Honestly, I love it for a whole lot of reasons but only one in particular that I often share with readers here: I see film noir as a black-and-white existence most often populated with broken people making broken choices, and I like to call these characters ‘monsters of a sort.’ That’s why I’ll occasionally cover noirs in this space – along with the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror features – when I get the inkling, and that happens a lot when I can squeeze in the screenings.
Such is the case today as I was graciously provided a complimentary Blu-ray set by Kino Lorber: Film Noir – The Dark Side Of Cinema, Volume XIV.
Today’s viewing: another late 1950’s noirish surprise that goes by the name of Appointment With A Shadow. Directed by Richard Carlson, the screen story shows attribution to the team of Alec Coppel, Norman Jolley, and Judson Philips. The cast includes George Nader, Joanna Moore, Brian Keith, Virginia Field, and Frank DeKova.
But what’s most important? As noirs go, this one is actually quite good.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“George Nader plays a reporter whose career is ruined by liquor. A comeback opportunity presents itself when Nader is a bystander at the arrest of a well-known criminal.”
I’ve often suggested that I struggle with films that take a bit too long to develop.
Many within the critical industry love to call films of this type ‘the slow burn,’ but in far too many cases I feel I – as a viewer – am asked to wait too long for an interesting story to authentically swing into gear. Acting from the 1950’s and 1960’s tends to be a touch maudlin at times – entirely too predictable – and this usually has me reaching for the fast-forward button, hoping to speed things up to the point wherein I can join the action – the true substance of an ill-paced picture – already in progress.
Mind you: I nearly fell into that trap with Appointment With A Shadow.
But, then, Baxter arrives on the scene of what’s supposed to be one of the era’s biggest police busts, only to privately learn that he may have very well just stepped into the greatest news coup of the decade! (Spoiler rules really don’t apply, but I’m not gonna spoil this one.) At this point, Nader’s skills as an actor truly come into play as he fights to set aside that battle with the bottle, realizing that his life has now been forced into the crosshairs in more ways than one. What evolves from this point on is a fabulous cat-and-mouse between not only the reporter and the mob but also one man racing against the clock in that fateful place known as Noir Alley! With no friends, no hope, and – most importantly – no alcohol to muddle his senses, Baxter relies once again on his reporter’s wits to try to stay one step ahead of the law and the lawlessness in the bid to find love, life, and longevity where none are in supply.
Performances are solid across the board – though I’ll admit Moore was a bit hammy, at times – and Shadow turns out to be one of the finer, quieter pictures of the noir era. Long forgotten, this one deserves to be discovered again, and I encourage viewers to seek it out and explore.
Appointment With A Shadow (1957) was produced by Universal International Pictures (UI). DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the fine folks at Kino Lorber. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I thought that the sights and sounds to this advertised brand new HD master (from a 2K scan of the 35MM fine grain) to be quite good. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? The disc includes an audio commentary from film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker David DeCoteau along with the theatrical trailer.
I’ll admit that – right out of the gate – I didn’t think that Appointment With A Shadow (1957) was going to be one I’d like. The set-up was a bit curious – maybe a bit overlong – and a few of the performances felt a bit too canned, too typical of a bygone era. But once the film takes a twist with a fateful rooftop meeting, this nifty little ditty elevated to the point of Appointment viewing … a terrific noir tale that, surprisingly, has a few interesting character developments, a late-developing femme fatale, and a surprisingly upbeat finale. Well crafted, director Carlson … well crafted, indeed.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Kino Lorber provided me with a complimentary Appointment With A Shadow (1957) – as part of their Film Noir: The Dark Side Of Cinema XIV collection – by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.