At first flicker, Appointment with Danger looks like a boilerplate low-budget Noir thriller from the 50s. Enjoyable and mildly exciting, but nothing to write a blog post about. However, after you survive the credits adorned with the postal seal and a short propaganda piece touting the Postal Inspectors as saviors of the world, you realize this is no ordinary B-picture. You’re dropped in a cheap hotel room where a fiendish crime is taking place, illuminated only with the intervals of a flashing sign. Cue the fadeout and our two crooks from the hotel room are making a getaway aided by a fast roadster and torrents of rain. But who are these crooks? You may well ask:
That’s right – Henry Morgan and Jack Webb, aka Gannon and Friday of Dragnet fame. As it turns out, the dynamic duo of 50s crime fighting boast a secret past they never divulged in their fervent search for “the facts” later in life. As it happens, the two of them see quite a bit of action on the wrong side of the law in Gary, Indiana.
En route to dispose of their dastardly hotel deed, George (Harry Morgan) stops to aid a nun-in-distress with her obstreperous umbrella while Joe (Jack Webb) attempts to hide from the nun’s percipient gaze. But alas, Morgan and Webb just weren’t cut out for the thug-life. Their victim in the hotel room turns out to be a postal inspector (which means ALAN LADD is coming to get them) and worse still, the Umbrella Nun remembers them both (despite Webb’s valiant efforts to melt into the shadows). As Morgan and Webb discover later, the habited lady in distress is no ordinary nun.
The hero of Film Noir himself, Mr. Alan Ladd (do be sure to note his fabulous hair – this is the kind of hair that falls down over his eye at strategic moments to melt a girl’s heart) is hard-boiled postal inspector Al Goddard. He’s as cynical as they come, and even doubts the integrity of the Umbrella Nun (Phyllis Calvert). In the course of the investigation, he encounters Jan Sterling as a gangster’s moll. She’s not to be missed.How to Wear a Fedora 101. Take notes, fellas.
Okay, no more spoilers on the plot, I promise. Aside from the startling cast choices and Alan Ladd appeal, Appointment with Danger holds another element of interest for me. Some of the action takes place in a Midwestern town I once inhabited:The idea of Alan Ladd calmly leaping off freight trains in a town I once called home is pretty darn thrilling, I must admit. The shot of him above with the Junction sign is not in the Midwest. The mountains in the distance are undoubtedly somewhere closer to the Californian coast. But the shot on the platform, with the distinctive station on the left? That one IS a Midwestern town; the one where I maintained an address for a time.
This is the view of the station from the street. Alan Ladd is pictured from the train side of the station, of which photos seem to be impossible to find. But if you look at the roof line of the train side of the building, you see it has the plain peak, as in the screenshot. And the distinctive arched window with decorative contrasting detail at the top is the same, too. The taller structure in the screenshot does not exist today so far as I can tell, but it may have been a building next to the station that has since been torn down. The station is now a reception hall for weddings and events.
Be sure and check out Steve-O’s fabulous review of this film with a more complete plot analysis.