An insurance company investigator goes to a small town to probe into a case of supposed suicide. The natives are not very cooperative and some turn hostile, leading to suspicion of foul play.
What if you were an insurance detective investigating the apparent suicide of a man in a small sleepy town? What If once you arrived, it became quickly apparent that this was no simple suicide and your subject was in point of fact murdered? What if once you begin investigating the murder that everyone in town, including the local sheriff had a reason to kill the man and the means? With a number of suspects whom are all looking out for each other, you can see where Dennis O’Keefe has a bit of a problem on his hands in the 1949 film ‘Cover Up.’
O’Keefe plays wily insurance investigator Sam Donovan who must go to great lengths to solve a case that local law enforcement should have been all over. Arriving via train, Sam meets local beauty, Anita Weatherby played by a charming Barbara Britton and quickly starts an unexpected romance with the seemingly innocent young woman. Before he can begin his courtship, there is a little matter of crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s over a little matter involving the suicide of a prominent local.
During the meeting with Sheriff Best, a calm and slightly creepy William Bendix, Sam becomes convinced the matter is no suicide but is in fact murder. He doesn’t have access to the murder weapon since it’s mysteriously disappeared. He can’t take a look at the coroner report since it won’t be available until after the Christmas holiday. All he has is the bullet that was pried out of the floor near where the dead man was found.
After meeting with the victim’s primary beneficiary, Sam is hardened to the idea of murder since she doesn’t want to exercise the double indemnity clause of the life insurance policy that would pay out an additional $25,000 in the event of murder. More questions arise with few to no answers as Sam slowly learns that anyone in the town could actually be a suspect, including Anita’s own father Stu, played by Art Baker. With so many suspects and little to no hard evidence beyond a hunch, Sam must use all of his cunning and every trick he knows to draw the killer out into the open.
‘Cover Up’ is one of those late 40s film noir movies that more or less got lost in the shuffle of the numerous other gritty crime dramas of that era. With a unique premise that it could be anyone in the town, ultimately the film plays like a generic Dashiell Hammett story. The first half of the film is intriguing and provides a lot of great setup, but things fall apart after a midpoint revelation that really leaves little to no doubt who the real killer and ultimately who the associated conspirators actually are - no matter how hard it tries to convince us we’re wrong. One can even forgive the early utterances of the term “double indemnity” since it feels as if this movie is attempting to harken back to that Fred MacMurray starring classic while still attempting to blaze some new territory with the concept.
Even though it’s easy to get ahead of this movie by about twenty minutes, it’s still a fun ride at a breezy 82 minute runtime. Dennis O’Keefe made a pretty convincing detective in a tough genre to pull off well. If you look too stern you're no fun for the audience. If you're all lingo then you feel fake. Here O'Keefe found a nice mid point and brought the picture home. Also fun is William Bendix’s apathetic and slightly creepy sheriff. Every time he enters a scene you don’t know the full motive or reasoning why he seems so nonchalant other than that he could be a real threat for our detective. If you’re a fan of detective pictures, this is one to consider adding to your queue if even for a single viewing.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber brings ‘Cover Up’ to Blu-ray through their Studio Classics line on a Region A locked BD-25 disc. Housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, the cover is a reproduction of the original poster art from 1949. The disc loads quickly bypassing any previews or trailers in favor of the main menu options.
‘Cover-up’ gets a pretty solid HD presentation with this AVC encoded 1.37:1. Appropriately pillar-boxed, fine film grain is present throughout allowing for a nicely detailed image. All you have to do is look at the costuming to see the tweed and fur coats, scenerey wallpaper, fine hairs, and in particular the scarf Dennis O’Keefe wears throughout the film to appreciate the detail levels.
On the downside, Contrast is a bit blown out in many shots throughout the film. For a film-noir, it isn’t very noir looking and feels a bit too bright. At times where there clearly should be dark inky shadows, bright grey smears over the scene. This is particularly rough during the finale. Change scenes or shots however, and black levels appear to be nicely dark and inky. Banding also pops in here and there depending on what outfit a character is wearing, but it isn’t too frequent or all that distracting. There is some occasional print damage, but nothing too serious to write home about. All in all a nice HD presentation for a film of this age, in spite of the drawbacks I mentioned.
Featuring a crisp and clean sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, ‘Cover Up’ comes through in fine great form. Never moving out of the mid ranges, Imaging isn’t too spectacular as there just aren’t many sound effects present that come through over the dialogue. The mix is in fine order as the eerie score by Hans Salter never conflicts with the dialogue, everything is nice and even. There are some occasional pops and drop outs in the track that while random, are noticeable since this is such a dialogue heavy film. It’s still a pretty strong track that’s very easy to appreciate.
No supplemental material present.
Detective movies from the 1940s are a dime a dozen. Given their low production cost and popularity because of films like ‘Double Indemnity’ it’s very easy to see why a movie like ‘Cover Up’ got made. What is unfortunate is that this little film got lost in the shuffle. Thankfully Kino Lorber managed to unearth this film and give it are pretty good HD presentation and a decent DTS-HD audio track. It features a talented cast headlined by Bendix and O’Keefe who go a long way to elevate a mediocre script into something fun and entertaining. It’s worth a look for genre fans or anyone looking for simple fun entertainment. Give it a shot.