Sunday, November 12, 2017

Appointment with Danger (1951) Midwest Noir

Great opening sequence of a body disposal in the pouring rain I was hooked from the get go.

Although, before you get to the story proper, you get a brief sort of rah rah, backslapping narrated infomercial, praising the US Postal Service. I guess you could say,  instead of what the french would call a "policier" its a postal.

The film can boast highly of some excellent railroad/railyard footage and copious amounts of atmospheric location work around the bleak industrial landscapes and brownfields of the Gary Indiana smelters and steel mills.

The director was Lewis Allen who has a string of Noirs to his name, (Desert Fury (1947), So Evil My Love (1948), Chicago Deadline (1949) Suddenly (1954), Illegal (1955)) before segueing into TV in the 1960s. The cinematography was by John F. Seitz (Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), Chicago Deadline (1949), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Rogue Cop (1954)). The music was by Victor Young (Gun Crazy (1950)).

George Soderquist (Morgan) and Joe Regas (Webb)

Here is a film, that's off most film noir favorite lists that for noir junkies, really delivers. Again, it's got an opening hook that instantly grabs, a cast of characters that all ooze cinematic memory, a Director and DP who make the most out of Iconic decaying Midwest landscapes, and a great story.

Before Jack Webb, and Harry Morgan, were respectively Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner Officer Bill Gannon, They played a couple of shit heels named, Joe Regas a weasley eye-ed, loose cannon creep, and his pal in crime George Soderquist, a diabetic, slow witted, melancholic goon. The Hotel Compton "Gary's Finest,"  Regas has just murdered, by strangulation in his own bed, a snooping postal inspector in Gary, Indiana, who was getting to nosey about a million dollar mail heist. With George's help the two go out in the pouring rain to dispose the body.

With George and Joe you get the types of characters always played by Elisha Cook Jr., doubled. Webb is a vicious skinny scarecrow of a guy, who wears clothes that look one size too big and who talks tough to offset his runt of the litter appearance. Morgan is a bit more fragile, sentimental and given to regrets about the past. A lifetime loser who just wants to score big one time.

Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert) and George

They drive to La Porte, to the deserted downtown. They find an alley and are getting ready to dump the body when the spot a young nun. Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert) heading their way. A gust of wind has jammed her umbrella. George goes to help and to also kind of steer her away. He wants to make sure she doesn't see the body that Joe is propping up against the car. She does notice though, and asks George what's wrong. He tells he that their friend is just a little drunk and needs some air. As soon as she gets out of sight they drop the body in on the pavement and split.

Al Goddard (Alan Ladd)

Alan Ladd is Al Goddard, a USPS special investigator sent to Gary, Ind., to solve a postal detective's murder. He's a tough postal cop with a reputation amongst his fellow inspectors for being stubborn and a loner . His quick retorts are of the 10 minute egg variety, i.e., very hard boiled:

Al Goddard: You can rob Fort Knox and live, but steal a dime and kill a post office man, and they'll spend a million and a lifetime lookin' for you.

Maury Ahearn: You don't know what a love affair is.
Al Goddard: It's what goes on between a man and a .45 pistol that won't jam.

Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert) is the sole witness. She agrees to look through police mug books. With her aid Ladd learns the identity of the men and uncovers the gang's plot to pull off a million-dollar mail heist. Goddard later poses as a corrupt inspector, and gains the confidence of the killers' honcho Boettiger (Paul Stewart). Boettiger is the slimy flea bag Hotel Compton's owner/manager.
Boettiger has worked out a plan to steal one million dollar transfer that is being transported between two trains by a U.S. Postal Service truck which is protected by just one man and his .45 during a seven minute drive between the two stations.

Paul Stewart excels in these types of roles, he played a couple of tenement dwelling lowlifes memorably, murdering Joe Kellerson in The Window (1949), and sleazeball track bettor, Mr. Craig in Edge Of Doom (1950), he played creepy mob boss Carl Evello in Kiss Me Deadly (1955).

Earl Boettiger (Paul Stewart)
Once the gang discover the deception, the villains take Goddard and Sister Augustine prisoner. Jan Sterling plays gang leaders flakey, floozy, jazz loving girlfriend Dodie La Verne. Dodie is into Bop Jazz, and it provides the opportunity for Goddard to make some quips.

Al Goddard: Bop? Is that where everybody plays a different tune at the same time?
Dodie: You just haven't heard enough of it.

Dodie La Verne (Jan Sterling)

This film was Jan Sterling's first noir from this meager start she went on to play in Caged, Mystery Street, Union Station, her memorable turn as Lorraine Minosa in Ace In The Hole, Split Second, The Harder They Fall, Slaughter On 10th Avenue, and in one ot the last B&W noirs 1967's The Incident.


The film also stars Stacy Harris, David Wolfe, Dan Riss, Geraldine Wall, and George J. Lewis. A Paramount Pictures Production, filmed in Fort Wayne, La Porte, and Gary Indiana, also in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Very enjoyable romp through Noirsville 8/10.


No comments:

Post a Comment