superbly written and Eleanor Parker really put this film on her back and carried it.

It has nothing special in the realm of cinematography but it is clean and the camerawork is still very good. It doesn’t employ a strong chiaroscuro vibe like other film-noirs.

I was pleasantly surprised by Caged and I was certainly glad to discover it.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: A male prison noir Brute Force, as well as other noir films The Narrow Margin and Side Street.