Dead Reckoning

Part of a multi-title set | Columbia Noir #5: Humphrey Bogart

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Synopsis

A fifth foray into the film noir output of Columbia Pictures, but, this time, with a twist. Not only does this volume bring together six more gems from the studio’s archives, but it also serves as a showcase for the great Humphrey Bogart.

Having established his stardom in the gangster pictures of the 1930s, Bogart fit easily into the world of film noir, where he was equally at home playing troubled servicemen, slick-talking lawyers, black marketeers, gambling den owners, or hard-up journalists.

Columbia Noir #5: Humphrey Bogart brings together five of the iconic actor’s starring vehicles: John Cromwell’s Dead Reckoning, Nicholas Ray’s Knock on Any Door, Stuart Heisler’s Tokyo Joe, Curtis Bernhardt’s Sirocco, and Mark Robson’s The Harder They Fall, plus Henry Levin’s The Family Secret, a rarity starring Lee J Cobb and John Derek that was produced by Bogart’s Santana Pictures, an outfit that regularly delved into the seedy, shadowy world of noir.

Featuring a stunning 4K restoration of The Harder They Fall, and with Sirocco and The Family Secret appearing on Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in the world, this stunning collection includes newly recorded commentaries and critical appreciations, archival documentaries and short films, and a 120-page book. Strictly limited to 6,000 numbered units.

Picture 7/10

Focusing on Humphrey Bogart’s work in their fifth Columbia Noir set, Indicator presents John Cromwell’s Dead Reckoning in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a single-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. The master has been supplied by Sony. Indicator doesn’t supply any notes around the restoration and the master.The disc is locked to region B.

The base scan and the end digital presentation both come out looking solid. Grain can be heavy, but it’s rendered well, which aids in delivering sharp details when things aren't limited by the source. The encode itself also appears to be strong, no digital artifacts popping up, and contrast and grayscale both look good, the picture delivering a surprisinglevel of range in the shadows of the photography.

Somewhat unfortunate is how the restoration work appears to have been limited to a basic run through some form of restoration software and left at that. The image has been stabilized and I have to assume some of the bigger issues have been removed, but there are still a number of heavy scratches and marks remaining, along with a slight flicker and pulse. There are also some rather large tramline scratches that run through the film for a good minute or so about 19-minutes in, and there is fading and obvious wear along the edges of the frame throughout the film.

Despite the restoration proving to be disappointing, the digital presentation itself is, thankfully, strong, making sure to not exacerbate any of the inherent issues still present in the source materials and delivering what still comes off as a photographic image.

Audio 6/10

The film’s soundtrack is presented in lossless PCM 1.0 monaural. There can be a slight distortion in the dialogue here and there but, for its age, it sounds clean. There’s a decent level of range between the highs and lows, and the music, even during its highs, sounds stable. Heavy damage is also not an issue.

Extras 6/10

Indicator throws in a handful of supplements for each title in the set, said supplements usually, though not always, consisting of a commentary, an interview, and a short film. For Dead Reckoning’s commentary Indicator brings in film scholar Alan K. Rode, who spends a good majority of the track not talking about the film itself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though I was questioning at first why Rode was brought in. Rode spends a lot of the track’s time talking about the careers of members of the cast and crew, though I should stress it’s not in a manner of simply regurgitating whatever he found on IMDB, clearly having done his own thorough research beforehand. He takes something closer to a Bruce Eder approach, giving background to each individual's respective lives and careers before explaining how they’d eventually come to be involved in this film, which then leads to stories specific to it, like actor Lizabeth Scott’s issues with working with director John Cromwell.

Seeing as the set this disc is housed in is Bogart-centric I was expecting a lot of repeated details about Bogart throughout the commentaries, yet surprisingly, at least for this track (and a couple of others I have listened to so far), Bogart’s barely mentioned, Rode simply giving some background to Bogart’s rise as a star, his production company, and his eventual involvement with the House Un-American Activities. Instead, Rode ends up focusing most of his attention on Bogart’s co-star in this film, Scott, going over her career and personal life in an incredible amount of detail, even mentioning briefly how she had saved/invested the money she made from her acting career. Eventually Rode brings up a biography he has written around Scott, and it becomes clear why he was brought in for this track and why the focus is so heavy on Scott. He does talk about the film directly here and there throughout, though it’s again minimal and usually through quick comments, whether it be to share some random technical tid-bit, like an actor having to be placed on a dolly so that the smaller Bogart could pull him, or to contextualize a line specific to the period.

He does a decent job keeping the track going, despite a few lengthy dead spots, and the content he covers is interesting, especially everything around Scott, but I was expecting something more focused on the film itself.

Tony Rays pops up for a 16-minute interview to talk about the film. Usually dependable, Rayns' contribution this time around proves a little disappointing, the film scholar giving a simple overview of the film, covering its story and production before talking about Bogart, Scott, and director Cromwell. The disc then closes with a gallery and a 16-minute short documentary from 1945 about the planned formation of the United Nations directed by Powell called Watchtower Over Tomorrow.

The material does get better as I make my way through the set but this batch of features proved a little disappointing, with Rayns’ contribution being one of his weaker contributions while the commentary focuses more on Scott rather than the film itself.

Closing

Indicator’s latest Columbia Noir set starts things out in an underwhelming manner with a so-so presentation and a disappointing set of supplements. Thankfully things pick up from here.

Part of a multi-title set | Columbia Noir #5: Humphrey Bogart

BUY AT: Amazon.co.uk

 
 
Directed by: John Cromwell
Year: 1947
Time: 100 min.
 
Series: Indicator
Edition #: 324
Licensor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 27 2022
MSRP: £49.99  (Box set exclusive)
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
1.37:1 ratio
English 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region B
 
 Audio commentary with film scholar and preservationist Alan K. Rode on Dead Reckoning (2022)   Tony Rayns on ‘Dead Reckoning’ (2022): appreciation by the writer and film programmer   Watchtower Over Tomorrow (1945): documentary short film about the formation of the United Nations, directed by John Cromwell   Image gallery