Directed by Lewis Allen in 1951, Appointment With Danger stars genre stalwart Alan Ladd in what would wind up being his ‘farewell to film noir.' Ladd plays Al Goddard, a United States Postal Inspector with an unusually suspicious mind that, quite frankly, tends to serve him well in his position. He's a Chicago based worker who is asked to head to Gary, Indiana to investigate the death of a fellow postal inspector, a case in which there is only one witness, a nun named Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert). The only problem is that Augustine can't say for sure who the killer was because she actually saw two men the night that the man was murdered: a guy she can identify as George (Harry Morgan) and a man she can't identify (Jack Webb).
Without much of a choice, Goddard decides to go undercover to try and sort out who the real killer is. As he starts working his way through the underworld he begins to uncover clues that lead him to a mob plan involving mail trucks, but there's more to this than just that and to get to the bottom of all of this he'll have to convince those mobsters that he's one of their own.
Shot by John Seitz, the same man who shot Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, this is a sharp looking film with some fantastic camerawork and plenty of atmospheric style. The sequences shot at the waterfront locations used at a few points during the movie look great, they've got that dilapidated look to them that works so well in movies like these were you know that danger potentially lurks around every corner and behind every shadow. A decent score helps to keep the tension strong and the atmosphere thick as well, composer Victor Young's work here is pretty memorable (Young also scored what is probably Allen's best known film, The Uninvited and it seems they worked very well together).
As far as the performances go, the talented cast of both leads and supporting players bring these characters to life in appropriately quirk ways. This applies not just to the bad guys, who are of course all very sinister in their own ways, but to the good guys as well. This is highlighted by a scene in which Goddard and Sister Augustine indulge in a little bit of theological sparring when they first meet. Goddard is portrayed as maybe not the nicest guy to have to work alongside, a man who puts more faith in his pistol than any flesh and blood accomplice he might come into contact with, and as such, the kind hearted nun is understandably taken aback by him at first. Of course, this changes as they get to know one another but the conflict that exists between these two characters early in the film adds an interesting dynamic to what happens later in the picture. Ladd and Calvert embody these characters commendably and are a blast to watch in their respective roles.
Supporting work from Harry Morgan and yes, of course, Jack Webb, also help add to the entertainment value this one offers, and throw in a quick turn by the beautiful Jan Sterling as sort of femme fatale character and it's easy to see why this one remains a pretty well regarded picture. At times it might feel more like a traditional thriller than the purest example of American film noir but there's absolutely enough genre crossover to appeal to even casual fans of either genre. Fast paced, suspenseful and seriously entertaining, Appointment With Danger is ninety minutes well spent.The Blu-ray:
Appointment With Danger looks very nice on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.33.1., even if it's obvious by the many small scratches on the image that the film hasn't been given a proper full blown restoration. There's a nice amount of natural looking film grain present that results in a very film like presentation without the picture ever looking too deteriorated or dirty because of it. Contrast is strong, no issues there, and the print damage that does appear is minor. Texture is good and black levels are strong, with very average shadow detail for an older picture made on a modest budget. As is often the case with Olive's older black and white catalogue releases, the movie could have been cleaned up more than it has been, but it still looks pretty good and it offers a reasonable amount of depth.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD Mono track in the film's original English language, no alternate language or subtitle options or offered. The audio is clean and clear and easy to follow, the dialogue easily discernible and the score sounds fine. There are no issues here with hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout the movie. Range is obviously limited by the age and format of the source material, so expect some flatness throughout the movie, but overall the movie sounds decent enough.Extras:
There are no extras on the disc outside of a static menu offering chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Lewis Allen's Appointment With Danger isn't likely to be the noir film that Ladd is remembered for but it's a nice send off by the actor to the genre that made him a star. The supporting cast also turns in fine work and the direction and story are, if a bit workmanlike, handled well. Olive's Blu-ray is typically barebones but it looks and sounds just fine, offering a nice upgrade over the DVD release. Recommended.