An Alan Ladd vehicle, APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER ostensibly soups up its noir-ish template with the involvement of a virtuous nun, Sister Augustine (a guileless Phyllis Calvert), who becomes the sole witness of a foul play and whose own life is threatened henceforth.But, that précis could be misleading, what in fact isset in motion is a rote cops-and-robbers procedural, lead by the hard-boiled postal inspector Al Goddard (Ladd), infiltrating himself into a criminal clique conniving to operate a stick-up of one million dollars in transportation by the Postal Service.
Yes, the film is an explicit encomium of USA’s Postal Service, and at first glance, this infotainment seems to spirit us way to a new territory, the lives of postal inspectors, the covert law enforcers whom the mass knows little of, but what ensues proves that the filmmakers have no intention to burrow deeper into that front, here we are in the well-trodden path, an all-too-smart Al, outwits the crooks in a slipshod heist, saddled with an even less plausible last-minute whim of press-ganging Sister Augustine into the fold to imperil our hero.
Contrary to its sub-standard action goings-on, what director Lewis Allen manages to hammer out is those alluring shots of nightly scenery, creating a taut and sinister vibe which chimes in with Film Noir’s tenor. Also, at least this time, we are tantalized by a sinewy, half-naked male bod in a handball game than the usual distaff equivalent, ruling out a wimple-clad Sister Augustine, even the moll Dodie (Sterling, always a magnificent scene-stealer), intuitively knows not to meddle with lawbreakers’ business and timely finds herself a fallback position.
Roundly eclipsed by its more influential and well-crafted peers, like John Huston’s THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950) orKubrick’s THE KILLING (1956),APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER at least offers a stage for a short-statured Ladd to emulate a straight-up, gallant daredevil of a hero with pizzazz and conviction, especially when he is able to outmaneuver the murderous thug Joe Regas (Jack Webb, casting every glint with menace and intensity) every time.
referential points: Lewis Allen’s THE UNINVITED (1944, 6.9/10); John Huston’s THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950, 7.9/10); Kubrick’s THE KILLING (1956, 8.2/10).