Appointment With Danger

1951, Movie, NR, 90 mins

Review

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Ladd plays a detective for the little-known Postal Inspection Service investigating the murder of a fellow inspector in this tough film. He convinces Calvert, a nun who is the only witness, to identify the killer, Morgan. Instead of arresting Morgan, however, Ladd works his way into a gang of ruthless thieves who murdered his partner when the victim learned of their intentions to steal a mail shipment containing huge amounts of money. Ladd passes himself off as a corrupt postal worker aiding them for a piece of the action, a precarious, often terrifying role with hazards present at every turn as the ever-suspicious gang members probe his background. Particularly wary is Webb, who rightly believes he is an agent. Webb, unlike his later Sergeant Friday role on "Dragnet," is a stony psychopath here, one who frightens even gang leader Stewart into the opinion that "Somewhere in your blood there's a crazy bug. Get a cure or you'll get us all killed." Ladd himself is as tough as any of the gang members. The film presents great film noir dialog. Ladd is accused of not knowing what love is and immediately spits back, "Sure I do--it's something that goes on between a man and a .45 that won't jam!" Ladd, to overcome Webb's suspicion, attempts to befriend him by playing a squash match with the psycho. The scene is one of the most suspenseful in crime films, one where both men use the missile as a deadly weapon, attempting to literally drive it through each other. The film also contains perhaps the most brutal murder in the history of film noir, one where Webb must kill his closest friend on mob orders. Morgan is known to have been identified by the nun and is told to leave town. When he dallies, Webb murders him, beating him to death with the bronzed shoes of Morgan's long-lost baby boys, the only humanizing mementos the thief possesses. Webb then becomes obsessed with killing the nun who identified his dead partner, even after the robbery takes place. Ladd stops him and the rest of the gang in a powerful conclusion that produces relentless gunfire and several cadavers, all of them bad guys. Ladd is superlative as the determined agent, Stewart is silky and deadly as the gang leader, and Sterling, as the gun moll who tries unsuccessfully to seduce the hero, gives a terrific performance. But Webb as the maniacal killer freezes the viewer's blood to the bone. leave a comment

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