Friday, May 7, 2010

Guest Review: Appointment With Danger (1951)

Philip Schweier is a longtime reader/supporter of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, and since he’s currently “between jobs” he’s had a bit of free time to check out some of the offerings in his voluminous film archives. He offers up some thoughts on the classic 1951 postal noir Appointment with Danger, which I present here for your edification and comments…

Ladd plays postal inspector Al Goddard, investigating the murder of a colleague which leads him to a gang of smalltime hoods led by Earl Boettiger, who are intent upon robbing the U.S. Mail of a small fortune as the post office shepherds the loot from one train station to another in Gary, Indiana. What I enjoyed about the movie is that it takes place in northern Indiana where I grew up. It starts in LaPorte, a town whose post office of 25 years ago resembles nothing like that portrayed in this 1951 film, then shifts to Fort Wayne. Goddard is hot on the trail of a potential witness to the murder of his colleague, a nun played by Phyllis Calvert. There, Goddard and the nun sift through mug shots under the helpful eye of a Fort Wayne cop played by actual Fort Wayne native Herb Vigran.
The trail then leads to Gary, where we find gangleader Boettiger (played by Mercury Radio Co. alum Paul Stewart) holding court with his two henchmen, Regas and Soderquist, played by Jack Webb and Henry/Harry Morgan respectively. Good to know they eventually went straight and became cops under assumed names, with no one the wiser. It seems the two are responsible for bumping off the aforementioned postal inspector, and when Soderquist's diabetes makes him an unpredictable risk, Boettiger and Regas are forced to eliminate him.

Goddard manages to infiltrate the gang, pretending to be a crooked cop working an angle. He learns the gang’s plans, alerts his buddies on the force, and prepares to round up the gang in the course of their robbery, but Regas spots the nun who has led Goddard to the gang and is a witness to the murder that got the story rolling in the first place. He takes time out of his role in the robbery to grab the nun, resulting a critical link in the gang's plan to go awry.
This leads to what I regard the best moment in the film, when Boettiger and Goddard nearly sideswipe a busload of school children, leading to nearly the entire classroom to exit the bus prepared to give the hoods a not-so-gentle reminder of the rules of the road, baseball bat included.
Ladd is true to form, as a hardboiled lawman out to make the bad guys pay for their evil deeds. Not a standout performance, but serviceable nonetheless who are looking for a little bit of tough-guy meat on their plate. Phyllis Calvert makes a poor substitute for Veronica Lake, but in fairness, who would have every bought Lake in a wimple and habit?
For the record, this is the second time this film has been examined here at TDOY—for my take on Danger, you must take the WABAC to those halcyon Salon Blog days in October 2007.
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