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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1951)

Alan Ladd works for the U.S. Post Office in this modest, moderately effective, noir. He’s no letter carrier, but a hard-nosed Postal Inspector out to catch the thugs who killed a fellow inspector. The pic’s big gimmick plants a Nun as the sole witness to the crime and poor Phyllis Calvert is such an insufferable 'little darling' in the part, you just might sympathize with the guys who want to rub her out. Especially since they’re expertly played by that future DRAGNET duo, Jack Webb & Henry Morgan. (Morgan really stands out as the dimmer of the two, but wait till you see Jack Webb 'catch one' from Ladd on the handball court.) These two need to protect their cover for the million-dollar heist Paul Stewart has planned, and which Ladd joins after he’s convinced these guys he’s a corrupt agent out for a big payoff. Ladd bounces back & forth between cops & robbers so easily that helmer Lewis Allen can’t quite make you swallow the set-up. But he does a very nice job laying on lots of atmospheric location-shooting thanks to John Seitz’s snazzy nighttime lensing, and gets the most out of his fine supporting cast. Good as Webb, Morgan & Stewart are, they’re all topped by Jan Sterling as a moll with pragmatic morals and a nice stack of 78rpm platters you could spend days thumbing thru. Paramount moved Ladd over to period pieces & Westerns after this, and with the exception of SHANE/'53, his career never really recovered.

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