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The face of Jewish vengeance

(This character study is part of the Pompous Film Snob’s blog event, a myriad of character studies on the sociopaths, hookers, weirdies and more that populate Quentin Tarantino’s world of Film. Visit Frank’s blog post for the complete list.)

Trauma has a profound effect on Shoshanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent).

“When anger rises, think of the consequences.” ~~Confucius

Shoshanna Dreyfus, “Inglourious Basterds”

Anger is a dangerous emotion, one that can push people to their breaking points and beyond. But more dangerous than anger is the combination of anger and grief. Both are unpredictable at best; together, they pack enormous potential for explosion. And the longer anger and grief are repressed, the bigger the boom will be and the greater the fallout. In that respect, one story thread in Quentin Tarantino’s wildly revisionist/gloriously twisted WWII epic “Inglourious Basterds” — the story of bent-on-vengeance Jewish orphan Shoshanna (Mélanie Laurent) — isn’t just splashy, lurid, violent entertainment. Shoshanna’s story is a case study (and maybe a bit of a cautionary tale, too) of how powerful repressed emotions can be.

The anger and grief that Shosana eventually feeds on to fuel her vengeful plot came to her honest. To avoid certain death in concentration camps, Shoshanna and her family fled their home and went on the run, hiding in any home that would take them. In the opening of “Inglourious Basterds,” Shoshanna’s family has found refuge underneath the floorboards of a home in France. They have learned to become good at disappearing into the scenery around them. But Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), infamously and deservedly known as “The Jew Hunter,” has tracked the family to their hiding spot and orders his subordinates to shoot. Shoshanna is the sole survivor of the bloodbath, and Landa lets her escape unscathed. He seems to understand that living is a far more effective punishment than a bullet to the back of the head. At the time all Shosana feels is fear, but years later her fear has turned into a rage that roils and churns underneath her placid, pleasant face. There are fleeting glimpses of this turmoil in her clipped, then harsh dismissals of young Nazi war hero Pvt. Zoller (Daniel Brühl), an overeager suitor who volunteers her theater as the spot for the premiere of a film about his exploits. Later, in an excruciatingly tense meeting with Landa — who probably recognizes her, but we can’t be certain; his cool stare belies everything and nothing — and Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) himself, she barely conceals her anxiety, then breaks down the moment Landa leaves the table. Laurent’s control in this pivotal scene is plain remarkable. The Jew Hunter’s sudden reappearance stirs up long-buried emotions and hammers a thin crack in her façade. That one small fissure is all it takes to for the anger and the grief to bubble their way up to the surface.

This is a film just for the Nazis.

When those feelings resurface, it doesn’t take long for Shosanna to shape them into a vengeful plot to end all plots. In a way, the same man who took away her power gives it back to her. The anger, the need for revenge, trumps the fear. The same woman who cowered in that café, the very picture of meekness, has become the quiet leader of la résistance. Shoshanna’s wrath spurs her to action, and the damage, intentional and collateral, is steep. She replaces her silence with a battle cry: “You are all going to die. And I want you to look deep into the face of the Jew that is going to do it!” At the end it’s less about taking down her family’s killer as it making every living Nazi feel her wrath.

That’s not to suggest that Tarantino fancies himself a shrink; probably he gets off on watching chicks kick ass and take names. This is a director lambasted by feminists for his macho, shootout-heavy films. Still, the fact is that script for script, Tarantino writes women scorned like nobody else in the business. With every film, the women unleash more and more hell. He got off to a rollicking start with Alabama (Patricia Arquette), the tough-as-nails prostitute who delivers a brutal lashing to the goon who’s hunted her down. The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), heroine of the “Kill Bill” films, dispatched every assassin who had a hand in her near-fatal shooting, including her mentor and lover. In 2009, Tarantino wrote his strongest character yet: a diminutive, delicate-looking woman who did her part and then some to give World War II the ending it should have had. She identified herself, to the Nazi glitterati trapped in the burning theater, being pelted with gunfire, as the face of Jewish vengeance. It is not a face — or a character — anyone will soon forget.

Double Feature: “Dead End” (1937), “The African Queen” (1951)

“Dead End”
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Billy Halop, Allen Jenkins

Sidney Kingsley’s “Dead End” offered a different look at gangland in the ’30s, and so it is with William Wyler’s gritty film adaptation. Wyler’s work does not show the daily tasks, murderous and mundane, of a gangster. Instead, “Dead End” details the two critical parts of the lifestyle: the beginning and the end. Neither one is attractive. At the beginning end of the spectrum is Tommy (Billy Hallop), a ringleader in his East Side slum gang known as The Dead End Kids. The name fits. Tommy lives in abject poverty with his sister Drina (an arresting Sylvia Sidney), who’s participating in a union strike in hopes of fairer wages. Drina gets a look at where Tommy could end up (if he’s lucky) when well-to-do famed Mafioso Babyface Martin (Humphrey Bogart) returns to his stomping grounds wearing a face altered by drastic plastic surgery. While Tommy’s just started down his path of violence, Babyface may have come to the end of his.

This is the intriguing dichotomy that Kingsley’s play sets up; however, it’s a bit simplistic to call “Dead End” a picture of haves vs. have nots. Tommy — like fellow Dead End Kids Dippy (Huntz Hall), Angel (Bobby Jordan), Spit (Leo Gorcey), T.B. (Gabriel Dell) — is miserably poor, but he has Drina there to defend him and bail him out. Babyface isn’t quite so lucky. He has his right-hand man Hunk (Allen Jenkins) and no one else. Gangsters don’t gain notoriety and status by trusting people; they do it by keeping the world at arm’s length. Babyface believes that because people in his circle fear, even revere him, the faces of his past will fall in line blindly, too. That is not to be. Bogart’s expressive face tells its own story, a story without a happy ending. The neighborhood he left behind is the same, but different in the ways that matter most to him. His mother doesn’t welcome him with open arms; she slaps him weakly and berates him, calling him a murder. His one-time dame Francey (Claire Trevor, heart-twisting in a tiny role) isn’t the tawny, slim beauty of his boyhood; she’s a haggard, sickly prostitute at the end of her rope. Used to getting exactly what he wants when he wants it, Babyface is ill-prepared to face grim reality … which is all Tommy and his friends have in the world.

There are other stories in “Dead End” — including the smaller thread about Drina’s love for her unemployed architect friend Dave (Joel McCrea), besotted with rich man’s mistress Kay (Wendy Barrie), and a new boy’s (Bernard Punsly) pitiful attempts to befriend The Dead End Kids — but none quite so arresting as those of Tommy and Babyface. Halop and Gorcey, in particular, set themselves apart from the gang; Gorcey’s Spit has the swagger, and Halop’s Tommy has the muscle. Gregg Toland’s cinematography complements the anxious and slightly elegaic atmosphere, the camera roving over the ramshackle dock, the shoddy, abandoned buildings and the dirty back alleys both Babyface and The Dead End Kids call home. The set feels intimate, and not necessarily in a good way: Everyone lives in everyone else’s back pocket, so the misery of hard times and poverty compounds exponentially. This is the slums at pavement level, the very bottom, and still there is a sliver of hope for the people who live there. They accept the limitations of the slums, while Babyface can’t let go of how things used to be.

Grade: A

~~~~~~~~~~

“The African Queen”
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull

Range is a precious commodity in Hollywood. Back in the ’40s and ’50s, when film noir ruled, it was especially precious. Films like “Dark Passage” and “”The Maltese Falcon” offered convincing evidence that maybe it was a commodity Humphrey Bogart didn’t have. Then in marched “In a Lonely Place,” helmed by Bogart’s nuanced, knock-’em-flat performance. But the true kicker, the real piece of dynamite, was John Huston’s “The African Queen” — not because it was dazzlingly original in plot or technique (it wasn’t) but because Bogart stepped out of character. It might be more accurate to say he leapt out of character, given how different the light-hearted Charlie Allnut was from the Sam Spades, Philip Marlowes and Rip Murdocks of his resume. Allnut’s all humor, no sardonic undercut, no dark subtext … which is surely what secured Bogart’s one and only Best Actor Oscar* (ripping it away from Brando, nominated for “A Streecar Named Desire”). Decades before Sean Penn’s win for “Milk,” there was “The African Queen.”

Oscar aside, there’s something disquieting about Humphrey “Here’s looking at you, kid” Bogart making like Otis the happy drunk on a ramshackle boat. But he plays the part well enough that once the shock fades out the goofy enjoyment sets in (provided viewers can swallow the loony plot about a tiny boat torpedoeing a giant German gunship). Bogart’s Charlie Allnut is the Canadian captain of small vessel The African Queen docked in German East Africa in 1914. His easygoing attitude and coarse manners horrify Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) and her minister brother Samuel (Robert Morley), missionaries who have started a church nearby. The two ignore Charlie’s warnings that Germany and Britain are at war, and Rose finds herself alone and desperate after the Germans burn the village and Samuel succumbs to fever. Allnut’s return is her only shot at salvation, but she decides to elevate salvation into a revenge plot: She wants to turn The African Queen into a torpedo boat and ram it into the side of the Louisa. Steering through rapids gives her a taste for danger and adventure she’s never had before (the brush with death spawns one of the film’s funniest innuendo-laden lines: “I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!”). Charlie quickly learns that Rose isn’t nearly the shrinking violent she looks to be.

Huston doesn’t much concern himself with crafting a believable tale in “The African Queen,” which would matter more if the Bogart-Hepburn union wasn’t a harmonious one. The actors have a solid odd-couple appeal that keeps things comical and light-hearted, just enough to balance the zaniness of Rose’s kamikaze scheme. They have the believable chemistry of two strangers thrown together by chance who build a relationship on their shared intense experience. There’s additional appeal in the fact that the heroes of “African Queen” aren’t young and impeccably coiffed and naïve, a welcome reminder that romance and adventure stop being fun after 25. Even as “The African Queen” sputters toward its perfectly ludicrous conclusion, Bogart and Hepburn keep the laughs — some silly, some poignant — coming. The characters bring out the best in each other, something only best romances accomplish.

Grade: B-

*The movie Bogie really deserved the Oscar for was “In a Lonely Place.”

Why Feds are like mushrooms

Don't cross Frank, or he'll cap you and make fun of the way your corpse falls.

Knowing my affinity for all things Scorsese in general and “The Departed” in particular, Andrew of Encore’s World of Film fame asked me, Darren and Heather to shower praise — er, I mean objective commentary — on the many merits of the Oscar-approved best film of 2006. Click here or on the photo to read our reasons why “The Departed” is better for you than cranberry juice during that certain time of the month.

My thought on today

Double Feature: “In a Lonely Place” (1950), “Dark Passage” (1947)

(Due to the sheer number of films devoured by yours truly, Humphrey Bogart Week has been extended.)

“In a Lonely Place” (1950)
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Art Smith, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid

For actors, playing a character — or, to be more accurate, a type — is tricky business. Do a poor job, of course, and word gets around, the parts dry up; do an impeccable job and there’s a danger of typecasting. In the late ’30s and ’40s, that almost happened to Humphrey Bogart. He slipped so seamlessly into the hard-nosed characters of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade and the weary, unwitting hero roles (Frank McCloud, Capt. Rip Murdock) that this looked to be his niche in Hollywood. Then along came Nicholas Ray’s claustrophobic murder mystery/thriller “In a Lonely Place,” and Bogart changed his game. Violent, tempermental screenwriter Dix Steele may be the richest character Bogart ever played. His remarkably intricate portrayal of this brutish but articulate and likable man is the defining performance of a touchstone-studded career.

From the beginning, it’s clear that what Dix’s friends and agent (Smith) call “artistic temperament” is really a dangerous, hair-trigger temper. In the opening scene he leaps from his car to start a fight with another motorist; not long after, at a nightclub, a stranger insults Dix’s friend Charlie (Robert Warwick), a washed-up actor and hopeless drunk, and gets a beating for it. There seems to be no bottom to Dix’s rage. So it’s no surprise that when friendly hat-check girl Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart) who went home with Dix turns up dead, he’s the prime suspect. But his new neighbor Laurel (a luminous Grahame) offers a solid alibi for him, and the two strike up a flirtation that turns into a happy relationship. Capt. Lochner (Reid) believes his friend is innocent, but his boss (Lovejoy) isn’t convinced. And after witnessing one of Dix’s terrifying blind rages (which nearly ends in murder), neither is Laurel.

Director Nicholas Ray creates an intense sense of connection between his two leads with the apartment building setting — confined and communal, but also somewhat detached and somewhat forbidding, everyone living so close but so far away at once. In many ways, “In a Lonely Place” feels a bit like a precursor to “Rear Window,” in which Hitchcock parlayed the idea into a look at voyeurism. Dix even hints at the idea, remarking that Laurel can see into his apartment but he can’t see into hers … and he’d take advantage if he had the chance. The unusual setting contributes a sense of closeness in the early stages of Dix and Laurel’s romance; toward the end, however, the closeness starts to feel like a trap she’s hooked in. The confinement brings out tremendous performances from all the players, notably Smith as Dix’s long-suffering but understanding agent and Reid, who wants more than anything to believe his friend’s innocence. Grahame makes her dilemma palpable, and painful, while Bogart makes his rages towering and petrifying. Underneath all the exploding anger, though, there’s a romantic with a self-effacing sense of humor. Bogart finds a faultless balance of these two personas, and right up to the harrowing conclusion he yanks our sympathies in both directions. His manners disarm and charm, yet there’s no denying his delight in a macabre recreation of Mildred’s murder. The rampaging zeal in his eyes there will haunt you indefinitely.

Grade: A

~~~~~~~~~~

“Dark Passage”
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead, Bruce Bennett, Clifton Young

In literature, first-person narration is a technique that lends a sense of immediacy, a hard and fast point of view. Used sparingly, this perspective can translate effectively into film (consider the opening scene of John Carpenter’s “Halloween”). The trouble with Delmer Daves’ noir film “Dark Passage” is that the technique is used liberally. The entire first half hour of the adaptation is filmed from the perspective of escaped convict Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart), and as time ticks by what seemed innovative becomes grating. Thanks to Daves’ unusual methods, the audience has no sense of who the character is. His looks don’t make him, surely, but hiding his face sets up a frustrating barrier between him and the audience, a barrier that threatens to sour the film altogether. This is not a promising beginning.

With that trusty Bogart/Bacall magic worked in, though, there’s less danger of that happening. (It’s unfortunate that in “Dark Passage” Bogart displays a disappointing lack of his usual snap and wiseguy quippiness.) The pair again play would-be lovers connected by, it would seem, by happenstance: Vincent, a convicted murderer, has escaped from San Quentin prison, and Irene Jansen (Bacall) appears like an angel on the roadside, willing and eager to help him hide from the police. She smuggles him through a police check and into her apartment, where he discovers she is one of the few who believes he was erroneously accused of killing his wife. Irene understands her involvement is risky — “Was I insane to pick you up on the road?” she asks Vincent — but has her own reasons for being interested in this convict’s case. With her support, Vincent sets out to uncover the identity of his wife’s killer, a task made infinitely more arduous by Irene’s nosy acquaintance Madge (Agnes Moorehead), who testified against Vincent at his trial, and the stranger (Clifton Young) whose car Vincent stole just after his break.

Film noir and even neo-noir films generally aren’t noted for their true-to-life plots (the riddle that is the script of “The Big Sleep” is as easy to solve as the chicken-and-egg debate). As such stories go, “Dark Passage” is less complicated than most, but there are some threads that seem glaringly obvious and some — like Vincent’s fly-by-night but miraculous cosmetic surgery — that defy logic and strain our willing suspension of disbelief. Still, this would be a conquerable challenge if the chemistry was right and the acting superb. Unfortunately, neither hits quite the right note. Bacall, all wrenching looks and cat-like allure, is up to her usual slinky tricks, but Bogart seems uncharacteristically subdued, even dour and (gasp!) unfunny, alongside his leading lady. Their embraces and glances generate the expected heat; it’s when they aren’t together that Bogart’s sluggishness becomes all the more noticeable. Bennett and Moorehead, as a warring divorced couple, provide the film’s zippiest lines, with Moorehead chomping up the scenery every chance she gets. Only Young, as the unfortunate driver Vincent beats up, looks to have more fun hamming his character to the nines. He’s twice as lively as Bogart, and that’s the biggest shock of all.

Grade: B-

Review: “Key Largo” (1948)

Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) is through being a soldier. He’s settled into his new life as a drifter, moving from place to place in search of the odd jobs that finance his food, drink, lodging and cigarettes. Frank wants to put the war behind him, wants to make a career of laying low. But a bit of wrong-place/wrong-time bad luck forces his hand and drums into his head what he’s worked so hard to ignore: “When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses.”

Bogart always could take a simple, unassuming line and give it the weary ring of gospel truth. His finest performances spring from characters who fail to bridge the gap between who they want to be and who they really are. In John Huston’s tense thriller “Key Largo,” Bogart’s tired but resilient ex-soldier is not alone in his ambivalence. The Key Largo hotel Frank has stopped in is populated with people who want something they can’t have or are afraid to want. Though they are the hostages of mobster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson), they’re also hostages, in a way, to their own desires. There is Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall), whose late husband served in World War II with Frank. She feels an attraction to Frank she’d dare not voice; her eyes give away everything. There is James Temple (Lionel Barrymore), Nora’s ailing and crippled father-in-law, who wishes he was young and healthy enough to take down Rocco and his clowning goons. Saddest of all is Gaye Dawn (a gut-wrenching Claire Trevor), Johnny Rocco’s girl, formerly a hot-ticket lounge singer. When Johnny’s desire for her turned to disgust and cruelty, she turned to alcohol and checked out of reality. Gaye, more than anyone else, knows the burden of carrying the memory of the person you’ll never be again.

So “Key Largo” is a multi-layered character study where much of the action takes place in one location: James Temple’s hotel. The setting manufactures a feeling of claustrophobia that heightens the anxiety; the hurricane raging outside the hotel adds another level of menace. These elements, when mixed with Bogart’s increasingly unsuccessful attempts to seem impartial, ratchet up the tension further. While hostage situations lend themselves to that charged atmosphere naturally, Robinson’s bombastic, smirking performance as the entitled gangster helps things along. He doesn’t make his entrance — Johnny Rocco loves a grand entrance — until his lackeys, Curly (Thomas Gomez) and the wisecracking Toots (Harry Lewis), disarm the local sheriff (Monte Blue) and corral the hostages. Johnny intends to trade some counterfit bills and commandeer a boat so he and his crew can escape to Cuba. He’s supremely confident he will succeed: “I was too much for any big city police force to handle. It took the United States government to pin a rap on me. And they won’t make it stick.” He struts and preens, even tossing Frank a gun and trying to anger him into a shootout. Frank doesn’t nibble the bait, leaving us to wonder if he’ll choose inaction to the end.

Frank McCloud does not represent a new direction for Bogart, but somehow the actor makes the character’s troubles feel new. (That was Bogart’s way.) His slow-growing anger is a dynamite match for Robinson’s cocky, boastful energy, leading to a violent, nerve-wracking showdown that’s a game of cat and mouse. Johnny Rocco is a character, but as a criminal he’s no joke — his sing-for-a-drink treatment of his dame Gaye is purely sadistic, and that scene may be what snaps Frank to action. Or perhaps his motivation can be found in a quieter moment, bar none the most wrenching and beautiful shot I’ve ever seen. The camera moves in slowly toward Bogart, looking down at the sleeping Nora. He reaches out his hand gingerly and strokes her hair. He leaves his hand there. Seconds later, the camera catches him looking at Bacall — and oh, what a look. There’s more longing and romance in that look than can be found in volumes of Romantic poetry. It is a symphony of feeling, and it is the moment where he knows and we know that he can’t play cool anymore.

Grade: A

Pipe-measuring contest

Pompous Film Snob has been bitten by the blog event bug — warning! alliteration overload! — of late and has invited a host of us work-for-peanuts movie nutters to participate. The topic, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a lil beaut: Pick your favorite character (major, minor, etc.) from a Quentin Tarantino film (“True Romance” and “From Dusk Till Dawn” included) and do a character study.

(Hey, PFS, do you think you could have posed a more difficult question for Tarantino groupies?)

Pop by Frank’s blog next week — actual posting date TBA — to see if your favorite character made the cut and to find out what makes him or her tick. This blogger will be deconstructing the pathology of an “Inglourious Basterds” main player, but not the one you’d expect.

The face of Jewish vengeance wears red lipstick.

Who’s going to be the lucky farmer?

Me, Yojimbo and Walter from Silver Screening Room, as it turns out! Andrew, creator of Encore’s World of Film, is counting down his top 10 films, and us three bloggers — a diverse crew, we be — offered some thoughts on his No. 8 pick, the 30-something angst classic “The Big Chill.” If you’re ready to submerge yourself in ’80s nostalgia, click on the photo above or visit Andrew’s post.

Review: “Dead Reckoning” (1947)

“I’m not the type that tears do anything to.” This is the wool the leading men of film noir — and “Dead Reckoning” is textbook noir — try to yank over our eyes. They are calculating and sarcastic; they sing a tune about not trusting anyone, especially dames with wide, sad eyes. Capt. Rip Murdock (Humphrey Bogart) plays the part well until his feelings get in the way. Even in the wake of a murderous double cross, Rip can’t ignore his humanity. He does the kind thing even when cruelty is justified.

Bogart made an impressive career out of this back-and-forth between cynicism and personal conscience. Give him cookie cutter part and he’d give you an underwhelming performance. But conflicted men, men who couldn’t be the cool customers they wanted to be — those were his specialty. And Rip Murdock is a lulu of a conflicted soul. Though not a private eye, Rip gets dropped unofficially into the job. He’s on the lookout for World War II comrade Sgt. Johnny Drake (William Prince), who jumped their train and disappeared once he learned he was a Medal of Honor recipient. Anyone that afraid of publicity must have some blood on his uniform somewhere, and the best parts of John Cromwell’s sublimely shot “Dead Reckoning” involve Rip’s recount of the scrapes his earnest search gets him into.

It’s too bad that the story itself doesn’t quite live up to Bogart’s wry narration of its parts. Unlike “The Maltese Falcon” or “The Big Sleep,” the plot of Cromwell’s film isn’t especially difficult to follow. Unfortunately, the lack of complexity does not translate into consistent suspense. Parts of “Dead Reckoning” involving the femme fatale Coral Chandler — played by Lizabeth Scott, a nervous, inexpressive actress — and Rip’s affection for her stutter. There’s little sizzle between Scott, whose wooden delivery ruins a number of choice lines, and Bogart. He tries hard (or maybe not; this character is second skin to him), yet the tainted love story feels strained and, even worse, uninteresting. This flaw is not immediately obvious because, as per noir tradition, “Dead Reckoning” starts at the end and works up to the start. Limping and bloodied, Rip darts into a Gulf City cathedral looking for a priest (James Bell). He has a tale to tell, and it’s quite a yarn. Rip tracked Sgt. Drake there to learn his friend is dead. There’s more to the story, Rip knows, and in probing into the deceased’s past he finds Sgt. Drake joined up to duck a rap for murdering the husband of Coral, a dishy blonde nightclub singer. Acquainting himself with Coral brings a sinister figure into Rip’s life: club owner Martinelli (Morris Carnovsky, a bit over the top), who may be involved in Sgt. Drake’s unexplained death. 

“Dead Reckoning” has been pegged a B-grade copy of “The Maltese Falcon,” and there’s a wealth of evidence to back up that argument. Exhibit A has to be Rip Murdock himself, a man out to avenge the wrongful demise of a partner. One scene even finds Bogart quoting Sam Spade on the subject: “When a man’s friend is killed he oughta do something about it.” True, in “Dead Reckoning,” there’s an actual relationship to support that reasoning, but there’s no denying the origin of the sentiment. Cromwell’s film also employs a clear MacGuffin, or essentially worthless object that drives the story. In “The Maltese Falcon,” it was the falcon statue; in “Dead Reckoning,” it’s a letter Sgt. Drake asked his friend Louis Ord (George Chandler), to pass on to Rip. The similarities add up, but they don’t add up to a copy nearly as good as the original.

Bogart’s tough-and-humane performance aside, though, there’s one area where “Dead Reckoning” succeeds roundly: Leo Tover’s murky, alluring cinematography. The film establishes itself early as one of the best-looking noir efforts in the genre with an opening shot of Gulf City, its sign flashing brilliantly against the dark, clouded sky. Rip, being the flawed protagonist, gets the heavy shadow treatment from scene one. His story begins in the shadows of a church pew, his face obscured, and ends in the white light of a hospital room. That can’t be a coincidence.

Grade: B-

My thought on today