Our second night in Noir City started off with a flick that turned out to be way better than its generic title, APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER.
You wouldn’t think that a film about mail inspectors in Gary, Indiana would turn out to be this witty and action-packed. But if you can get through yet another dull, stodgy Docu-Noir opening, this one extolling the virtues of the postal service, you’re in for a fucking treat. This one features a razor sharp script and a crackerjack cast of Noir City favorites including Jan Sterling, Paul Stewart and a pre-DRAGNET pairing of Jack Webb and Harry Morgan, as crooks instead of cops.
When a nun (!!!) sees a couple of thugs struggling to dump the body of a murdered postal inspector, she finds herself a target. Cynical, wisecracking atheist Al Goddard (Alan Ladd) is assigned to the case and has to protect the witness while trying to infiltrate and bust up a big mail heist. Snappy patter ensues. Also, fisticuffs.
There was so much to love about this flick. The rundown industrial exteriors gave it a distinctly grim and gritty visual appeal. Jan Sterling is at her world-weary best as the music-loving moll and Phyllis Calvert manages to give what could have been a painfully sweet and sappy role some real backbone. But, look, forget all that. I want to talk about Paul Stewart’s junk.
I always notice things on the big screen that might not be as obvious on a television, iPad or phone. That’s one of my favorite things about seeing these movies in a theater. I love looking at other things in the shot besides the main action. Books on shelves. Goods in stores. Clothes on extras. Well this flick has a scene in a men’s locker room and everyone is wearing really tiny shorts. Alan Ladd is even shirtless. It’s a whole lot of beefcake with plenty to look at for those who enjoy ogling the male physique, but my eye was drawn right to the aforementioned junk.
Once again, I have been let down by the internet. It seems like you can find any and every kind of image you might ever want and then some, but no one seems to have posted a screen grab of Paul Stewart’s valiant little shorts trying and spectacularly failing to contain all that. Or how about a GIF of him standing up and trying to cover everything back up after letting it all hang out for the majority of the scene.
I’m not mad, perverts. I’m just disappointed.
In all seriousness, though, this was a great flick and you should watch it even if you don’t want to see Paul Stewart’s junk.
Next up, SHADOW ON THE WALL.
First of all, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a deliberate pattern here. Again, just like the first night, we have a manly man flick paired with a more melodramatic woman’s picture. The big difference for me is that I really like THELMA JORDON.
Before I go on, I do want to mention that actress Gigi Perreau was the guest of honor and helped Eddie Muller introduce this film. She was charming and funny and shared some great stories, even if she was way too nice for Noir City.
But as nice as she was, I just don’t like films about kids as much as films where everyone is over 18. Your milage may vary.
Anyway, a kid (Gigi) witnesses her cheating stepmother’s murder, for which her beloved father has taken the fall. But she’s repressed the memory and it’s up to a plucky child psychologist, played by former First Lady Nancy Davis (before she was a Regan) to help her reconstruct the murder scene using dolls.
This is well done and well shot, visually arresting and full of menace and suspense, if more than a little on the melodramatic side. I’m still thinking about the scene where the shell-shocked kid is drugged and tied up in this creepy water-therapy contraption – not by the murderer but by the kindly therapist!
There’s a lot to recommend this one, but I’ve seen it more that once now and for some reason it just fails to send me. You should check it out anyway, though, and see what you think. Meanwhile, if I have to watch Kid Noir, I’d stick with THE WINDOW. Also coincidentally featuring Paul Stewart, but fully and modestly dressed. He does punch a kid, though.
Coming up tonight, SUDDEN FEAR and THE NARROW MARGIN.