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A sweet-natured, friendly murder mystery in a small town

  • Sep 4, 2011
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Can a murder mystery be sweet-natured? Yes, when it's Cover Up, a well-crafted B movie programmer 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.
Cover Up 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. O'Keefe also co-wrote the screenplay. 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.
A sweet-natured, friendly murder mystery in a small town A sweet-natured, friendly murder mystery in a small town A sweet-natured, friendly murder mystery in a small town

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About the reviewer
C. O. DeRiemer ()
Ranked #22
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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