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Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning(1947)


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In the sultry Southern town of Gulf City, injured fugitive Rip Murdock steals into a church to seek solace from Father Logan, an ex-paratrooper. Confessing that he fears for his life, Rip relates the following story: In Europe following the war, Rip and his best friend and fellow paratrooper Johnny Drake are convalescing from their war wounds when one day, they are suddenly summoned to Washington, D.C. After landing in New York, the pair board a train bound for Washington and there discover that Johnny is to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. When the train makes a brief stop, Johnny disappears and Rip goes AWOL in an effort to find him. Recalling that the name John Joseph Preston was inscribed on the back of Johnny's senior society pin, Rip realizes that Johnny must have enlisted under an assumed name. Tracing Johnny to Gulf City, his home town, Rip registers at the local hotel and there finds a message waiting for him promising to call later, signed "Geronimo," a paratrooper code name. When ten hours pass without word from Johnny, Rip decides to scrutinize newspapers printed at the time of his friend's enlistment for clues to his disappearance. Rip is astounded to discover that Johnny is wanted for the murder of Stuart Chandler, the wealthy husband of cabaret singer Coral Chandler, with whom Johnny was in love. That night, Rip hears an announcement over the police band radio about an unidentified body and goes to the morgue to investigate. There he meets Lt. Kincaid of the homicide department and views a charred corpse. Recognizing a hunk of melted medal that was found near the body as Johnny's pin, Rip vows to avenge his friend's murder and exonerate him. Recalling that Louis Ord was a witness at the murder trial, Rip goes to the Sanctuary Club where Louis is now employed as a waiter. At the club, Louis confides that Johnny had been hiding at his apartment and had given him a letter to deliver to Rip. At that moment, Krause, the sadistic bodyguard of Martinelli, the owner of the club, glares at Louis, engendering palpable fear in the little waiter. At the bar, Rip then meets Coral, Chandler's enigmatic widow, and informs her of Johnny's death. Their conversation is interrupted by Martinelli, who orders Coral to the gambling tables. Coral's large losses at the roulette wheel arouse Rip's suspicions, but he recoups her losses at the dice table. Afterward, Louis tries to warn Rip that his drink has been drugged, but Rip downs it anyway to avert suspicion from Louis. The next morning, Rip is awakened from his stupor by a phone call from Coral, who tells him that she had also been drugged. When Rip turns on the lights in his hotel room, he finds Louis' dead body lying in the bed next to his and surmises that Martinelli killed him to gain possession of the letter and then planted his body in the hotel room to frame Rip. After Rip dumps Louis' body down the laundry chute, Kincaid, alerted by an anonymous caller, knocks at Rip's door. Once Kincaid departs, Rip arranges to meet Coral in his hotel lobby that afternoon. While driving to the seaside for lunch, Rip confides to Coral that Johnny's letter was written in code, and she admits that she witnessed the struggle between Johnny and her husband on the night of the murder. Still unsure of Coral's credibility, Rip takes her to the home of McGee, a former safecracker who had been referred to him by a mob contact. When Rip asks McGee to break into Martinelli's safe and steal the letter, McGee demurs but offers to instruct Rip in the fine art of safecracking instead. Later that night, Rip sneaks into Martinelli's office and finds the safe wide open. Just as he locates the letter, he detects the aroma of jasmine, the fragrance of Coral's perfume, and is then knocked unconscious by an unseen assailant. Rip awakens to a pummeling by Krause, who is trying to beat him into disclosing the contents of the letter. When Rip claims that unless he returns to his hotel by 11:15 that night, his hotel manager will turn over a letter to the police containing proof that Martinelli killed Louis, Martinelli sends Krause to the hotel with Rip to retrieve the letter. Upon arriving at the hotel, Rip is greeted by the waiting Kincaid, and after Krause slugs the police officer, Rip flees in the ensuing confusion and seeks refuge at the church. His thoughts returning to the present, Rip decides that Coral may have stolen the letter and goes to her apartment to confront her. Insisting that the jasmine scent emanated from night-blooming jasmine plants and not her perfume, Coral protests her innocence. Unconvinced, Rip tricks Coral into admitting that she killed her husband in self defense and then gave the murder weapon to Martinelli to dispose of, and that Martinelli has been blackmailing her ever since. To prove her integrity, Coral picks up the phone to call the police, but Rip slams down the receiver, kisses her and then collapses from exhaustion. Upon awakening, Rip promises to run away with Coral. Soon after, McGee comes to the apartment to deliver a bag filled with fire grenades confiscated during the war. When Rip announces that he plans to reclaim the murder weapon before leaving town with her, Coral begs him to reconsider, but he refuses. As Coral waits outside in her car, Rip climbs the stairs to Martinelli's office and demands the gun. Martinelli coolly replies that he and Coral are married and that he killed Chandler and then framed and killed Johnny so that Coral would inherit her husband's wealth. Disbelieving Martinelli's story, Rip hurls fire grenades at him until he finally hands over the gun. As Rip and Martinelli dash down the stairs and out of the burning building, gunfire rings out, downing Martinelli. Climbing into Coral's car, Rip accuses her of aiming for him. When Coral trains her gun on him, Rip floors the gas pedal, sending the car careening off the road. Having survived the crash, Rip clears Johnny's name and then comforts Coral at her bedside as she expires from her injuries.