"Nice place you have here...the natives are so friendly and
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 12/01/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I decided to give Cover Up (1949) a try for two reasons, one being for lead Dennis O'Keefe, who appeared in two most excellent Anthony Mann films titled T-Men (1947) and Raw Deal (1948), the second reason being, well, this DVD release was super cheap. Overall the film was all right, but somewhat forgettable...based on a screenplay co-written by O'Keefe (listed in the credits under the pseudonym Jonathan Rix), and directed by the prolific Alfred E. Green (The Jolson Story, Invasion USA), the film features, along with O'Keefe, William Bendix (The Babe Ruth Story, "The Life of Riley"), and Barbara Britton (Captain Kidd, The Virginian). Also appearing is Art Baker (Spellbound, The Wild Angels), Helen Spring (Hot Rod Gang, Willard), Ann E. Todd (The Jolson Story), and Doro Merande (Our Town, The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming).
We start off with a train pulling into a station, and we see an attractive, young woman loaded with Christmas presents having a doozy of a time. Coming to her assistance is a man who shared the same train as her...the pair makes it to the bus, and we get some introductions. The woman is Anita Weatherby (Britton), arriving back to the small, midwestern town to spend the holidays with her family, and the man is Sam Donovan (O'Keefe), an insurance investigator, sent along by his company on a case. As they arrive into town, they're met by Ann's family including her father Stuart (Baker), who looks like he's wearing a bear coat (I guess at some point in the past it was fashionable for men to wear fur), her mother Bessie (Spring), and her annoying, somewhat jailbait sister Cathie (Todd). It's around this time we also learn the passing of one of the town's wealthier, and disliked, citizens, that of Roger Phillips, apparently of suicide. We also learn this is what brought Sam to town, as Philips had a $20,000 life insurance policy, one that paid double indemnity if he happened to be murdered. When not pitching woo towards Anita, Sam makes himself busy trying to pry the facts of the case out of various townspeople, including the local sheriff named Larry Best (Bendix), but either people are tight-lipped, or just give him the run around in general, which leads Sam to believe that perhaps Philips didn't take his own life, but that he may have been the victim of foul play. This becomes even more evident as we find out Philips wasn't just an unpopular guy, but one that most everyone in town had reason to revile. As Sam goes round and round trying to pry secrets loose from the small town, Anita makes some discoveries on her own, ones that could affect her own family, should Sam ever find out...it's a case of whodunit, and why, and Sam's determined to uncover the truth.
All in all this was a relatively mediocre film with a few bright spots. Britton was quite lovely and performed well, and O'Keefe did well enough in his role, although he did pick up an annoying habit of calling Anita `Sugar' after only knowing her for a very short time. He did move pretty fast in terms of putting the smooze on her (check out the scene where he's flirting with her in front of her parents, after only just meeting them all that same day), but still, I thought it somewhat presumptuous of his character...perhaps that was just his `big city' ways, I don't know. The one piece that didn't quite fit for me was Bendix as the small town sheriff, obviously hiding something, trying futilely to be all aloof and such. I'm sure Bendix, often appearing like an overgrown manchild, was a respected actor who appeared in a number of decent features, but the one that comes foremost to my mind is the ridiculously inaccurate, sentimental schmaltzfest The Babe Ruth Story (1948) where he played the title character. A role in a film like that tends to stay with a performer long after the fact. I suppose the most memorable character for me was that of Hilda, the Weatherby's dour housekeeper ("She's happiest when she's unhappy"), played by Doro Merande. She was about the homeliest creature I've seen in a long while, looking much like Shemp Howard's twin sister, but she managed to inject a few comedic touches with sometimes smart-alecky quips. The direction is straightforward and capable, and the mystery aspect of the story is handle a bit clumsily at times (some clues are subtle, while others are dropped like a dumbbell on your foot), all leading up to a sappy, Capra-esque ending. There was one aspect of the story that confused me, that being how eager Sam's company was to determine if the death was actually a suicide, or murder. Everyone in town was pushing the suicide angle, to which the insurance company would have only had to pay out $20,000, but the insurance company almost seemed to want it to be a case of murder, meaning they would have had to pay double, unless the beneficiary was actually the murderer, but they weren't really concerned about that last part too much. There was something about paying on a double indemnity clause that would have been good publicity, therefore drawn in more business, or some such nonsense. One other thing worth mentioning is the bit part of the undertaker, played by veteran character actor Hank Worden, who appeared in nearly 200 films during his lengthy career, including 14 John Wayne pictures. I remember him most from the Clint Eastwood film Every Which Way But Loose (1978) as the wizened, geezerly trailer court manager.
The fullscreen picture on this Geneon Entertainment DVD release looks decent enough, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo comes through okay. Given the price, I was half expecting the quality to be a lot worse than it was, so I was pleasantly surprised (generally I've found when a company puts out a really inexpensive release, it's because they're using poor source materials, like a VHS tape, for their transfer, but that doesn't appear to be the case here). As far as extras, there are none, not even a menu, as the film begins immediately after the DVD is placed into the player. There are chapter stops, for what it's worth. Also, it may interest some that the DVD comes in one of those super slim line cases, the one that's about a quarter thickness of a standard DVD case. I didn't mind this, as it ends up taking up much less room on my shelf. Overall, a good release of a mediocre film at a very attractive price.
By the way, I have no idea what film the scene represented on the front of the DVD case came from, but it sure wasn't this one... "
Not Film Noir
Buster49 | Utica, NY | 01/17/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"You may be disappointed with this film if you are expecting classic American film noir. It's more of a 1940s version of Matlock or Murder, She Wrote. As others have pointed ot, the cover has nothing to do with this film. The cover scene leads one to believe it's film noir (the title certainly suggests the genre) and my guess is that it was done on purpose to mislead for sales purposes. Considering the cost, I felt that I had my money's worth. The picture is clear (though not a restored print) and the film itself is entertaining. William Bendix is never bad performance wise. To me, he's one of the most likeable character actors the American cinema ever produced. If you see this film, I'm sure you'll be entertained. If you don't see it, you'll not have missed anything in my view."
A Sweet-Natured, Friendly Murder Mystery In A Small Town
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Can a murder mystery be sweet-natured? Yes, when it's Cover-Up, a well-crafted B movie programer put together by experienced pros.
Insurance investigator Sam Donovan (Dennis O'Keefe, who co-wrote the script) arrives in a small town a few days before Christmas to look into the apparent suicide of an intensely disliked resident. The man has left a $20,000 insurance policy with a double indemnity clause. Sam points out to Sheriff Larry Best (William Bendix) that if murder happened the policy will pay $40,000. The sheriff is friendly but unhelpful. "Look, Sam," he says, "take my advice. Don't be so all fired anxious to pay double indemnity on this case. Why don't you forget about it? Go on home."
The sheriff says it was suicide, but there was no gun by the corpse, no powder burns and, at first, he denies a bullet was even found. Sam starts poking around, but everyone says it had to be suicide even though any number of the townspeople had motive. The dead man, the sheriff says, "was a blight on the whole community." Sam meets Anita Weatherby (Barbara Britton), the daughter of the town's banker. They start to get serious, but she wants him to stop looking, especially when her father might be involved. Sam, however, doesn't like murder and keeps pushing the case. He finally sets a clever trap, figures out the identity of the murderer...and has to make a tough decision. Let's just say the movie takes place over Christmas and Sam makes the right decision.
This is a well-crafted look at a friendly small town. Main Street has two-story brick shops with the bus depot on the corner. The houses have wide porches and picket fences in front. People don't lock their front doors. The big event will soon be the lighting of the community Christmas tree in the town square, with everyone bundled up in scarves and coats and there'll be presents for all the kids. Don't fool yourself, though. There are plenty of suspects.
The actors, especially William Bendix and Dennis O'Keefe, do fine jobs. Bendix gives Sheriff Best just enough complexity that you're never sure what his game is, or whether he's just being friendly or something more sinister. O'Keefe plays the big city investigator with a nice mixture of toughness and puzzlement. He wants to catch the murderer, but he's come to like many of the people, including the banker's daughter, and he's increasingly reluctant to hurt anyone. Dora Merande, one of Hollywood's great character actresses, does a memorable job as the Weatherby's astringent but caring maid.
And as to that last decision Sam must make when he's discovered the murderer? He has to take a moment or two to think about things. "Like the sheriff is so fond of saying," he finally tells those with him in the murderer's living room, "I'm not much of a detective."
To avoid confusion, remember that the photo on the DVD cover has no connection to the movie. For some reason, someone pulled a scene from a completely different film to use. The DVD is bare bones. While there are chapter stops, there is no menu and no extras. The picture and audio are better than I would have expected. The movie is easy to watch if you're not a perfectionist."
I WAS IMPRESSED
T. A. Hansen | eagan, mn USA | 12/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you liked "T-Men" or "Raw Deal" I think you'll like this movie. Granted, the insurance sub plot is odd and not explanined very well, but Dennis O'Keefe really shines. William Bendix is suprisingly good.
The image and sound quality is great Geneon [Pioneer] ver."
My Kind of movie!!!
J. Snoke | Harrisburg, PA | 03/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really enjoyed this flick. Had me guessing all the way. This film is very enjoyable...with just enough suspense and twists to keep you enthralled, while giving you a wonderful picture of 1940 small town America...complete with old homes, good manners and old fashioned Christmas tress. If you love good old movies that you can really enjoy and that leave you with a good feeling when they're through...buy this movie and you won't be sorry?"