RARA-AVIS: Appointment With Danger, Union Station, Dark City

From: davidcorbett622 (davidcorbettauthor@gmail.com)
Date: 28 Jul 2010

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    Olive Films has come out with DVD re-issues of these three films from the Paramount library, all originally released in the aftermath of the success of Anthony Mann's T-Men. Here's what the NY Times said:

    APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER, UNION STATION, DARK CITY Anthony Mann's 1947 sleeper hit "T-Men," about heroic Treasury Department agents battling counterfeiters, seemed to touch off a boomlet of movies about under-publicized law-enforcement agencies. Mann followed up "T-Men" with "Border Incident" (immigration agents) in 1949; Paramount contributed "Appointment With Danger" (postal inspectors; filmed in 1949 but not released until 1951) and "Union Station" (railroad security men, 1950).

    Mann's baroque visual style added a noir atmosphere to otherwise fairly straightforward crime films, with their emphasis on investigative procedure. But the Paramount films draw less on noir style than on the new, on-location realism that was coming into fashion in the late '40s.

    Directed by Lewis Allen (of the delirious Technicolor noir "Desert Fury"), "Appointment With Danger" makes evocative use of location shooting in and around Gary, Ind., where an undercover postal agent (Alan Ladd) infiltrates a gang plotting a mail robbery. But most of this modest film's flavor comes from its supporting cast, which includes Paul Stewart, the unctuous major domo of "Citizen Kane"; Jan Sterling, the raspy-voiced bottle blonde of "Ace in the Hole"; and as a pair of gunsels, Jack Webb and Harry Morgan, who would reteam in the '60s as crime-fighting partners in Webb's revival of "Dragnet," his police procedural television series.

    In most respects an unadorned kidnapping story, Rudolph Maté's "Union Station" introduces an unintended note of surrealism in its use of location shooting. The interiors were largely filmed in Union Station in Los Angeles, with its pueblo moderne architecture, but as soon as the characters step outside, they're in Chicago.

    Paramount took the opportunity of "Union Station" to reunite the romantic leads of "Sunset Boulevard," William Holden (as the station's head of security) and Nancy Olson (secretary to the millionaire whose blind daughter has been abducted). But it's Lyle Bettger, as the witheringly sarcastic mastermind of the kidnapping ring, who commandeers the picture. After he cuffs the blubbering blind girl into unconsciousness, he sneers to Sterling, "Why would anybody pay a hundred grand to have that around the house?"

    "Dark City" is the most studio-bound of the three films and, not coincidentally, the most authentically noir in spirit and execution. As a young man in Weimar, Germany, the director, William Dieterle, was present for the creation of the shadowy, claustrophobic style that evolved out of Expressionism and would become identified with film noir in the United States. A master of studio lighting and expressive set design, Dieterle creates some memorably intricate spaces to contain this otherwise overly familiar material, which finds Charlton Heston (in his Hollywood film debut) as a gambler who cheats a chump (Don DeFore) out of $5,000, only to have the poor sap commit suicide on him.

    Heston's hulking impassivity doesn't do much to suggest his character's crisis of conscience, though Dieterle shows his usual skill in evoking the largely unseen presence of the victim's revenge-seeking brother who, inconveniently for Heston, is a psychopath with a history of violence. The women are Lizabeth Scott, as the nightclub singer devoted to Heston with a masochistic intensity, and Viveca Lindfors, as the dead man's widow, holding out promises of suburban redemption. And here again are Jack Webb and Harry Morgan, seemingly inseparable at this early point in their long careers.

    For the NY Times article, go here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/movies/25kehr.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=postal%20sleuths%20freudian%20roiling%20female%20revenge&st=cse

    FYI. David www.davidcorbett.com

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